By Hari Manasa Mudunuri, Osmania University
Editor’s Note: The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marked a historic moment for the children of India. It is a powerful tool in developing the full potential of everyone and in promoting individual and collective wellbeing. The Act lays down specific responsibilities for the centre, state and local bodies for its implementation. Few countries in the world have such a national provision to ensure both free and child-centred, child-friendly education, and India is proudly one of them.
The Directive principles of state policy contained in the Part-IV of the Constitution of India are the directives for the State to follow in the manner of administration as well as in making laws. They embody the aims and objectives of the State and act as guidelines in the day to day functioning of the State but do not confer legally enforceable right. In recent years the importance of Directive principles has been raised by the judiciary, frequently as they are vital and are contained in the Fundamental Law of the land i.e., the Constitution. The Directive principles concerned with education are Article 45 and 46. These Articles have provided the justification for various judicial pronouncements in favor of right to education as a fundamental right. These have provided the platform for the UEE as basic human right. The Courts have gone a long way in promoting the right to education and making State responsible for the same which has led to the inclusion of right to education as the fundamental right in the long run.[i]
The Right of children of Free and Compulsory Education Act has come into force from April 1st, 2010. This is a historic day for the people of India as from this day forth the Right to Education is accorded the same legal status as the Right to Life as provided by Article 21A of the Indian Constitution.[ii] Every child in the age group of 6-14 years will be provided 8 years of elementary education in an age appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his or her neighbourhood. Any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the state which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring attendance and completion of 8 years of schooling.[iii] No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; no child shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test. Children with disabilities will also be educated in the mainstream school.[iv]
Benefits of Right to Education Act
Right to Education has been a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy as part of Chapter 4 of the Indian Constitution. This right was made enforceable by putting it in Chapter 3 of the Constitution as Article 21. This entitles children to have the right to education enforced as a fundamental right. This Article lays down states goal of providing Free and Compulsory Universal Education to all the children until the age of 14.[v]
The founding fathers of the constitution had not (Part 3) included the Right to Education as the situation of the country after independence was not conductive to grant such a right to its citizens. Making the RTE a fundamental right meant a huge responsibility on the state as it did not have sufficient resources at the time.
But times have changed and India has progressed economically and is a sustainable situation that what was at the time of independence. The government cannot get away from its duties to provide education to its citizens, because the quality of development of the country depends on the quality of its human resources. Educated citizens really shape the countries future and its one of the priorities of the state to ensure education to all between the age group of 6 – 14 years. Moreover the Preamble of the Constitution of India claims India to be Socialist, Secular and Republic, more so reason to take up the responsibility of creating avenues for resulting in an educated India.
The Supreme Court of India considering all the above developments had embarked on making education a fundamental right. The Parliament following the footsteps of Supreme Court and considering all the above factors has provided a fundamental right to education within the parameters of the limitations set forth in the UNNI KRISHNAN Case.
Article 21A spells out the responsibility of the state to extent of providing Free and Compulsory Education to all the children from the age of 6-14 years. It vests the discretion with the state to decide the manner and means of achieving the same. The key words in the Article are: – Free and Compulsory Education, age of 6-14 in manner as the state may determine.
The Article lays a duty on state to provide free and compulsory education. The word ‘free’ is very subjective and whether it covers only fees payable or includes also other incentives uniforms, stationery is not clear. The law should spell out in clear terms the ambit of the provision of free education.[vi]
Should The Right to Education should be extended beyond 14 years and if so how far?
Considering the early childhood care and development is an integral part of the overall education and well being of a child, the age limit chosen is crucial as it determines the level of education in normal circumstances till the completion of class ten. In sense the state has taken up the responsibility of free and compulsory education in terms of levels of education till class ten. It is well know that in order to pursue any further academic or vocational education a minimum level of 10th standard (SSC/SSLC) is expected in most institutions across the country. Further there is no formal certification of schooling until 10th standard, in the current situation. The convention on the rights of the child has been ratified by India, which obligates the country to provide education to all children up to the age of 18 years. In the light of the above facts, it’s strongly recommended that the upper age limit of the fundamental rights be revised as…up to the age of 18 years or completion of 10th standard, whichever is earlier.[vii]
The recent Act passed with regard to compulsory education is a milestone in boosting the development of the citizens as well as the country’s harmony. Since the Act is new it will take some time to function at the best level. In today’s world basic education is necessary; thereby through this Act all those who need financial support can enjoy the benefits of elementary education.[viii]
Edited by Kanchi Kaushik
[viii] http://righttoeducationact.blogspot.com/2011/02/rte-act-and-rules.html, http://www.right-to-education.org/page/understanding-education-right