Education

Parents Should Be Punished If Kids Don’t Go to School, Says Government Panel

While the RTE Act makes education a fundamental right for every child between six and 14 years of age, it does not include any penal provisions in case parents or teachers do not adhere to its provisions.

Schoolgirls eat their free mid-day meal, distributed by a government-run primary school, in New Delhi July 5, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal/Files

Schoolgirls eat their free mid-day meal, distributed by a government-run primary school, in New Delhi July 5, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal/Files

New Delhi: A sub-committee of the highest advisory body on education has reportedly recommended that parents should be punished if they do not send their children to school.

According to the Telegraph, this suggestion was part of a draft report submitted to the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on Monday, saying that the Right to Education Act needed to be looked at again. “The provisions of the RTE Act 2009 need to be re-looked as there is no penal provision for parents who do not send their children to school,” the report said, talking about the extension of the Act to pre-school and secondary education.

While the RTE Act makes education a fundamental right for every child between six and 14 years of age, it does not include any penal provisions in case parents or teachers do not adhere to its provisions.

The committee, headed by junior human resource development minister Satya Pal Singh, also recommended universalisation of pre-primary education for children below six, the newspaper reported.

While India has so far kept away from punishing parents who don’t send their children to school, such rules do exist in other places – and with a rather mixed track record. In Tanzania, for instance, the government said in 2015 that it will punish those who keep their school-age children at home with a fine. This announcement came at the same time as the government announcing that school education would be made free for all children at the primary and secondary levels. While primary schooling had been free in the country since 2002, the 2015 policy also said that parents would no longer have to pay for books, uniforms etc. during 11 years of schooling.

Critics of the policy to punish parents had said then that it was much more important to fight the root causes of absenteeism – such as poverty and lack of access – rather than put all the onus on parents.

In the UK and the US, parents are also punished for ‘truancy’, or enrolled school children not attending school without an excuse. However, according to a report in the Guardian, there is no concrete data on whether such punishments actually help fight truancy levels. As Joanna Heilbrunn, director of the National Center for School Engagement in the US, told the Guardian, “What people “know” about responses to truancy and to lots of other things [are] anecdotal in many cases. Judges have impressions about what works and what doesn’t work, [and] judges differ substantially in the extent to which they actually assess fines. Lots of things are on the books but don’t always get enforced. (I don’t think anyone collects data on how often judges actually impose fines.) But there is plenty of evidence, based on real studies, to show that in general supportive measures work much better than punitive measures when you’re dealing with truancy, because there’s always some reason behind [an absence]. …But levying a fine does nothing to remove any of the barriers you can possibly think of that might be preventing a family from getting a kid to school. [Fines aren’t] designed to do that. They’re not designed to make it easier for a parent to get a kids to school. They’re just designed to make parents fret more. That doesn’t really help.”

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