The Constitution of India added the Article 21-A, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, to provide free and compulsory education of all children between the ages of six to fourteen years. It came into effect on 1 April 2010, India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child. It means that all children have a right to full-time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
Understanding the Right to Education Act
The Right to Education Act’s title includes the words ‘free and compulsory’. As per this, ‘free education’ entails that no child (other than a child admitted to a school not supported by the appropriate Government) is liable to pay fee, charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory education’ makes it essential for appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.
Right to Education compliance
The Right to Education Act also provides for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age-appropriate class. Financial responsibilities for child education under the Right to Education must be shared between the Central and State Governments. Norms and standard related to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours. Teachers must be rationally deployed to maintain a specified pupil-teacher ratio at schools. Additionally, teacher postings must have no rural-urban imbalance, and teachers are not allowed to be deployed for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
It provides for the appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
The Right to Education act also prohibits:
(a) Physical punishment and mental harassment
(b) Screening procedures for admission of children
(c) Capitation fee
(d) Private tuition by teachers
(e) Running of schools without recognition
Curriculum must be developed in alignment with the values enshrined in the Constitution. Education curriculum must be designed to ensure the all-round development of the child, building on the child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent and making the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety through a system of child-friendly and child-centred learning.
All private schools are mandated to have a 25 percent reservation of seats for children, which must be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan. No child can be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination before completion of elementary education. School drop-outs can also access special training to come up to par with students of the same age. The Act necessitates the monitoring of all neighbourhoods, identify children requiring education, and providing education.
According to the World Bank education specialist for India, Sam Carlson, : “The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrolment, attendance and completion on the Government. The government has budgeted Rs 80,000 crore for the education sector in the Budget 2017-18. However, in comparison to our peers, India spends the least on education. Only 8 percent of schools in India are ‘RTE-compliant’. This necessitates the intervention of civil society. NGOs like Save the Children are playing a critical role in ensuring the access to education for children and communities across India. Donate to NGO fundraising to participate in this mission.