Education is and should be a basic right for every individual. It is a tool that can help develop and hone an individual's personality and mind. Without education a society can easily perish, falling prey to the cancers of ignorance and illiteracy.
The mind as a tool of the body is like no other. It has no limits except the ones we put on it ourselves. With education and knowledge a mind can be expanded beyond boundaries to achieve great things. Real upliftment begins when there is equality at the grass root level and real equality is when there is equality of opportunity.
When we are talking about grassroots, it is plausible to think of the grassroots of society as our children. The children are the future of this world and it is the duty of the nation to give our children the wings to fly.
The right to education without any bias in terms of any classification such as color, creed or kind is the most sincere way to make sure that our country strides forward.
Education as a Fundamental Right
It is a well-established opinion that literacy in India holds the key to socio-economic progress. In fact literacy rates in the country have grown to 74.04% as of 2011 figure that is a huge jump from 12% which was in 1947.
This six-fold jump is impressive but yet India has one of the largest illiterate populations in the world.
Education gives intellectual, moral and societal values to an individual. Therefore, when an entire nation is educated it automatically sets a uniformly colored tones of what is right and wrong and gives citizens a sense of social justice, stability and security.
Research conducted by policy makers in developed nations shows that if countries spend more on education it would have a strategic positive impact on income, which will grow at a pace which will be more than sufficient and also recover the investment. Economists, lawmakers and other experts concur on the finding that education affects growth- by adding not only to an individual's human capital but also through a ripple effect that affects various ends.
In our country, the skewed education rates show the need for the enforcement of the right to education and although those in power have made strong efforts in this regard, there still seems to be some lopsided evidence of inequality in literacy.
Over the years, education has gained importance and relevance as a fundamental right. In a monumental effort in favor of making education in India a Fundamental Right, the Constitution was amended with the addition of Article 21-A to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009
Article 21-A of the Constitution and the RTE Act became effective as on 1st April 2010. The title of the RTE Act envisages that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. This casts the duty to provide 'Compulsory Education' on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to all children between the ages of 6 to 14 years.
The RTE Act, was enacted to aid the fundamental right to education, as inserted vide Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Under the RTE Act, every child has a right to full time elementary education of a satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school that satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
These are the salient features of the RTE Act:
- It clarifies that 'compulsory education' is the obligation of the government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the age group of six to fourteen years.
- It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authorities and parents in providing free and compulsory education to all children.
- It lays down the norms and standards in relation to specifications such as Pupil Teacher Ratios, compulsory buildings and infrastructure standards for schools, school-working days, teachers-working hours etc.
- It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
- It makes rules that govern the running of the schools and prohibits:
- physical punishment and mental harassment to children under any circumstances;
- screening procedures for admission of children so that all children are equally entitled to the right to education;
- capitation fee;
- private tuition by teachers to curb the commercialization of education; and
- running of schools without recognition so that all schools fulfill the basic requisites laid down by law;
- It provides for development of curriculum in consonance with the values enshrined in the Constitution, and which would ensure the all-round development of the child, building on the child's knowledge, potential and talent.
- 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). Children are admitted in to private schools based on economic status or caste based reservations. It also prohibits all un-recognised schools from running and makes provisions and provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
- It also has a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.
Law on Education and its Impact on Society at Large
As mentioned above, the Indian Constitution includes the right to education as a Fundamental Right. In this way every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years is legally entitled to free and compulsory education.
The enactment of the RTE Act was a noble attempt on the part of the Government to evaluate, regulate and ensure the right to education in keeping with the changing times for generations to come.
The Right to Education Act was enacted by the parliament of India on 4 August 2009. With the enactment of Article 21A of the Indian Constitution and the introduction of the RTE Act, India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child.
The RTE Act has been heralded as "the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrolment, attendance and completion on the Government", by the World Bank education specialist for India, Sam Carlson.
The law in India makes education an issue that falls under the ambit of the central and state legislation.
Issues in the Way of Implementation of the RTE Act
In an over populated country like India, implementing a law such as the RTE Act will definitely have obstacles in its way. Without proper implementation, the right to compulsory and free education would remain a lofty ideal.
The effort to make education free and compulsory for all is real but it has been found that there is a lack of financial support that comes in the way of implementation of the act in several states, such as Bihar, where literacy rates remain the lowest.
The Government has set up a committee that initially estimated INR 1710 billion or 1.71 trillion (US$38.2 billion) for the first five years for the implementation of the Act and in April 2010 the Central Government agreed to share 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. In mid 2010, this figure was upgraded to INR 2310 billion, and the center agreed to raise its share to 68%.
In 2011, a decision was passed to extend the right to education till Class X, i.e., up to the age of 16 on the upper side and the preschool age range on the lower side of the spectrum.
Although the value of education has been a part of our national culture and ethos since centuries, but without proper legal infrastructure and governmental support the right to education would remain nothing more than an empty promise.
The renowned legal mind, Mr. M.C. Chagla iconically stated on the subject of the right to education that, "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 this spirit, the right to education and the laws that support this right are the true bastions of development and social justice in our country.