The right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 came in to effect on 1st April, 2010. The coming into effect of the Right to Education (RTE) marks a historic moment for all the children in India. The Right of the children to free and compulsory Education had been recognized in 2002 by passing the 86th Constitutional Amendment. This amendment added a new Article 21(A), making education free and compulsory for all children in the age group of 6-14 years. A new fundamental duty was also added making it mandatory for parents to send their children to schools. The Act is likely to serve a launching pad to ensure that every child has the right to elementary education. The best part of the legislation is that the parents and society have a legal obligation to fulfill this duty.
The Act is quite a wide ranging document and all pervasive to ensure quality compulsory and free education to children in the age -group 6-14 years. It strives for quality with equity and is likely to improve quality of school education that at present is at the lowest ebb. The morning in every city presents a depressing scenario of education in India. One need not stretch one's neck to see different children going to different kinds of school depending on their economic and social status. This act seeks not only just to ensure elementary education to all but also to reform the system. It stipulates duties for parents, private schools, and local communities to ensure that children in the age -group of 6-14 years get free education. Besides, the act improve the quality of school education that at present is miserably at the lowest.
Even those running unrecognized schools are liable to punishment. If recognized schools do not adhere to the certain standards, they are subject to derecognition. These standards have been set in terms of teacher's qualifications, their duties and pupil teacher ratio. Teachers are forbidden to take up private tuitions. Nor will they be used for non educational jobs except for population census, election duty and other national emergency purposes. In case of holding tests and interviews of parents for admission, a school may be fined Rs 25000 for the first violation and Rs 50000 for subsequent violation. The bill also seeks to do away with capitation fee charged by schools. Moreover, schools cannot deny admission to a child for lack of age certificate nor can he be expelled or detained until he has completed elementary education. Corporal punishment has also been prohibited in the schools.
The private schools have also been roped in as a joint effort. 25% of seats in private schools are required to be reserved for disadvantaged students. The minority schools are allowed to allot 50% of seats to their own communities. Besides, the schools need to maintain pupil -teacher ratio of 40:01. The urban- rural division among students and teachers are to be bridged. So, a provision has been made to impart elementary education in a child's mother tongue. Few countries in the world have such a huge national agenda to ensure both free and child friendly education to all children. So far our stress has been on quantity rather than quality. Government has so far directed efforts to increase enrollment numbers without ensuring quality learning. But RTE would not only help bring all our children into schools but also ensure quality education for all of them, the half of whom continue to be pushed out of the system.
However, the success of the RTE hinges on the crucial question of quality teachers. Educational reforms are meaningless unless teachers and granted upto implement them, as to educate a child we need good teachers. The RTE would yeild results only if we have dedicated and qualified teachers. The Right to Education Act, indeed, poses a serious challenge to all of us.