April 1 is being promoted as a red-letter day for the country's education policy when The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 will be operationalised across the country.
In Tamil Nadu, however, the Act will not take off as per schedule since education department officials are yet to receive word from higher authorities on its implementation. It is also not clear if the model rules circulated by the ministry of human resource development will be modified by the state and then brought into use.
The Act, which provides for free and compulsory education for children between six and 14 years of age and comes into force as notified in the Gazette of India,' requires no further resolutions at the state level to be adopted by the respective governments.
The provisions of the Act lay down that a state government has to constitute a State Advisory Council' (not exceeding 15 members) comprising persons with knowledge and practical experience in the field of elementary education and child development. The functions of the council would be to advise the government on implementing the Act effectively.
A state government, the Act also stipulates, should constitute an authority (the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights) to examine and review the safeguards for rights provided by the Act and inquire into complaints relating to a child's right to free and compulsory education.
Education department authorities would also have to intimate state government schools, aided schools and any school belonging to a specified category that each of them would be legally bound to set up a School Management Committee' under the Act with at least three-fourths of the members being parents or guardians. The committee would also have to include elected representatives of the local authority and teachers from the school.
While authorities from the education department remain in the dark about these steps, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has rolled out a framework to carry out the preliminary work for the implementation of the Act. State project director R Venkatesan has given instructions for a statewide survey to be undertaken from April 5 to 12 to ascertain the number of out-of-school children in every district.
The exercise will involve around 6,000 block resource teacher educators (BRTEs) who will collect details using a specifically-designed format on students' family backgrounds, educational status (in school, dropped out or migrant) and community profiles. The district-level list will be ready by May 15 and a statewide list will be consolidated by the end of May so that all out-of-school children identified in the exercise can be enrolled in school or given special training within the school premises and become subsequently mainstreamed. Officials estimated that approximately 60,000 children were out of school in the 6-14 age group in Tamil Nadu.