In a landmark judgment in the year 2002, the Supreme Court
of India made education a fundamental right of every child in the country
through the right to education. However, it took a long span of almost seven
years for the verdict to translate into legislation. The country achieved a
milestone with the Right to Education Act that saw the light of the day in the
year 2009. The Act made education free and compulsory for all children and is
applicable all over India (except Jammu and Kashmir). Although the RTE act was
a momentous step forward towards universalizing the elementary education in the
country, its path was beset with many challenges.
The most glaring challenge in front of the authorities is to
put an end to child labour in a country with a substantial chunk of the
population living below the poverty line. Seeing children working in homes as
servants, in tea stalls, at restaurants, in garages is a pretty common sight in
the country. Many children can also be seen selling things on road and some are
even forced to beg. Ensuring that all such children get enrolled in schools and
also attend school on a daily basis is the biggest of all challenges involved
in the effective implementation of the Right to Education Act.
Yet another rock in the path of successful implementation of
the RTE Act is the prevalent gender bias in the country. The girls are pushed
into helping with household chores and taking care of siblings by many. Child
marriage presents yet another dimension making the issue even more acute. Since
the age covered in RTE Act is from 6-14 years, it is almost impossible for any
girl to re-enter (after a dropping out) the school and continue studies. As per
National Survey on Estimation of out of School Children released in 2014, of
those girl students who manage to stay in school till 14, 25 per cent do not
take their studies further. Schools situated far away homes is also a big
factor behind many girl students quitting school. The situation gets even more
complicated with rough terrain and lack of infrastructure. Thus, it should be
made sure that schools are accessible to all for the RTE Act to be successful.
This underscores the fact that the success of the RTE Act
depends on the coordination and performance of many departments. This very fact
reduces make things more complicated as many times things get stalled due to
the many layers involved in a process. For instance, ensuring quality education
is the responsibility of the Human Resource Development Ministry, but children
rights commission of states look after the task of monitoring the
implementation of the RTE Act. It must be noted that these state commissions
come under the Women and Child Development Department. Furthermore, the task of
putting an end to the menace of child labour is taken care by the Labour
Ministry. This mechanism highlights that the RTE Act can never see successful
implementation until all departments work in tandem. Many experts also suggest
the involvement of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Ministry as most of the
RTE Act implementation gets shaky in the remote areas.
Another factor impeding the success of the RTE Act is the
age bar mentioned in the Act. The Act is only applicable for students under 14
years of age. The Act leaves behind the younger lot (0-6) and the elder ones as
well (14-18). It is worthwhile mentioning here that India is a signatory to a
United Nations charter that makes education compulsory for all below the age of
Then comes the generational impact. Most of the children in
need of free education have illiterate parents. They exert a big influence on
the child's will to continue studies. Many-a-times, they refrain kids from
going to school and pressurise them to work and help in the household expenses.
As per an Aser 2017 report, 70.7 per cent of the kids who drop out of school
have mothers who have never been to school.
RTE Act also doesn't take children with special needs under
its ambit. There are very few or almost negligible number of schools for special
students in rural areas. The situation in tier 2 and tier 3 cities isn't much
promising either. The National Survey of Out of School Children Report states
that nearly 45% of specially-challenged Indians are illiterate.
The clause of providing a minimum of 25 per cent reservation
of seats in unaided private schools for students with a poor background isn't
working out very well either. Many schools aren't following the norms and there
is very little scrutiny of the same. Adding to the misery, in India, the
recognition of private schools is also a big issue as many schools run without
proper registration and licence. Thus, it becomes tough to crack down on
schools flouting the RTE Act norms.
The minority religious schools have been kept outside the
ambit of the RTE Act. Thus, obscuring many kids from availing the benefits of
the Act. Also, there is no watch on the quality of education imparted to kids,
RTE focuses more on the inclusion of more and more kids. The availability of
quality teachers is also a big issue as there are many schools running in the
country with a lower than needed staff. Law colleges in india like iilsindia and others have studied a lot
about this act.
As for the solutions, each state government must undertake
measures to ensure the success of the Act as in a federal structure; no
substantial impact on the ground is possible without the active co-operation of
the states. The age slab of the RTE Act must be changed and it should include
all kids of 4-18 years of age. Proper utilisation of funds is also required for
the Act to be implemented successfully. For a country growing constantly with a
GDP of 7 to 8 per cent, India has an abysmally low expenditure on education.
The RTE is a well-intention move of the government. All it
needs is the right push in the right direction so that India can uplift many
from the clutches of illiteracy and thereby, poverty.
About the Author:
I am a law student and like to write about various aspects of law.