Understanding RTE

Understanding RTE

How significant is this Act and what exactly does it promise to change? To answer these questions it is important to understand the new law, what it promises to achieve and the challenges it faces at the level of implementation.

What is the Right to Education Act?
The Right to Education Act enforces the 86th Constitutional amendment, which gives every child between the age of 6 and 14 years the right to free and compulsory education.

Isn’t Right to Education one of the original fundamental rights?
No. Cultural and Educational Rights is one of the six fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. ‘Educational’, in this context, means that “all minorities, religious or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions in order to preserve and develop their own culture”.

What is the 86th Constitutional amendment?
The 86th Constitutional amendment was passed in 2002, inserting Article 21A that made education a fundamental right for children in the age group of 6-14 years.

Why has it taken 8 years (2002-2010) for it to become a law?
To enact the law, the State has to make an in-depth study, hold discussions with all those directly connected and draft a bill.
In October 2003, a first draft of the legislation was prepared and posted on the website inviting comments and suggestions from the public.
In 2004, taking into account the suggestions received on this draft, a revised draft of the bill entitled Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2004 was prepared and posted on the site.
In 2005, the CABE (Central Advisory Board of Education) committee drafted the Right to Education Bill and submitted to the Ministry of HRD. In 2006, the Finance Committee and Planning Commission rejected the bill, citing lack of funds. A model bill was sent to the states for making necessary arrangements.
The states sent the model bill back to the Centre, citing lack of funds. The bill was virtually buried for two years.
Many NGOs objected to the reasons cited by the governments. They alleged that the people of this nation were being betrayed.
In February, 2008 the Ministry of Human Resources Development circulated another draft of the bill. On December 15, 2008 the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha and released to the public. On July 20, 2009 the Rajya Sabha passed the bill with minor changes to the 2008 draft bill.
On August 4, 2009 the Lok Sabha passed the bill. On August 26, the President gave her assent to the bill which thus became an Act. On April 1, 2010 the Act came into force.

What are its salient features?
*Every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years will have the right to receive free and compulsory education.
*Towards this, the State would ensure the availability of a neighbourhood school within a period of three years from commencement of this Act. In case of non-availability of neighbourhood school, the State shall provide free transportation to the nearest school or provide free residential school facilities.
*Private schools shall admit at least 25 per cent of the children in their schools without any fee.
*The National Commission for Elementary Education shall be constituted to monitor all aspects of elementary education including quality.

What are the challenges in its implementation?
*Some State governments have said that they do not have the funds to implement the Act. The governments have also observed that they do not have adequate control over private schools to compel them to reserve quota of seats as laid down.
*Many unaided private schools have petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging the 25 per cent reservation of seats as “unconstitutional” and “violating fundamental rights of unaided private educational institutions”.
*Shortfall of trained teachers will be a big challenge. The average students-to-teacher ratio in a classroom at present stands at 50:1.  The Act spells out that this ratio should be 30:1, which means that at least 12 lakh trained teachers will be required within six months of notification of the Act.

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