The Right to Education Act has to be amended, to have any chance of succeeding. In fact, almost certainly, without amendments it will do more harm than good, and there is enough evidence of this happening already. Four common-sense steps will help.
(a) The regulation of the education sector has to be separated from the Education departments of states. The regulator should be able to oversee the functioning of both public schools and private schools.
(b) Unaided schools should be exempt from this law, and instead be brought under a new voluntary-mandatory mix like has been done for CSR in companies. It makes no sense for both aided and unaided institutions to have the same financial obligations. They should be required to spend 10% of their incomes on the education of poorer children, either by admitting them, or by funding their education in public schools, and disclosure of this should be mandatory with their annual filings.
(c) The exemption granted to minority (both religious and linguistic) institutions should be removed. If the concern is the admission and education of all children without regard to economic background, that cannot become hostage to any other consideration.
(d) Learning outcomes in every school must be measured, and put in the public domain, and also given to parents and local elected representatives each year.
What we now have is a ‘right to attendance’ and a ‘right to mid-day meal’ regime totally disconnected from learning. Across the country, only 1 out of 3 children in public schools is graduating. If we want to avoid serious social consequences from this in the future, we have to act now.