• Following the recommendations of Saikia Committee, the government has introduced 83rd Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament in 1997 to make right to education from 6-14 years a fundamental right.
• The Supreme Court in its judgment in Unnikrishnan's case (1993) has already held that citizens of India have a fundamental right to education upto 14 years of age
• The Right to Education Bill is the enabling legislation to notify the 86th constitutional amendment that gives every child between the age of six and 14 the right to free and compulsory education. But it has been 61 years in the making
• It was only in 2002 that education was made a fundamental right in the 86th amendment to the Constitution. In 2004, the government in power, the NDA, drafted a Bill but lost the elections before it could be introduced..
What is it?
• The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, was an enabling legislation without which the fundamental right -- enacted by Parliament in December 2002 – could not come into effect.
• The 86th constitutional amendment passed in Parliament six years ago made free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14 a fundamental right. Besides giving every child in this age-group the right to free and compulsory education, the Bill also seeks to evolve norms and standards for primary education, complete with minimum qualifications for teachers, pupil-teacher ratio, and a ban on private tuitions by teachers.
• The statement of object and reasons clearly explains the aim of the legislation: ‘The proposed legislation is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all.’
• The statement adds: ‘The provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds.’
• The Bill provides that no child be denied admission for lack of age proof. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that every child in the target age-group has access to a school in the neighbourhood within three years of the law’s enactment.
• The Bill also tries to rope in the private sector by making it mandatory for schools to reserve 25% of the seats in Class 1 every year for children from disadvantaged sections of society in the neighbourhood. The government will reimburse the education expenses of these students.
• The Bill prohibits the charging of capitation fees, making it a punishable offence with fines up to 10 times the capitation fee charged. It also prohibits screening of either parents or children at the time of admission; fines as high as Rs 25,000 will be levied for the first contravention and Rs 50,000 for subsequent contraventions. Detention or expulsion from any class until the completion of elementary education, and physical punishment, are also not permitted. None of this is expected to sit well with the private school lobby.
Right to Education Bill cleared in November 2008
More than six decades after Independence, the Indian government has cleared the Right to Education Bill that makes free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children between the ages of 6 and 14
Key provisions of the Bill include:
• 25% reservation in private schools for disadvantaged children from the neighbourhood, at the entry level. The government will reimburse expenditure incurred by schools.
• No donation or capitation fee on admission.
• No interviewing the child or parents as part of the screening process
• The Bill also prohibits physical punishment, expulsion or detention of a child, and deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes other than census or election duty and disaster relief. Running a school without recognition will attract penal action.
• The draft Bill aims to provide elementary schools in every neighbourhood within three years -- though the word “school” encompasses a whole spectrum of structures. A set of minimum norms have been worked out as there’s the usual barrier of paperwork in remote rural and poor urban areas. The State is also obliged to tide over any financial compulsions that may keep a child out of school.
• The Right to Education Bill is the enabling legislation to notify the 86th constitutional amendment that gives every child between the age of six and 14 the right to free and compulsory education. But it has been 61 years in the making.
• Critics of the Bill question the age provision. They say children below six years and above 14 should be included. Also, the government has not addressed the issue of shortage of teachers, low skill levels of many teachers, and lack of educational infrastructure in existing schools let alone the new ones that will have to be built and equipped.