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States seek time tomeet RTE deadline.

THE Sword of Damocles hangs over the government as states mount pressure on the human resource development ( HRD) ministry to extend the deadline to meet standards under the Right to Education ( RTE) Act.

The law specifies a time frame of three years for all existing schools to meet several input parameters ( see box).

According to Section 19 of the Act, non- compliance would lead to revocation of the school's recognition and subsequent closure. Any change in the deadline, which expires on March 31, 2013, will require an amendment to the law.

The centre is tightlipped about such a possibility, but the states have started making vocal demands for deadline extension. Even according to government data, more than half of the schools in the country are not RTE compliant. Although the states haven't yet formally asked for more time, education ministers, who spoke to M AIL T ODAY , said this issue has been raised with the ministry in the last few review meetings.

" Bihar is struggling to meet the pupil- teacher ratio ( PTR) under the Act. We have only a little over six months left for the deadline to expire. This isn't enough for us to ensure all schools are 100 per cent compliant. The centre has no option but to give us more time," P. K. Sahi, Bihar's education minister said.

Bihar is among the states -- including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and a few North- East states -- facing maximum difficulty in meeting infrastructure norms and standards, especially the PTR ( 1: 30 for primary school and 1: 35 for upper primary school) specified under the law. The biggest problem is training large number of untrained teachers. Currently, there are 6.7 lakh teachers in government schools who are untrained. Some states have inadequate capacities for pre- service teacher training and the problem has been aggravated with recruitment against vacant positions and requirement of additional teachers Recently, even a task force of the National Advisory Council ( under the chairmanship of HRD minister Kapil Sibal) expressed concern over the " low percentage of fully RTE- compliant schools in terms of infrastructure". But even the better- off states are not sure of achieving the target completely and could end up violating the Act. " We have made good progress in Haryana, but I am not sure if we can do everything required by the law," Geeta Bhukkal, education minister of Haryana said.

Although ministry officials have denied considering a deadline extension at this moment, they haven't ruled out one in the eleventh hour.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Sep 17, 2012
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