Take a Step Back

Gregory Bateson in his introduction to Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, wrote, “… nothing has meaning except it be seen as in some context.” Of course, a lot depends on the context chosen. Today I want to provide one sort of context for the American ideas about elementary education.

In the United States, we assume that children go to school. We assume it to the extent that some children are told that school is their “job.” This isn’t true everywhere.

An article today in The Times of India, “Right to Education Act will show results: Sibal” provides the response of Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resource Development, to criticisms of the roll out of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The RTE Act was passed by Parliament in August 2009 and took affect April 1, 2010. The Act mandates a free compulsory education for every child in India aged 6 to 14, including 10 million children who were previously excluded from education, either because they were working, differently abled, very poor, migrants, or lived in places too remote from a school. The Act allows states three years to develop schools and five years for the improvement in the quality of teaching. The Minister is quoted as urging people to give the Act time to take effect, as changing the infrastructure cannot happen overnight.

Rethinking tertiary education is also on the agenda, including the presence of foreign universities—including from the United States—in India. Some Institutions of Higher Education are already contributing. The minister, himself, has an LLM from Harvard University.

I’m not going to tell you what conclusions to draw from this, but I am going to suggest you look at our article “Compulsory Education ” for a bit of history about compulsory education in the United States and the United Kingdom, with a summary of the compulsory education requirements in the United States.


Free & Compulsory Education Act of 2009 Becomes Law in India