The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted on 4 August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution. India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the Act came into force on 1 April 2010.
The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan). Kids are admitted in to private schools based on economic status or caste based reservations. It also prohibits all unrecognised schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission. The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.
The RTE Act requires surveys that will monitor all neighbourhoods, identify children requiring education, and set up facilities for providing it. The World Bank education specialist for India, Sam Carlson, has observed: "The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrolment, attendance and completion on the Government. It is the parents' responsibility to send the children to schools in the US and other countries."
The Right to Education of persons with disabilities until 18 years of age is laid down under a separate legislation - the Persons with Disabilities Act. A number of other provisions regarding improvement of school infrastructure, teacher-student ratio and faculty are made in the Act.
Education in the Indian constitution is a concurrent issue and both centre and states can legislate on the issue. The Act lays down specific responsibilities for the centre, state and local bodies for its implementation. The states have been clamouring that they lack financial capacity to deliver education of appropriate standard in all the schools needed for universal education. Thus it was clear that the central government (which collects most of the revenue) will be required to subsidise the states.
A committee set up to study the funds requirement and funding initially estimated that INR 1710 billion or 1.71 trillion (US$38.2 billion) across five years was required to implement the Act, and in April 2010 the central government agreed to sharing the funding for implementing the law in the ratio of 65 to 35 between the centre and the states, and a ratio of 90 to 10 for the north-eastern states. However, in mid 2010, this figure was upgraded to INR 2310 billion, and the center agreed to raise its share to 68%. There is some confusion on this, with other media reports stating that the centre's share of the implementation expenses would now be 70%. At that rate, most states may not need to increase their education budgets substantially.
A critical development in 2011 has been the decision taken in principle to extend the right to education till Class X (age 16) and into the preschool age range. The CABE committee is in the process of looking into the implications of making these changes.
The Ministry of HRD set up a high-level, 14-member National Advisory Council (NAC) for implementation of the Act. The members included Kiran Karnik, former president of NASSCOM; Krishna Kumar, former director of the NCERT; Mrinal Miri, former vice-chancellor of North-East Hill University; Yogendra Yadav – social scientist. India
Sajit Krishnan Kutty, Secretary of The Educators Assisting Children's Hopes (TEACH) India; Annie Namala, an activist and head of Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion; and Aboobacker Ahmad, vice-president of Muslim Education Society, Kerala.
A report on the status of implementation of the Act was released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development on the one year anniversary of the Act. The report admits that 8.1 million children in the age group six-14 remain out of school and there’s a shortage of 508,000 teachers country-wide. A shadow report by the RTE Forum representing the leading education networks in the country, however, challenging the findings pointing out that several key legal commitments are falling behind the schedule. The Supreme Court of India has also intervened to demand implementation of the Act in the Northeast. It has also provided the legal basis for ensuring pay parity between teachers in government and government aided schools. Haryana Government has assigned the duties and responsibilities to Block Elementary Education Officers–cum–Block Resource Coordinators (BEEOs-cum-BRCs) for effective implementation and continuous monitoring of implementation of Right to Education Act in the State.
It has been pointed out that the RTE act is not new. Universal adult franchise in the act was opposed since most of the population was illiterate. Article 45 in the Constitution of India was set up as an act: The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
As that deadline was about to be passed many decades ago, the education minister at the time, MC Chagla, memorably said: "Our Constitution fathers did not intend that we just set up hovels, put students there, give untrained teachers, give them bad textbooks, no playgrounds, and say, we have complied with Article 45 and primary education is expanding... They meant that real education should be given to our children between the ages of 6 and 14" - (MC Chagla, 1964).
In the 1990s, the World Bank funded a number of measures to set up schools within easy reach of rural ommunities. This effort was consolidated in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan model in the 1990s. RTE takes the process further, and makes the enrolment of children in schools a state prerogative.
Right to Education an Opportunity and a Challenge
Education is a continuous process which helps to prepare individual to play his role as an enlightened member of the society. It means an all-round development of the person. when a person educate, he is likely to be more aware of his own rights. The system of education, introduced by the British government in India was aimed at producing a large number of clerks. After the independence, India has been trying to restructure its educational system to suit the needs of technological an industrial development of our country.
The right to free and compulsory education act is against leap towards Universalization of education in India. Articale21A of the constitution says the state shall provide free an compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine.
It was in December 2002 that the fundamental right to education bill was framed. Earlier, compulsory education for the children in the 6-14 years age group was a part of the Directive principals of state policy. The law was a part of the right to free and compulsory education a revolution that will put nearly one core children in school and involve a beget of Rs.171484 core over five years.
Today the state is seen as the chief provider of education. From April 1 2010 it became incumbent upon the state to provide children in the age group of 6 to 14 years not just free schooling but quality education as well. No child shall be held back expelled or required to pass a board examination till class viii. There must be 25 percent reservation for poor children even in private and minority schools. There must be one teacher for every 30 students. No direct or indirect cost nee be borne by the child or parents to obtain elementary education. Schools shall constitute school management committees comprising local officials parents, guardians an teachers. The SMCs will monitor utilization of government grants the infrastructure in schools including the number of classrooms ,barrier free access for the physically challenged, sanitary conditions and safe drinking water. RTE mandates the inclusion of 50 percent women and parents of children from disadvantaged groups in SMCs.
India is a late entrant to the group of countries that have legislated for compulsory education. The right to education is recognized as a human right by the united nation. Most countries in the west had enacted laws, making elementary education a responsibility of the state. Uk was one of the last countries in Europe in 1870 to make it the state’s responsibility to provide compulsory education. It was after this that Go pal Krishna Gokhale in 1911, urged the Imperial Legislative Assembly to confer on the Indian people the right to education.
The implementation of RTE Act faces massive manpower, logistics and financial hurdles. There is an acute shortage of qualified teachers across government schools, mostly in rural India. To improve learning quality it is critical that the government makes clear budgetary provisions for training teachers. States have to recruit and deploy teachers at a 30:1 ratio, establish neighborhood schools with in three years and train all teachers. These require massive sums of money. The human resource development ministry has estimated a requirement of about Rs. 34000 core every year for a period of five years. The central Government is bearing 75 percent and state government 25 percent of the project expenditure in the eleventh five year plan. The sharing will be 50:50 for the Twelfth plan.
The 2008-09 District Information System for education report on elementary education in India painted a bleak picture of the 1:29 million government and private schools covered, over 60 percent did not have electricity, 46.4 percent did not have toilets for girls and almost 50percent did not have boundary walls to ensure the safety of students.
However the RTE act limited the scope of the fundamental right to education to 6-14 years and committed a mistake by not recognizing the importance of early years. Globally it is accepted that the early years are the most critical years for lifelong development. India cannot afford to deprive its youngest 16crore population of right to nutrition, health and early childhood education as enshrined in the convention of the rights of children to which India is signatory.
A majority of poor parents are not aware that education is now the right of their child. The government needs to launch a massive awareness campaign so that parents become aware of the act and can take advantage of it. Implementation obviously holds the key to its success. And that clearly will be the government biggest challenge. Prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said I want every INDIAN child, girl and boy to be touched by the light of education. Stressing social inclusion, prime minister also said his government would priorities the concerns and interests of the scheduled tribes , scheduled castes, other backward classes, minorities and women, and strive to make the RTE a living reality.