Right to Education
This article penned by Neeati Narayan is an original insight into right to education which was implemented in India and has been able to uplift many.
The previous post on Right to Education (click HERE) introduced the basic concept, the international perspective, historical context and the current enactments.
As promised, this post shall elucidate further on the actual provisions of the RTE Act, along with the stark realities and some independent recommendations to the scheme. It shall also explain basic case laws which framed the current view as it stands today.
Provisions of the Act
- It is the right of children to avail compulsory and free educational till elementary level in a school of their neighbourhood.
- Clarification was provided with respect to the meaning and context of compulsory education. It is meant to be understood as the duty imposed on the proper governmental authorities to provide basic education (inclusive of mandatory attendance after admission) to every child within the age bracket of six to fourteen. Nothing, including the inability to pay for such education, is supposed to prevent children from pursuing it.
- The duties, responsibilities and powers of the requisite authorities operating under the appropriate government is clearly specified in terms of such educational rights.
- The statutory norms relating to “Pupil Teacher ratio”, infrastructure, academic calendar have been laid down in specific terms.
- It further lays down the process of screening, selection and appointment of teachers with the required qualifications.
- Going with the drive against corporal punishment, measures of enforcing physical punishment and mental persecution have been specifically prohibited.
- Substantive guidelines relating to the directional measures for making the curriculum in tune with the ideologies behind Constitution have also been provided. The agenda is holistic development of the pupils under the aegis and supervision of the requisite official authority.
- Provisions relating to private schools state:
All private schools shall be required to enroll children from weaker sections and disadvantaged communities in their incoming class to the extent of 25% of their enrolment, by simple random selection. No seats in this quota can be left vacant. These children will be treated on par with all the other children in the school and subsidized by the State at the rate of average per learner costs in the government schools.
Landmark court judgments
Judgments are the judicial pronouncements made in specific cases which go on to constitute case laws and help in interpreting the statutory provisions.
The first case which should be elucidated is the landmark judgment of Mohini Jain v. Union of India (1992) 3 SCC 666 wherein the judiciary recognised right to education as a fundamental right, in the spirit of the Constitution. The Right to Life established under Article 21 was deemed to be an all embracing provision to contain all rights and privileges which are basic in nature and required to live one’s life with dignity. The right to education was held to be part and parcel of an individual’s dignity and it was further deemed that the state is under an ongoing responsibility to develop educational infrastructure for partaking edification to its citizens.
The judicial development made through the aforementioned judgment was intrusively narrowed down in J P Unnikrishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1993 SCC (1) 645. The Supreme Court (apex court of the land) stated that the right to education is in the same bracket as that of a directive policy of a State and not entirely enforceable due to the limitations posed by the economic infrastructure of Indian state.
However, this narrow view has not been in current practice as the judiciary has time and against reinforced the importance and context of Right to Education as a basic right. As recent as 2012, in Society for Un-Aided Private Schools in Rajasthan vs. Union of India, Supreme Court dismissed the claims of private schools which challenged the validity of the Right to Education Act, 2010. It upheld the importance and validity of the Act as a whole.
- The social initiative bargained for, by virtue of the provision of “free and compulsory” education has not exactly been fulfilled. The constitutional provision of Article 21A has been deemed to not include minority schools within its purview and they have the right to charge any amount of tuition fees and set any admission criteria without being answerable to the judiciary.
- The state of education has not improved any better than after the enactment of Right to Education Act. The literacy rate has grown but it has done so at a very slow pace.
- There is also an undeniable fact that the pupil to teacher ratio is not maintained at the lower end, which results in a distracted class with less to no productivity.
- Furthermore, poor parents are forced to remove children from the schools in order to get them employed and for them to contribute to the household expenses.
- There is an acute shortage of teachers, a figure that range up to 3 Lacs. The existing teachers themselves are not aptly trained or are completely untrained.
- Companies, under the new and compulsory regime of Corporate Social Responsibility (through Companies Act, 2013) may spend their earnings on such social initiative. The funds can be spent by the companies to improve the educational and training standards for pupils and teachers, respectively.
- There should be increased initiative on behalf of private institutions that can help the public schools by providing their experience and skills to improve the academic level.
- Classes may be held in shifts for the students representing economically weaker sections of the society so that they may develop and learn at a similar pace to their better off counterparts.