Introduction: India has a dubious distinction of having the highest number of illiterates in the world. Unfortunately, even the recent educational statistics on literacy rates – according to 2011 census – confirm this trend. Males (80.9%); Females (64.6%)’ and Overall (73.0%) These numbers signify that 1/5th of all Indian males, 1/3rd of all Indian females and more than 1/4th of all Indian do not have “basic literacy skills”! It is more appalling that, even after 65 years of Indian Constitution, “about half of the children between the age of six and fourteen (82.2 million) are not in school. They stay at home to care for the cattle, tend to the younger children, and collect firewood or work in the fields, tea stalls or restaurants. These children are thus denied their childhood. Indeed, even today “education seems to be a privilege rather than a right for the children of India”, although India has her own Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009!
- Art 21-A inserted in Fundamental Rights as per 86th Constitutional Amendment: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.”
- Consequential legislation: The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
- Presidential assent received on 26th August, 2009.
Right of Children:
- To free and compulsory admission, attendance and completion of EE.
- Free: no child liable to pay any fee/expense preventing her from pursuing and completing EE.
- Compulsion: on the state; parental duty to send children to school.
- Not enrolled/dropout children be admitted to age appropriate class.
- No child shall be failed or expelled upto class 8
- Bars corporal punishment mental harassment.
- Qualification for appointment of teachers to be laid down by academic authority authorised by Central Government.
- Academic responsibilities of teachers laid down
- Prohibits deployment of teachers for non-education purpose, except for:
- Decennial census
- Disaster relief
- Elections to Parliament, State Legislatures, Local Bodies.
- Norms and standards specified for all schools
- Infrastructure and related facilities
- Pupil Teacher Ratios – for each school
- School days; working hours for teachers
- Community participation in schools ensured through SMC comprising elected reps, teachers and parents
- ¾ members from among parents of children in the school; 50% women
- Proportionate representation to weaker and deprived sections
- SMC to plan, manage and monitor – in collaboration with the local authority
- All aided schools to provide free education to at least 25% children.
- Special category schools and unaided schools to admit in Class I at least 25% children, belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group, from the neighbourhood, and provide free and compulsory elementary education.
- No capitation fees
- No screening for admission
- No school without recognition.
- Curriculum and evaluation procedure laid down by prescribed academic authority should:
- Conform to constitutional values
- Make child free from fear, trauma and anxiety
- Be child centred, child friendly; provide for learning through activities
- Medium of instruction – child mother tongue to the extent possible
- Provide for comprehensive and continuous evaluation
- No Board examinations till completion of EE
Duties: Central Government:
- Develop a national curriculum framework
- Develop and enforce standards of training of teachers
- Lay down minimum qualification for appointment of teachers
- Prepare estimate of capital and recurring expenditure
- Provide to States as GIA of revenues such percentage of expenditure as determined in consultation with State Governments
- Request President to make reference to Finance Commission to examine need for additional resources to be provided to State Governments.
Duties: Appropriate Government, Local Authority:
- Ensure free and compulsory education
- Establish schools in neighbourhood within 3 years
- Children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups not to be discriminated against
- Infrastructure, school building, teaching staff, learning equipment
- Special training for previously not enrolled or drop out children to enable them to be at par with others
- Monitoring of admission, attendance, completion of EE
- Timely prescription of curriculum, courses of study, teachers’ training.
Protection of Right:
- Decentralised grievance redressal mechanism
- NCPCR/SCPCR assigned additional functions
- Examine and review safeguards for rights under this Act, recommend measures for effective implementation.
- Inquire into complaints relating to child’s right to free and compulsory education.
- Powers assigned under Section 14 and 24 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Right Act.
- Where SCPCR not constituted, appropriate Government may constitute an Authority.
- Initiate action under delegated legislation; review existing state legislations on compulsory education and legislations on organization and management of private schools.
- Identify mechanisms for school and habitation mapping in order to define ‘neighbourhood’ , and ensure universal access.
- Notify plan for automatic progression from primary to upper primary, designate schools and feeder schools.
- Identify schools that do not conform to norms and standards prescribed in schedule.
- Undertake redeployment of teachers to ensure PTR in all schools.
- Review Cadre and Recruitment Rules for Teacher appointment.
- Untrained teachers should not be appointed in future,
- Notify that teachers shall not be deployed for non-academic work.
- Notify that teachers shall not give private tuitions.
- Ensure no-detention/no expulsion policy; ban corporal punishments and no Board exams till completion of EE.
- Set up SMCs – Enforce management and supervision of schools with community support.
- Notify all panchayats, municipalities as local authority
- Where SCPCRs are not constituted, constitute authority to perform functions in clause 31(1)
- Ascertain which schools are under obligation to provide free seats
- Prescribe mechanism for private schools to obtain certificate of recognition
- Establishing schools in the neighbourhood
- Upgrading all EGS / AIE into regular schools
- Opening schools in unserved areas
- Providing additional classrooms and facilities
- One classroom per teacher; office/store, Head Teacher room
- Adequate drinking water
- Separate toilet facility for girls and boys
- Barrier free access.
- Provision of adequate teachers
- Primary level
- Enrolment upto 60 : 2 teachers
- 60-90 : 3 teachers
- 90-120 : 4 teachers
- 120-150 : 5 teachers
- 150-200 : 5 teachers + Headmaster
- > 200 : PTR not to exceed 40 + Headmaster
- Upper Primary level
- PTR 35:1, 1 teacher per class (Science & math, Social Studies, Language teacher)
- Enrolment > 100 – One Head Teacher; Instructor for Art, Health and Physical Education and Work Education.
- Mainstreaming out-of-school children
- Child entitlements: textbooks/workbooks/stationary, uniforms
- Teacher Learning Equipment; library grant
- Teacher development
- Pre-service training of existing untrained teachers
- Pre-service training of new teachers to be appointed based on attrition rate
- In-service training
- Primary level
Conclusion: The RTE Act clearly brings out the resoluteness of the Govt. of India for ensuring the education of every child. The various provisions of the Act clearly indicate that the country has put education first in its agenda for nation transformation. The Act has succeeded in delineating the various responsibilities of school managing committees, teachers and other stakeholders in education. It has created a legally protected environment for the child to get education which can function as a launch pad for the future. The Act will definitely create a great impact on improving literacy rate and guaranteeing children their rightful place in the world.