RIGHT OF CHILDREN TO FREE AND COMPULSORY EDUCATION
2.1 RTE, Equity and Social Inclusion:
The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A , means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. The need to address inadequacies in retention, residual access, particularly of un-reached children, and the questions of quality are the most compelling reasons for the insertion of Article 21-A in the Constitution of India and the passage of the RTE Act, 2009 in the Parliament.
Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010. The title of the RTE Act incorporates the words ‘Free and compulsory.’ ‘ Free education’ means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government , shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the Appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the age group of 6-14 years. With this, India has moved forward to a right based framework that casts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement this fundamental child right as enshrined in the Article
21-A of the Constitution, in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act.
The new law provides a justiciable legal framework that entitles all children between the age of 6-14 years free and compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education. It provides for children’s right to an education of equitable quality, based on principles of equity and non-discrimination. Most importantly, it provides for children’s right to an education that is free from fear, stress and anxiety.
2.2 Salient Features of the RTE Act, 2009
The RTE Act, 2009 provides for:
1) The right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
2) It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in age group of the six to fourteen years. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
3) It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
4) It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authorities and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Centre and State Governments.
5) It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher- working hours.
6) It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority. State legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
7) It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
8) It prohibits (a) Physical punishment and mental harassment to child ; (b) screening procedures for admission of children; (c) Leving capitation fee; (d) private tuition by teachers and (e) running of schools without recognition,
9) It provides for development of curriculum in consonance with the values enshrined in the Constitution, which would ensure the all-round development of the child, building on the child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent and making the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety through a system of child friendly and child centred learning.
2.3 Child Entitlements – the Rights Perspective
2.3.1 In the present phase of SSA, it is mandatory to ensure that the approach and strategies for universalising elementary education are in conformity with the rights perspective mandated under the RTE Act. The RTE Act provides that
‘Every child of the age of 6-14 years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education. Free education is defined as ‘removal of any financial barrier by the state that prevents a child from completing eight years of schooling’. ‘Compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age
group. In addition to the SSA provisions, most of the States are addressing the issue of financial barriers by providing incentives in the form of uniforms, notebooks, stationary, school bags, scholarships and transportation facilities, as required. However, the incentive based approach would need to shift to an entitlement perspective. This paradigm shift needs to be reflected not only in SSA, but in all interventions, programmes and schemes for elementary education of the State Governments, as also in the mind set of all the agencies involved in the implementation of the SSA.
2.3.2 The Rights perspective under the RTE Act has also brought in new monitoring mechanisms to ensure that child rights under the Act are protected. The RTE Act provides for constitutionally created independent bodies like the National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights to perform this role. These bodies, with quasi-judicial powers bring in an element of monitoring new to the implementation of SSA, requiring that internal monitoring mechanisms under the SSA engage purposefully with these independent bodies.
2.3.3 RTE Roadmap
2.4.1 The RTE provides a legally enforceable rights framework with certain unambiguous time targets that Governments must adhere to. For example, the Act mandates that every child in the age group of 6-14 years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school. The Act also provides that if a school does not exist in an area or limit prescribed as the neighbourhood, the appropriate Government and the local authority shall establish a school in this area within a period of three years. Therefore, all children-girls and boys from disadvantaged groups and economically weaker sections, children with special needs, children involved in child labour and so on, must be in a school within three years time starting from 1 April 2010. This provision in the RTE Act is applicable to SSA goals on access and universalisation of elementary education. The following timeframes, mandated by the RTE Act, has become immediately applicable to SSA:
|Establishment of neighbourhood schools||3 years (by 31st March,2013)|
|• Provision of school infrastructure
• All weather school buildings
• One – classroom –one –teacher
• Office cum-store-cum-Head teacher room
• Toilets and drinking water facilities
• Barriers free access
• Fencing/boundary walls
3 years (by 31st March, 2013)
|Provision of teachers as per prescribed PTR||3 years ( by 31st March, 2013)|
|Training of untrained teachers||5 years (by 31st March 2015)|
|All quality intervention and other provisions||With immediate effect|
The RTE Act, 2009 has defined children belonging to disadvantaged groups and children belonging to weaker sections as follows:
Disadvantaged Groups are defined as those groups who belong to the “SC, ST, socially and educationally backward class or such other group having disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economical, geographical, linguistic, gender, or such other factors as may be specified by the appropriate Government by notification”.
2.4.2 The Act requires the appropriate Government and every local authority to “ensure that the child belonging to weaker sections or the child beonging to disadvantaged groups are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds’.
2.4.3 In stating thus the RTE Act opens up the whole sphere of circumstances which come in the way of a child’ enrolment and participation in school, and his/her completion of the elementary stage. This necessitates an attempt at listing of categories of children who might be covered under section 2(d) and (e) and spell out possible strategies to prevent explicit and implicit discrimination in pursuing and completing elementary education.
2.4.4 Gender cuts across the categories of disadvantaged groups as well as weaker sections. The RTE Act in different sections makes reference to gender and girls education both explicitly and implicitly. Some of the relevant provisions are: no discrimination against children from ‘disadvantaged groups and ‘weaker sections’ on any grounds(including gender ); inclusion of women in school maintaining committees; provision of good quality education that includes equity issues, curriculum development in conformity with constitutional stipulations, training, enrolment in age appropriated classes (which will largely apply to girls, especially from disadvantaged communities).
2.5 Role of Parents
Parents would need to play a little bit more active role in school in monitoring and implementation of RTE stipulations and facilitating children to learn at their own pace without fear, anxiety and stress. Parents have crucial role in understanding and appreciating the individual potential of every child, and his / her own pace of learning. Parents need to be involved in discussion to understand the significance
of interactive learning free from stress and anxiety, tests and exams being replaced by a system of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation, the fact that there should be no corporal punishment, no tuition, and no detention. Once they are convinced of this, it would be easier to solicit their participation in the school development and management processes. Another challenging aspect before the community now is to identify out-of-school children in the locality and bring them to an age appropriate class in a school. Efforts made in SSA for community participation will thus need to focus on awareness generation and participation of parents as an important partner.
2.6 Role of Children
Children’s participation in universalizing equitable access, retention and quality is an important and desirable catalyst for realization of their right to education. Without children’s participation in the schooling process, schools cannot be made child-friendly and child-centered. Concepts like Children’s Cabinet, Children’s Parliament, Meena Manch, etc. need to be encouraged in every school, thus ensuring children’s active participation in school management and development. SSA would encourage formation of children’s collective and support groups for children without adult protection to address deficit of community support and ownership.
2.7 Role of Teachers
Issues relating to teachers have been discussed in the Chapter 4 (Quality). However, in the context of community participation it is important to underline the significance of the teacher as a key partner in planning and implementing community participation strategies. In fact, participation for RTE implies a mutually supportive and collaborative partnership among teachers, pupils, parents, community and civil society. It is an established fact that teachers perform better and with enthusiasm if they get wholehearted parental and community support. Therefore, the teacher like other stakeholders will have to be taken into confidence, and their capacities built to enable them to play their part effectively.