An insight into Right to Education Law


Rakesh Vashi

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 18.

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.

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