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Right to education in India

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    Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. (Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights).This UN recommendation has been reinforced in the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act (2009), which came into effect in India on 1 April 2010, enshrining in law for the first time the rights of all Indian children aged between six and fourteen years to free and compulsory elementary education regardless of caste, class, gender, etc. After 62 year of independence, The Union of India has made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for every child between the age of 6to 14. Now India has joined the group of those countries who provide for constitutional guarantee to free and compulsory education. The enforcement of this right is the joint responsibility of the centre and the state with even the local bodies playing their role in its functioning. The present paper shares the historical perspective, salient features, critical analysis of the act, the problems ahead and suggests ways to overcome them.

    Page number
    Historical perspective
    Salient features
    Challenges ahead

    Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty.

    Normative instruments of the United Nations and UNESCO lay down international legal obligations for the right to education. These instruments promote and develop the right of every person to enjoy access to education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion. These instruments bear witness to the great importance that Member States and the international community attach to normative action for realizing the right to education. It is for governments to fulfill their obligations both legal and political in regard to providing education for all of good quality and to implement and monitor more effectively education strategies. Education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens. Education system was in a huge problem right after at the time of independence. It was under Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpai that educatory reforms were made. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was a massive step with what followed by mid day meal.

    1. To determine the problems in the right of children to free and compulsory education act, 2009. 2. To find out the problems in present and future after the amendment. 3. To find out effective solutions for the same.

    Historical perspective
    At the time of Independence, India inherited an educational system which was not only quantitatively small but was also characterized by striking gender and regional disparities. Only one child out of three had been enrolled in primary school. Thus challenge was to provide elementary education to all its children within a stipulated period of time. Accordingly, universal education for all children in the 6-14 age groups became a constitutional provision by Article 45 of the Constitution. Special care of the economic and educational interests of the under privileged sections of the population also became a constitutional obligation. But these constitutional provisions still remain unfulfilled. Government’s commitment to ensure elementary education for all children aged 6-14 years was later seen in its ambitious program named ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’.

    Free and compulsory elementary education was made a fundamental right under Article 21A of the Constitution in December 2002 by the 86th Amendment. In bringing this into action, the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill’ was drafted in 2005. This was revised and became an Act in August 2009, but was enforced on 1st April 2010.

    The Right to Education Act will benefit about one crore out-of- school children and a large number of drop-out children. As per an estimate, out of 22 crore children in the 6-14 years age group in the country, 4.6 percent children have no enrolment in any school.

    Salient Features
    The Right to Education Act is a detailed and comprehensive piece of legislation which includes provisions related to schools, teachers, curriculum, evaluation, access and specific division of duties and
    responsibilities of all concerned. Main features of the Act are as under:

    1. Every child from 6 to 14 years of age shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education

    2. Private schools shall provide 25 percent reservation for weaker sections and economically disadvantaged groups in the admission.

    3. All schools except government schools are required to meet all specified norms and standards within three years to avoid cancellation of their recognition.

    4. The act calls for a fixed pupil-teacher ratio, i.e. 30:1

    5. The act mandates improvement in quality of education

    6. Financial burden shall be shared between Central and State Governments


    1. It is stated in section 3(1) that every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education.

    Criticism: right and compulsory are two contradictory terms and thus it should be stated in duties of a parent and guardians to make sure their children get their right just like in China in their article 46 amended in 2006, although it has its presence in section 10 but there is no punishment stated on failure to do so. The age for education is also not justified. There should also be free education for the youth and adults who are uneducated and there also should be adequate stress levied upon pre schooling as a child might not be able to cope with the intellectual needs required in standard one without it.

    2. It is stated in section 6 that for carrying out the provisions of this Act, the appropriate Government and the local authority shall establish, within such area or limits of neighborhood, as may be prescribed, a school, where it is not so established, within a period of three years from the commencement of this Act.

    Criticism: The period for the following is far too long as a school as per government norms must have a huge open space and different classrooms for each year with a strength not exceeding 30 students. This can be reached in one year and so a time limit of 18 months would’ve been adequate rather than delaying it more by another year and a half.

    3. It is stated in section 8 (a) that provide free and compulsory elementary education to every child Provided that where a child is admitted by his or her parents or guardian, as the case may be, in a school other than a school established, owned, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government or a local authority, such child or his or her parents or guardian, as the case maybe, shall not be entitled to make a claim of reimbursement of expenditure incurred on elementary education of the child in such other school. And in section 18 No school established, owned or controlled by the appropriate Government or a local authority shall, after the commencement of this Act, be established or function, without obtaining a certificate of recognition from such authority, by making an application in such form and manner, as may be prescribed.

    Criticism: trust bodies and private tutoring as been availed by our former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, both are discouraged.

    4. It is stated in section 16 that No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.

    Criticism: This may result in lack of seriousness for education and in the end result in failure after elementary education.

    5. It is stated in section 17(1) No child shall be subjected to physical or mental harassment. And in 17(2) whoever contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person.

    Criticism: the remote areas where the adults and youth are un-educated may face problems in putting forward a case for the same rather a special committee under education board must look into such issue.

