Right to Education

Right to Education

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Salient features of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009

• The Parliament of India has adopted ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009,’ which envisages free and compulsory education to children in the 6-14 age group with the Lok Sabha approving it by voice vote. The Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on July 20, 2009. On 4 August, 2009 the Lok Sabha passed the bill*

• While 25 per cent of seats in every private school would be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups including differently-abled children at the entry level, as far as minority institutions were concerned up to 50 per cent of those seats could be offered to students from their communities*

• The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008 or Right to Education (RTE) Bill, a big move in order to make education a fundamental right for every child in the 6-14 age group, was cleared by the Union Cabinet on 2 July, 2009. It was scheduled to be introduced in the current session of the Indian Parliament. The first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (2004-2009) spent five years discussing and debating it through various committees and groups of minister, and by the time it was finalized, the Bill could not be introduced in Rajya Sabha. Therefore, the Bill, incorporating three major suggestions by the Standing Committee of Parliament, had to be brought to the Cabinet again**

• When RTE becomes law, it would empower the seven-year-old 86th Constitutional amendment that made free and compulsory education a fundamental right. The RTE Bill sets down guidelines for states and the Centre to execute and enforce this right. Earlier, education was part of the directive principles of state policy**

• Both the Centre and states will be responsible for the finances. The Centre will prepare the capital and recurring expenditure and provide it as grants-in-aid to each state from time to time. However, the share between the Centre and states will be decided later**

• The legislation has a host of features that stress not only on reaching out to every child in the 6-14 age group but also on quality and accountability of the state and education system**

• To ensure that the law gets effectively implemented, the Bill has provisions prohibiting teachers from undertaking private tuition as well as not letting them being used for non-educational purposes. There is also a provision that teacher vacancy should never exceed more than 10% of the total strength**

• To ensure that parents have equal stake in the system, the bill provides for school management committees in all government and aided schools. Women have been given 50% reservation in the school committees. Each committee will monitor and oversee the working of the school, manage its assets and ensure quality**

• To monitor implementation of the law, the Bill proposes a National Advisory Council at the centre and state advisory council in each state capital. In case of complaints of non-compliance, the initial complaint would go to local authority and should be resolved within 90 days**

• Key issues: • There are no specific penalties if the authorities fail to provide the right to elementary education; • Both the state government and the local authority have the duty to provide free and compulsory elementary education. Sharing of this duty may lead to neither government being held accountable; • The Bill provides for the right to schooling and physical infrastructure but does not guarantee that children learn. It exempts government schools from any consequences if they do not meet the specified norms; • The constitutional validity of reservations of seats in private schools for economically weaker sections could be challenged; • Minority schools are not exempt from provisions in this Bill. It is possible that this will conflict with Article 30 of the Constitution, which allows minorities to set up and administer educational institutions; • The Bill legitimises the practice of multi-grade teaching. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grade%$

• The Bill places the onus on the government to ensure enrolment of all children, but does not identify which government agency will be responsible for this task.  It is unclear how the appropriate authority will ensure and monitor that working children and children living on the streets without a parent or guardian will be enrolled in school. Both the appropriate government and the local authority share responsibility of providing free and compulsory education to every child. Sharing of this duty may lead to neither government being held accountable%$

• The Bill bans schools from collecting capitation fees or holding screening procedures while admitting students. A sub-section details the punishment for these crimes — a fine 10 times the capitation fee charged, Rs 25,000 for the first complaint of an admission test and Rs 50,000 subsequently. Other sub-sections outline the fine on schools that run without government recognition. The fine for starting a school without recognition is Rs 1 lakh and an additional fine of Rs 10,000 per day is listed for continuing without recognition. But Section 36 towards the end of the bill specifies that prosecution — for charging capitation fees, conducting admission screening and running a school without recognition — will be allowed only conditionally--“No prosecution for (these) offences… shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of an officer authorised in this behalf, by the appropriate government, by notification,” Section 36 states%%

• Section 37 goes further. It protects the Centre, the states, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and its state equivalents, the local government and school authorities from legal action if they violate the bill in “good faith” %%

• Section 37 protects the Centre, the states, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and its state equivalents, the local government and school authorities from legal action if they violate the bill in “good faith”- “No suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against the central government, the state government, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the local authority, the school management committee or any person, in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done, in pursuance of this act, or any rules or order made thereunder” %%

• The Bill does not define what constitutes “good faith” %%

* J Balaji, Parliament nod for Right to Education Bill, The Hindu, http://www.hindu.com/2009/08/05/stories/2009080558780100.htm

** Akshaya Mukul, The Times of India,

%$ PRS Legislative Research,

%% Clauses dilute school bill penal provisions by Charu Sudan Kasturi, http://telegraphindia.com/1090724/jsp/frontpage/story_1127

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