Education plays a significant role in the development of an individual and making him a well-informed citizen. It is the education which makes an individual self-sufficient, helps to overpower the social evils and contribute towar the growth of the society and nation as a whole. Over the years, the demand fon the education in our country has grown by leaps and bounds. This is because people of all sections of society have understood the need of education which is important for the overall development of a child. In India, education falls under the jurisdiction of both the Union and State Governments.
Post-independence era witnessed the commitment of the government to ensure universal elementary education to all. In 1950, India made a Constitutional commitment to provide free and compulsory education to all children upto the age of 14, by adding this provision in Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State Policy
Education System in India
In India, Central and most state boards uniformly follow the “10 + 2 + 3” pattern of education. In this pattern, study of 10 years is done in schools and 2 years in schools or junior colleges and then 3 years of graduation for a bachelor’s degi in college. The first 10 years is further subdivided into 4 years to primary education, 6 years of High schools followed by 2 years of junior colleges. Most of the State Governments have their own Board of Education. However, there are two Boards namely CBSE and CISCE, which are prevalent all over India. The New Education Policy, 2020 has proposed new curricular and pedagogical structure, with 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 design covering the children in the age group 3-18 years.
Article 21A and Right to Education Act
It was the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 which inserted Article 21A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the state may by law determine.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, was enacted on 4th August , 2009. It represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21A, means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
The title of the RTE Act incorporates the words ‘free and compulsory! Free education’ means that no child (studying in government run schools) shall be liable to pay any kind of fee, charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children. With this, India moved forward to the rights based framework that casts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement this fundamental child right as enshrined in the Article 21A of the Constitution, in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act.
Salient features of Right to Education Act
Some of the salient features of Right to Education Act, 2009 are mentioned below :
• Free and compulsory education to all children of India in the age group of 6-14 years. However, the New Education Policy, 2020 has recommended the free and compulsory school education for all children in the age group
• The provision of ‘No Detention’ was incorporated in RTE Act. Under it, no child shall be held back, expelled or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education i.e. class 1 to class 8.
• If a child above 6 years of age has not been admitted in any school or could not complete his or her elementary education, then he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age.
• The age of a child shall be determined on the basis of the birth certificate issued in accordance with Registration Act, 1856 or on the basis of such other document as may be prescribed. No child shall be denied admission in a school for lack of age proof.
• A child who completes elementary education, shall be awarded certificate.
• 25% reservation for economically disadvantaged group in admission to class I in all private schools.
• Financial burden will be shared between the State and Central Governments.
Limitations of Right to Education Act
Though RTE aims at ‘Free and Compulsory Education between age group of 6-14, but it has certain limitations. Some of them are discussed below :
• The RTE Act, provides for reservation of 25% seats for disadvantaged groups in every private schools. However, there is possibility that the children from the weaker sections may develop inferiority complex while studying in these schools. Besides, the elite parents may have an objection that their children are studying with the children from backward area. It is thus difficult step to get economically weaker sections at parity with the regular students in terms of education and exposure provided to them.
• The RTE Act lays down the guidelines in terms of infrastructure and minimum personnel requirements which the school needs to adhere in order to function. There are many aided and private schools which have delivered excellent results in the past but due to lack of funds in order to meet the stipulated guidelines will have to shutdown.
The RTE Act sanctions the government schools as the most secure ones in the terms of education and infrastructure. The RTE also prohibits all unrecognised schools from taking donations, capitation fees and no interview of parent and child. The public opinion about these schools tends to differ. Most of these schools are overcrowded, impart poor standards of education and lacks in basic facilities like drinking water and sanitation. It is the unrecognised schools which fill in the gap created by their government school counterparts.
• The RTE Act focuses more on infrastructural development in comparison to teaching standards. In fact, the education in the villages is vested in the hands of ‘Para teachers’ or ‘Contract teachers’. Shockingly, the qualification of Para teachers’ is barely higher secondary or senior secondary. Also, the government fails to take into consideration the pre-primary, secondary and higher secondary education, without which the whole purpose of RTE is defied.
• The child labour is widely prevalent in India. It is tough to get the children free from the clutches of child labour and send them to school.
• The responsibility of bringing children to school and providing them quality education is the work of Ministry of Human Resources Development. Monitoring and implementation of RTE Act is the responsibility of the Child Rights Commission in each state, which is under Women and Child Department. Thus, there is the problem of coordination between these two departments.
Important Measures to Make RTE a Success
In order to entitle each child with a quality education and make RTE a success, the government needs to take certain stringent measures. Some of these are as follows:
• The government needs to assure that each state prepares a set of rules for the implementation of the right to education with the active participation of all the stakeholders.
• The states need to ponder upon expanding the age limits and include more age groups under the aegis of RTE.
• The government needs to address the problem of shortage of well- qualified teachers.
• The Education Department should be given judicial power for the effective implementation of RTE.
• The government can encourage private investment to manage the problems of funds. But at the same time, it needs to assure that there are strict rules governing the participation of private sector in order to prevent the commercialisation of education.
• The government needs to widen the scope of RTE Act to ensure its success.
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 to get a quality elementary education, and that the state, with the help of families and communities fulfils this obligation and also ensures free and child-centred education.
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