When the 2015-16 academic year begins in June, all schools in Maharashtra will be allowed a five-day workweek. The decision was taken on 28 April 2015 by the Maharashtra government. While many people may welcome this, the proposed timings will be hard on children and adults, and allow children to be put to work after school.
At present schools in the state must operate 6 days a week, which doesn’t give many people much time to relax. Subhash More, senior office-bearer of Shikshak Bharati, a non-governmental organization focused on education, likened the present 6-day school working week to a jail sentence for students and faculty members. Shikshak Bharati president and Congress legislator Kapil Patil said, “This will prove a boon for schools in cities like Mumbai, where teachers, non-teaching staffers and students have to commute long distances by suburban trains or school buses, and drastically reduce stress levels which would benefit all stakeholders.”
According to The Hans India, the said the option was available to all private and government run primary and secondary schools in the state. Patil said, “The decks have been cleared for all schools to plan out a five-day working week on a voluntary basis without violating the provisions of Right To Education Act. Since the schools have already closed for summer vacations now, it will be applicable from the next academic year starting June.”
According to the article, in the new five-day school week, primary school (Classes 1-5) will run from 1pm-5.30pm, and middle school (Classes 5-8) will run from 7 am to 12.30 pm, which sounds quite awful. Anyone with a long commute will have to get up well before daybreak to get to school by 7 am. Moreover primary school children will arrive at home quite late as well. These proposed timings make it possible to exploit the child labour laws and put middle-school children to work after school.
This decision reverses a prior decision by the Maharashtra education department that extended the school week to 6 days, as reported by The Times of India in December 2013. It is not clear why the decision is again being reversed now or why this time there will not be an issue with the RTE Act.
Both Patil and More explained that the Right To Education Act, 2011 did not in any way hinder the decision for a five-day working week. In fact the RTE Act does not specify how many days per week students should be in school. Instead it sets the minimum number of days and hours of instruction that students should receive, depending on their class level:
Classes 1 – 5
|200 working days|
800 instructional hours
|220 working days|
1,000 instructional hours
Aside from the burdensome timings and the concern over child labour, a shortened school week translates into a more easygoing weekend for all parties involved in the schooling system: students, parents, teachers, non-teaching staff and management. It also allows kids to spend more time at home, freeing up space for extracurricular activities and necessary free time.
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