28 Sep 2011

Every Child has a Right to Education

The Right to Free and Compulsory Act, came to effect on April 1, 2010 could alter the educational landscape. The RTE is rolling out fast in all states and will have significant impact on roles of organisations in the child space. The enforcement of this right represents a momentous step forward in our 100-year struggle for universalizing elementary education.

ducation has given many of us the opportunities to lead a better quality life and attain our goals. However, for millions of Indian children, education remains a distant dream - due to poverty, caste, gender discrimination and lack of access to schools. The quality education remains the most important tool towards the realization of rights of all children.

The elementary education in India: Where do we stand? Education in India is on the concurrent list. This means that while the Centre is responsible for providing general direction in terms of educational policy and curriculum, the running of the vast school network is the responsibility of individual state governments. Article 45 of the Indian Constitution states that, "The State shall strive to provide free and compulsory education to all citizens up to the age of 14" and the 93rd Constitutional Amendment (1994) made education a fundamental right that guarantees free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 – 14.

The elementary education is considered a basic developmental right of every child. However, the right remains largely unrealized:

  • India spends only 3.3 percent of its GDP on education, compared to an average 5.8 percent in developed countries. GOI had made a commitment to spend 6% of GDP on education in 1968, however the highest spend made so far is 4% of GDP.
  •  53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
  • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
  • 1 in 40, primary school in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
  • The common reasons given by 3 out of four drop-outs for leaving school are 
    • High cost of private education
    • Need to work to support their families
    •  No interest in studies.
  •  Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V - its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
  • The number of recognized schools imparting elementary education is over 1,285,576, of which 80% are Government run.
  • The number of children enrolled in Grades I-V in 2009 was 1,34,377,324, and in Grades V-VIII was 53,350,189.

Source: (DISE 2008-2009 Flash Statistics, National University for Education Planning and Administration [www.niepa.org])

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), India already recognises fundamental rights of children to Survival, Development, Protection and Participation. Honouring the commitment made to the nation's children in Article 21A of the Constitution, The Right of Children to the Right of Children to Free and compulsory Education Act 2009 (Popularly referred to as RTE) has now become operational.

The Right to Education Act 2009
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), which was passed by the Indian parliament on 4 August 2009, describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution.

The Right to Education Act has been debated, discussed and deliberated by experts before it became a law. The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrollment, attendance and completion, on the Government.

The Right to Education Act 2009 ensures
  • Free, compulsory education for all children from all ages 6-14 in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education..
  • Mandated quality of education, including periodic teacher training, and quality monitoring.
  • Focus on continuous evaluation of students.
  • Local community participation in schools.
  • Government will set up or upgrade existing schools to meet quality, or it will provide for transportation and fees to nearby private schools.
  • Special provisions for disabled children, the Act guarantees all children with disabilities to the fundamental right to education.
  • The Act makes it obligatory on part of the state governments and local bodies to ensure that every child gets education in a school in the neighbourhood. Any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the State which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring attendance and completion of 8 years of schooling.

The Right to Education (RTE) Act grants every child, between the age bracket of 6 to 14 years, the right to free and quality education. The Act also specifies minimum norms in government schools and in private schools, a reservation of 25% of seats to children from poor families (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan).

The RTE will ensure that quality education is provided to children of all community, including minorities and backward classes. However, the reservation for weaker section will not be implemented from this year as the admission season is almost over and will be implemented from 2011-12.

According to the Act, 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 at par with students of the same age.

All children between the ages of 6 and 14 shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education at a neighbourhood school. There is no direct (school fees) or indirect cost (uniforms, textbooks, mid-day meals, transportation) to be borne by the child or the parents to obtain elementary education. The government will provide schooling free-of-cost until a child's elementary education is completed.

The state government and local authorities will establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood. In case of children for Class VI to VIII, the school should be within a walking distance of three km of the neighbourhood.No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; no child shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test. Children with disabilities will also be educated in the mainstream schools.

RTE also calls for improving school infrastructure and training teachers so that every child in India has access to a quality education.

How does RTE promote Child-Friendly Schools?

All Schools must comply with infrastructure and teacher norms for an effective learning environment. Two trained teachers will be provided foe every sixty students at the primary level.
Teachers are required to attend school regularly and punctually, complete curriculum instruction, assess learning abilities and hold regular parent-teacher meetings. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grades.

Watchdog: Mechanism for of RTE violations

The National or the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is responsible for examining the safeguards for rights under the act and recommending measures for effective implementation. It is also responsible for inquiring into complaints relating to child’s rights to free and compulsory education. A National Advisory Council constituted by the central government will advise the central government in effective implementation of the act. The committee will comprise a maximum of 15 members, all of whom are expected to be knowledgeable and experienced with elementary education and child development. Similarly, a state advisory council constituted by each state government will be responsible for advising the state government.

The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right (as an entitlement) to get a quality elementary education, and that the State, with the help of families and communities, fulfils this obligation. It is also important to ensure the proper implementation of the Act and the implementation will directly benefit close to one crore children who do not go to schools at present. These children, who have either dropped out from schools or have never been to any educational institution, will be enrolled in schools. The reach and effect this Act on the primary education landscape could be enormous.

Read more about RTE and its implications visit:

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