Several recommendations in the draft National Education Policy, 2016 will require amendments to the Right to Education Act, 2009.
Insisting on consolidation, the draft proposes merging small, non-viable schools. This subverts the RTE Act on neighbourhood schools being located within a walking distance of one kilometre for children attending Classes 1 to 5.
The draft emphasizes school mapping - as opposed to RTE's child-mapping - but stresses that for children attending non-viable schools, transport must be provided. It notes such consolidation is already on in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, all BJP-ruled states.
The proposal to extend the 25 per cent economically weaker section quota in private schools to minority institutions will also need an amendment. The committee notes that number of schools claiming religious or linguistic minority status has increased tremendously.
The RTE mandates a no-detention policy -banning grade-repetition -till Class VIII; the committee wants it limited to Class V. Its recommendations cover remedial classes "by school teachers or volunteers" and supplementary examinations.
The committee suggests amending the RTE to "provide, in addition to infrastructure, learning outcome norms that affect quality of education", a longstanding private school demand.
The report has much to say on infrastructure and the RTE. "Infrastructure norms for recognition of private schools should be applied to government schools and punitive action should be ensured for not adhering to them," it says.
It proposes developing local norms for alternate schools. These proposals are to protect private schools where, as the report says, "there's no space for building additional rooms or playgrounds", from closure due to minimum RTE-mandated infrastructure requirements and other norms. The policy recommends "expansion of open schools to enable dropouts and working children to pursue education."
The policy proposes making education for children aged four and five a right, and roping in the NCERT and State Councils for Educational Research and Training to develop pre-school curricula.