    Challenges ahead

    1. State Governments’ Apathy:

    Lack of Promptness / Commitment

    Poor economic conditions of the States

    2. Availability of Infrastructure Facilities:

    Establishment of Primary Schools within one kilometer and upper Primary Schools within three kilometer distance.
    Well equipped classrooms, library, laboratory, play ground, drinking water and toilet facilities 3. Availability of Teachers and Required Pupil-Teacher Ratio: Five lacks new teachers are to be recruited and 5 lacks new classrooms are to be constructed to meet the required 30: 1 pupil teacher ratio. There are seven lacks teachers in the recognized 13 lacks primary schools. Out of these, three lacks teachers are either untrained or under-training. In many states large numbers of teachers are para-teachers and many of them are untrained. As per a recent report by NUEPA, Bihar tops amongst the states having poor pupil-teacher ratio and Uttar Pradesh comes at second place. In about 35 percent primary schools in Uttar Pradesh, pupil teacher ratio is 60:1. Fifty one percent primary schools in Uttar Pradesh are having three or less number of teachers. Out of these, 38 percent are para-teachers. In the present circumstances, to maintain
    pupil-teacher ratio as per the Act, appears a distant dream.

    4. Quality of Education:
    Quality of education depends upon the quality of teachers. Teachers’ selection and training procedure and their conditions of work need a substantial improvement. Teachers’ accountability to the pupils, their parents, and the community and to their own profession needs to be determined. 5. Twenty Five Percent Reservation of Seats in Private Schools: What will be the identification, selection and verification of economically weaker and disadvantaged children? Would they be selected from the neighborhood or from the entire village/town/city? How the whole process will be monitored by the government?

    In the light of the challenges discussed earlier, following are some suggestions which may be helpful to meet the challenges: 1. The state governments are required to show promptness for the implementation of the RTE Act. The states who have not yet released any notification regarding the Act must do it without any further delay. The Central Government should impose a time limit to release funds to the states. If any state government still shows apathy to release notification, then no funds should be released by the Centre to that state for the establishment of new schools. State governments should show full commitment for the implementation of the Act. 2. Primary schools with all minimum required infrastructure facilities should be established in the neglected areas on priority basis. Central government should release budget of its share to the states at the earliest. Facilities in the existing government schools should be expanded. To avoid the closure of unrecognized private schools for not fulfilling the prescribed recognition standards within three years, these schools must be helped to improve their facilities by resource support and providing linkages with financial institutions. To meet budgetary constraints, stress must be given on cost effectiveness and accountability at every level.

    3. To meet the increasing demand of qualified and trained full time teachers, the teachers in required number must be recruited at the earliest.
    Pupil-teacher ratio must be maintained as per requirement. As more and more children move into the primary school age group, it becomes needful to build more and more schools and recruit more teachers for sustained improvement in the quality of education.

    4. Primary schools need to be made aware of the provisions made for 25 percent reservation of seats for the economically and socially weaker and disadvantaged children and the role of school managing committees in this regard. The identification, selection and verification procedure of such children should be well defined and well informed. It should also be notified that how the whole process will be monitored.

    5. There is need to streamline educational administration. The pace of implementation of the Act can become faster if bottlenecks in administration are removed. Altogether, it is essential to adopt an integrated approach and establish linkages between education and other related areas such as child care, nutrition and health. Each state should formulate a ‘State Program of Action’ and each district and school should formulate a Program of Action of its own by taking into account the State Program of Action.

    6. Teachers’ performance is the most crucial input in the field of education. Well qualified and highly motivated teachers are the key to effective implementation of the curriculum. They give impetus to the teaching-learning process. Top priority, therefore, should be fixed for the improvement in the quality and content of teacher education program

    7. While the Central and State Governments have their full share of responsibilities, it is community participation and involvement of NGOs which will make marked difference in meeting the challenge of implementing Right to Education Act.

    8. To achieve the goals of Free and Compulsory Elementary Education, it is of upmost importance to develop curricula that is responsive to changing needs and facilitates the incorporation and integration of new content areas related to science, technology, population and the environment.


    In order to meet the challenges and surmount the hurdles that stand in the way of implementing Right to Education Act, it is needful to concentrate all efforts with full dedication and commitment. Not only the central and state governments but the nation as a whole should take responsibility in this regard. Community participation and support can make marked difference in achieving this goal. There exists a need for greater coordination amongst different agencies and functionaries involved in this task. To overcome population pressures and budgetary constraints, cost effectiveness and accountability must be ascertained at every level. Efforts should be focused on qualitative improvement of the whole program.

    The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act, 2009). Education and National Development, Report of the Education Commission (1964-66), NCERT, New Delhi, 1971. Challenges of Education–a policy perspective, Ministry of Education, Govt. of India, New Delhi, August 1985. National Policy on Education – 1986, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, Dept. of Education, New Delhi, May, 1986. Towards an Enlightened and Humane Society, Report of the Committee for Review of National Policy on Education 1986, Final Report, 26th Dec. 1990. National Policy on Education–1986 (With Modifications undertaken in 1992), Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Education, New Delhi, 1992. National Policy on Education 1986, Programme of Action, 1992, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Education, Govt. of India, 1993. Education for All – The Indian Scene, Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, Dec. 1993. Sixth All India Educational Survey, Selected Statistics, NCERT, New Delhi, 1998. Seventh All India School Education Survey, Provisional Statistics, N.C.E.R.T., New Delhi, Sep. 30, 2002. National Curriculum Framework, 2005, N.C.E.R.T., New Delhi.

    National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, N.C.T.E., New Delhi,
    2009–10. The gazette of extraordinary India

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