After passing of the 86th constitutional amendment by the parliament and article 21A in the year 2002 which made the Right to Education a fundamental right and subsequently it led to the enacting of the ‘Right to free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’, which was held by many as a significant step towards universalization of education in India. This act put the Right to Education with the Right to Life and bound all stakeholders like teachers, parents, schools to provide free and compulsory education to the children between 6-14 years of age.
Features of the RTE Act:
- Right to Education act aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years.
- It made education a fundamental right (Article 21A)
- It mandates a 25% reservation for the disadvantaged section of society that includes scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, socially backward class, and differently-abled.
- This act says that all schools except private unaided schools to be managed by school managing committees with 75 percent parents and guardians as members.
- The Right to education act lays down norms and standards concerning pupil-teacher ratio, classrooms, separate toilets for girls and boys, drinking water facility, working days for school, the working hour for teachers, etc every elementary school has to comply with these norms laid down by RTE.
- This act also prohibits all kinds of harassment whether physical, mental, and emotional. It prohibits discrimination based on caste, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.
- It says the child’s mother tongue will be the medium of instruction and a comprehensive and continuous evaluation system of child performance will be employed.
- It mandates that the financial burdens will be shared by the centre and state governments in a ratio of 55:45 and this ratio is 90:10 for north-eastern states.
What RTE has achieved?
Since its enactment, the RTE act has successfully managed to increase overall enrolment at the primary level. According to the ‘District Information System of Education’ nationally, between 2009-2016 the number of students in the upper primary level increased by 19.4%. Since its implementation in 2010, the RTE act has been enabled to improve the infrastructure of schools. According to Aser Centre’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the fraction of schools with usable girls’ toilet doubled, achieving 66.4 percent in 2018. The government budget under ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ which is one of the main factors for the implementation of RTE has increased from Rs. 12,285 Crore in 2009-10 to Rs. 25,000 Crore in 2016-17.
Review of RTE:
One of the main aims of RTE is free education for all children, according to “Elementary Education in India trends”: released by UDISE & NUEPA at the time of its implementation of this Act total number of students who were studying in the various government and private schools were around 18.79 crores, in which 5.73 crores were studying in private schools and 13.06 crore students were studying in government schools and among this 18.79 crore students, RTE is said to benefit tiny 0.31 percent or 6.71 lakhs student for the year 2013-14 (Source- Reply by the government to a question raised in parliament) this only signifies the fact that all the provisions in RTE which talk about giving incentives to the children based on their social and economic class has not been implemented properly and there are serious discrepancies by the centre and state governments in implementing it.
Under section 19 of the RTE Act which talks about student-teacher ratio, provision for water, provisions of drinking water, availability of playground, ramps for children with disabilities, office space for principal, according to District Information System of Education, only 13 percent of all school have achieved with these norms laid down by RTE. There can be other reasons for not implementing the norms and standards and laid down by RTE apart from inept management and lack of funds, for instance, if a school is situated in urban congested urban pockets it would become difficult for them to incorporate a playground in the school and there may be several schools like these and they can be the only school in the vicinity so shutting down these schools based on ‘non-compliance’ of norms will be counterproductive and it can harm the education of students, non-compliance should be checked on case to case basis.
There are also State-wise discrepancies in total enrolment numbers, for instance, in the age group of 10 years the enrolment was more than 97 percent in Odisha but less than 80 percent in Andhra Pradesh. According to Enrolment in institutions and schools (All India State Wise) ministry of statistics and programme implementation, the Government of India, states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan for instance have seen a steady increase of 6.5 percent, 1.1 percent, 4.5 percent respectively in their enrolment numbers in upper primary school, while states like Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal saw a significant decline of 2.7 percent, 5.1 percent, and 1.5 percent respectively in their enrolment numbers in upper primary school.
RTE act facilitates that its aim of education to all is far-reaching and inclusive irrespective of the socio-economic condition of children, under section 12 (1)(C) of the RTE Act, all schools, private, aided or unaided must reserve at least 25 percent of their seats at entry level for underprivileged children who come from economically weaker sections and disadvantage classes. According to the answer given in parliament, the government said that in 2018-19 more than 3.3 million students have secured admission under this provision, the Act also allows state governments to frame their own rules regarding the eligibility and income levels of economic weaker section and disadvantage classes. This provision has led to the creation of more than 2.1 million seats for children in 2016-17 but according to The bright spots: status of social inclusion through RTE section 12(1)(c) 2018, Indus Action due to implementation hurdles including funds allocation and various state contexts, the fill rates of these seats have hovered only 20-26 percent since 2013.
Besides this RTE also has not led massive rate in enrolment of students in schools, according to UDISE the number of students in class I to V have reduced from 13.52 crore in the year 2011-12 to 12.91 crore in 2015-16, while the number of students in government schools in class I to V reduced from 9.41 crore in 2010-11 to 7.81 crore in 2015-16 and rate of growth in enrolment in private schools has also declined from 9.5 percent in 2011-12 to 1.5 percent in 2015-16.
While the act is applied all across India, as of January 2019 according to the answer given by the government in parliament only 15 states and union territories (except Lakshadweep) have notified a per-child cost to the central government to claim reimbursement. But, the data provided by the states also came under scrutiny for example Himachal Pradesh and Bihar have not revised the per-student cost since 2014-151. Also, there is one question that is unanswered what will happen to those students who completed their class eight in the year 2019 who will pay for them from class nine onwards since the 25 percent quota ceases to be mandatory after 14 years of age2.
The much-touted RTE also has not been able to improve the quality of the education according to the Annual Survey of Education Report 2016(ASER): the number of students in class V who can read class II level text is at abysmal 41.6 percent in 2016. Which was at 50.7 percent in 2010, instead of improving this low-quality RTE Act seems to already reduce it.
India got the right to education as a fundamental right after the 62 years of Independence, but somehow the RTE Act which main aim was to provide quality education to all has substantially failed in doing so, the government must consider the review of RTE Act and its feasibility and implementation, the government must consider further amendments of the RTE Act to avoid unnecessary complexities in its implementation. The future of India can only be bright when the children will get proper quality education irrespective of their socio-economic condition. There are serious lacunae in the RTE Act that needs to be corrected as it is the most important Act which gives priority to improve the school education for children.
1. Geeta Kingdon and Mohd. Muzammil, Per Pupil Expenditure in the Government Schools of Uttar Pradesh and the Rate of Reimbursement to Private Schools under the Right to Education Act: An Update, accessed 2 September 2020.
2. Basant Mohanty, “RTE on unchartered private school turf,“, the website of The Telegraph, 1 April 2019, accessed 2 September 2020.