As all the schools in the country other than the unaided minority institutions are brought under the ambit of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, despite widespread resistance by private schools, teachers have reason to mourn.
Section 28, RTE Act 2009 states that, “No teacher shall engage himself or herself in private tuition or private teaching activity”, banning all teachers, irrespective of whether they work in government or private elementary schools, from taking private tuition. This evoked an irked response from school teachers who say that tuition are a source of supplementary income as salaries paid by schools are far too low. The Act affects as many as 5,816,673 elementary school teachers in the country as per the report released in 2011 by National University of Educational Planning and Administration and Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
“The RTE bans all school teachers up to Class 7 from taking private tuitions. While this could be acceptable in the case of government schools where the teachers are paid well and also derive fringe benefits, this is not so for private school teachers. We do not go and teach in a tuition centre, which is more organised, we teach at home,” says a teacher of a private school on condition of anonymity.
The Act has also roused the wrath of parents who say that with no teachers willing to take tuitions, the students are suffering. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Public Report on Basic Education in India report 1999, as many as 70 per cent of students go for private tuition in urban India. “When both parents work late hours, we do not get enough time to spend with our child. We do not want the child’s education to get affected by this. The tuition provided a perfect solution to the problems of working parents. Now no school teacher is willing to take tuition for fear of being castigated by the authorities,” says Sujatha Ravi, parent of ten-year-old Radhika.
The authorities of private schools say that taking tuitions is not a felony. “While I am not aware why the Section has been included in the Act, I don’t feel that it is an offence to take or attend tuition. In most cases, the tuition helps the student, owing to the individual attention,” says R Visalakshi, president, Tamil Nadu Private Schools’ Association.
However, educationists rubbish the notion. “It is not about the economic status of the parents. There have been cases when private schools themselves arrange tuitions for the teachers and the salary is then decided based on the tuition money. Even before the RTE was passed, this was illegal. The teachers however, are not to be blamed,” says P B Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary of the State Platform for Common School System.
He explains how tuitions impact a student’s learning. “The child is being re-tutored during tuition and since the tuition focuses on selective syllabi, development of wholesome knowledge is not achieved. Tuition centres have become mark or grade generating factories where the student resorts to ‘reading, cramming and scoring’. Tuitions only harm the education system and the teachers should find alternate modes of income,” he says.