The Right to Education Act 2009, also known as the RTE Act 2009, was enacted by the Parliament of India on 4 August 2009. It describes modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children aged between 6-14 years in India under Article 21 (A) of the Constitution of India. This act came into effect on 1 April 2010 and made India one of the 135 countries to have made education a fundamental right for every child. It prescribes minimum norms for elementary schools, prohibits unrecognised schools from practice and advocates against donation fees and interviews of children at the time of admission. The Right to Education Act keeps a check on all neighbourhoods through regular surveys and identifies children who are eligible for receiving an education but do not have the means to.
Educational challenges have been prevalent at both the centre and states for many years in India. The Right to Education Act 2009 maps out roles and responsibilities for the centre, state and all local bodies to rectify gaps in their education system in order to enhance the quality of education in the country.
1. Compulsory and free education for all
It is obligatory for the Government to provide free and compulsory elementary education to each and every child, in a neighbourhood school within 1 km, up to class 8 in India. No child is liable to pay fees or any other charges that may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. Free education also includes the provisions of textbooks, uniforms, stationery items and special educational material for children with disabilities in order to reduce the burden of school expenses.
2. The benchmark mandate
The Right to Education Act lays down norms and standards relating to Pupil-Teacher-Ratios (number of children per teacher), classrooms, separate toilets for girls and boys, drinking water facility, number of school-working days, working hours of teachers, etc. Each and every elementary school (Primary school + Middle School) in India has to comply with this set of norms to maintain a minimum standard set by the Right to Education Act.
3. Special provisions for special cases
The Right to Education Act mandates that an out of school child should be admitted to an age-appropriate class and provided with special training to enable the child to come up to age-appropriate learning level.
4. Quantity and quality of teachers
The Right to Education Act provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified Pupil-Teacher-Ratio is maintained in every school with no urban-rural imbalance whatsoever. It also mandates appointing appropriately trained teachers i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
5. Zero tolerance against discrimination and harassment
The Right to Education Act 2009 prohibits all kinds of physical punishment and mental harassment, discrimination based on gender, caste, class and religion, screening procedures for admission of children capitation fee, private tuition centres, and functioning of unrecognised schools.
The Right to Education (RTE) Forum’s Stocktaking Report 2014 suggested that across the country, less than 10 per cent of schools comply with all of the Right to Education Act norms and standards. While the enactment of the Right to Education Act 2009 triggered significant improvements, concerns regarding the privatisation of education remain. Educational inequalities have held a strong ground in India for many years. While the Right to Education Act offers the first step towards an inclusive education system in India, effective implementation of the same still remains to be a challenge.
6. Ensuring all-round development of children
The Right to Education Act 2009 provides for the development of a curriculum, which would ensure the all-around development of every child. Build a child’s knowledge, human potential and talent.
7. Improving learning outcomes to minimise detention
The Right to Education Act mandates that no child can be held back or expelled from school till Class 8. To improve the performances of children in schools, the Right to Education Act introduced the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system in 2009 to ensure grade-appropriate learning outcomes in schools. Another reason why this system was initiated was to evaluate every aspect of the child during their time in school so that gaps could be identified and worked on well in time.
8. Monitoring compliance of RTE norms
School Management Committees (SMCs) play a crucial role in strengthening participatory democracy and governance in elementary education. All schools covered under the Right to Education Act 2009 are obligated to constitute a School Management Committee comprising of a headteacher, local elected representative, parents, community members etc. The committees have been empowered to monitor the functioning of schools and to prepare a school development plan.
9. Right to Education Act is justiciable
The Right to Education Act is justiciable and is backed by a Grievance Redressal (GR) mechanism that allows people to take action against non-compliance of provisions of the Right to Education Act 2009.
To ensure all schools follow this mandate, Oxfam India in collaboration with JOSH filed a complaint at the Central Information Commission (CIC) in 2011 evoking Section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) 2005. Section 4 of the RTI Act is a proactive disclosure section mandating all public authorities to share information with citizens about their functioning. Since schools are public authorities, compliance to Section 4 was demanded.
10. Creating inclusive spaces for all
The Right to Education Act 2009 mandates for all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for children belonging to socially disadvantaged and economically weaker sections. This provision of the Act is aimed at boosting social inclusion to provide for a more just and equal nation.
Why should we support Education for Girls?
As per UNICEF data records the adjusted primary net enrolment rate for the year 2014-15 was 91 and 90 for girls. About 31 million girls across the globe do not have access to primary education. Equality in the sexes in terms of their access to education and health has an intrinsic value in its own light. In India, the total enrolment in primary schools in India during the year 2014-15 was 1, 97,666 where only 95,556 of them were girls. Young girls in India are often forced to or voluntarily drop out of schools since they either have to look after their younger siblings or have to contribute to the household chores. Centres opened by Oxfam India in different areas in priority and priority plus states help both schools going and non-school going kids to be at par with the school curriculum. The non-school going kids are prepared so that they are able to appear for the admission tests in schools and get enrolled in an age-appropriate class. A child who was unable to read or write is also taught in a manner that suits his interests leading to maximum learning. If a child fails or is unable to clear her tests or exams she becomes demotivated to continue her studies. Community organizations help these children to complete their schooling through registrations with NIOS. These community-based organizations also offer various vocational courses like English speaking, stitching, BPO service calling for the girls to be able to be economically dependent. If educated, girls can contribute equally to economic development thus reducing gender imbalances in terms of education which enhances human capital formation. An extensive study on the human capital theory suggests that education plays a major role in increasing the productivity of the economy by increasing the factor output per worker. Education and human resource development are at the centre of long-term economic developmental plans. The lack of safety and security also leads to girls discontinuing school. Morning school for girl students is followed by afternoon school for boys. Senior students often complain that the boys tease and follow them home at the time when their school is over.
Due to they are earlier complaints police patrolling had increased when the girls came out of school however as soon as the number of policemen decreased the boys continued to harass them. Many girls had dropped out of school because their parents believed that it was no longer safe to send their daughters to school. Despite continuous complaints to both the police as well as SMC members the problem still persists. The NCPCR has introduced new guidelines for the health, hygiene, safety, and security of students both in private and government schools. The new guidelines point out that girls must be taught about menstrual hygiene and be supported so that they do not miss school. They also state that schools should ensure zero tolerance on any matter related to sexual abuse of a child and stringent action shall be taken against the perpetrators of law.
An educated girl also understands the high importance of education for her future generations and is able to create a better lifestyle and provide better healthcare to her children. Apart from this, educating a girl child will directly reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, child marriages, domestic and sexual violence in families. An educated girl is also more likely to participate in political discussions, meetings, and decision-making leading to the formation of a more representative and democratic governments.