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Better Education equals Better Nation – Right to Education in India

Right to Education
Image Courtesy – MindInventory Graphics

Every human being has the right to education. Education must be free, at least in the primary and fundamental stages. Moreover, primary education shall be compulsory. Advance and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be accessible to all on the basis of merit and equality.

The Right to Education is one of the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to each individual irrespective of race, gender, nationality, ethnic or social origin, age, disability, political preference, religion, and other factors. The right to education is universally recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1984 (UDHR) as one of the 30 rights and since then has been accepted in various constitutions and conventions such as the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education of 1960 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989.

The right to education not only emphasizes the access to education but also the quality of the education that is being given. Article 26 of the UDHR states that – Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Right to Education in Indian Constitution

The Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 came up with Article 21-A in the Constitution of India. The main idea of the article is to provide free and mandatory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years old and it reflects as a fundamental right. The Indian Constitution is well-known for its commitment to social justice. Education and literacy are the foundation for the reality of equality of opportunity. The Indian Constitution holds many education-based Articles and recognizes education as the center of social reform. In the case of Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court stated that the right to education was a fundamental right. The Supreme Court held that the right to education flows directly from the right to life. The right to life and the dignity of an individual cannot be assured unless it is accompanied by the right to education.

Claiming the Right to Education

The right to education offers a foundation for understanding that every person, regardless of religion, race, caste or identity, gender or class, handicap, or ability, is entitled to basic education. However, the emphasis on access confines the agenda to a very narrowly defined policy agenda that is more concerned with attaining international objectives for enrollment and universalization than with taking into consideration some of the old ties that have formed exclusion in education. Without making an attempt to hear the perspectives and arguments of those who are excluded from education, how they feel about education, and how important is the role of education in the sociological, economical, and political aspects of their lives, the right to education would only be useful and applicable for those who rely on education.

Education ‘guarantee’ schemes, such as those in operation in Madhya Pradesh (and now a national commitment under the new ‘umbrella’ policy for universalizing elementary education, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), guarantee schools in unserved areas that demand them, but the types of schools, their quality, and content fall outside the scope of citizen action and are solely under the control of the state. Non-governmental organizations have been significant developers in education, especially in recent times, in which their frameworks have been used in specific state programs. However, the strategies that are being implemented have been done in a manner in which proper analysis of the future implications of these strategies in localized education has not been done.

Even in strategies where community participation is induced, there are inadequate attempts and efforts to address the foundations of inequality which prevent the marginalized groups from voicing their opinions. An example of such strategies would be village education committees. Village education committees were deemed the new front of community participation, however, instead of listening to the views of parents on what education should be and how it should be taught, the kids are rounded up and sent to school by the village education committees.

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009

Right to Education
Image Courtesy – Rifqi Dhia

As a result of Article 21-A in the Constitution of India which aims to provide mandatory and free primary education of adequate and equitable quality in a school which satisfies certain conditions and rules to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 came into place. Article 21-A and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act was established on 1st April 2010. ‘Free education’ is defined in the title of the Act as ensuring that no child, other than one being sent to school by his or her parents, shall have to pay school fees or any other kind of expenses that could make it impossible for him to receive and complete elementary education.

The phrase ‘compulsory education’ is an obligation on the respective governments and authorities to ensure the admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education by all children in the age group of six years to fourteen years old. With this, there is a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments of India to ensure that this fundamental right is being implemented in accordance with the Right of Free and Compulsory Education Act and Article 21-A of the Indian Constitution. 

As an essential step toward improving the opportunity for all children to access secondary and higher education, this Act is essential. Furthermore, the Act outlines specific provisions for disadvantaged groups, such as child laborers, migrants, children with special needs, or those who may be disadvantaged as a result of a social, cultural, economic, geographic, linguistic, or gender-based factor. In addition to addressing school dropout, out-of-school children, quality of education, and availability of trained teachers.

Provisions of the Act

  • Until the completion of elementary education, children are entitled to free and compulsory education in their neighborhood schools.
  • The definition states that ‘compulsory education’ refers to a government’s obligation to provide free elementary education and ensure that every child in the age range of six to fourteen is required to enroll, attend, and complete elementary school. The term ‘free’ refers to a child not paying any fees, charges, or expenses that can put them at risk of not being able to pursue and finish elementary education.
  • An unadmitted child may be admitted to a class that is appropriate for their age.
  • In addition to providing free and compulsory education, it lays down the duties and responsibilities of the state and central governments in sharing responsibilities for financial and other matters. 
  • There is also information on Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), building and infrastructure, school days, and teacher working hours.
  • The formula ensures a rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the pupil-teacher ratio stipulated for each school is maintained, rather than just by using a district-wide average, thereby preventing a disproportionate distribution of teachers between urban and rural areas. Also prohibited are teachers’ deployments for non-educational purposes, other than decennial censuses, elections to local governments, state legislatures, parliaments, and disaster relief operations.
  • The school system makes provision for the appointment of appropriately qualified teachers, namely teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
  • The Act forbids physical punishment and mental harassment, screening procedures for the admission of children to school 
  • According to the Constitution, curriculums should be developed in line with the Constitution’s values to ensure the all-round development of the child, thereby developing the child’s knowledge, potential, and talent, making them fearless and free of trauma and anxiety through a child-friendly and child-centered learning systems, capitation fees, private tuition by teachers and the running of schools without recognition.

Conclusion

Each age has the aspiration to develop a country better than the present. Subsequently, schooling which enables the fulfillment of this expectation should generally be the primary worry for any country. Presently the undisputed importance and necessity of the right to education can be acknowledged on a public level just through obligatory training, or better say, through free necessary essential instruction. However, due to the inescapable destitution and different biases in the general public, the endeavors to foster a school system in India with full access, equity, and nature of training have not been accomplished. The failure to check the dropout rates among the underestimated segments of the populace is one more reason for stress.

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