The Indian Right to Education

In 2010, the Parliament of India enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, also known as the Right to Education Act (RTE). (Image:  pixhere /  CC0 1.0)
In 2010, the Parliament of India enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, also known as the Right to Education Act (RTE). (Image: pixhere / CC0 1.0)

Education is one of the founding principles of a developed nation. Educated people develop skills that can be used to advance multiple industries of a country. Together, educated people can build a flourishing and sustainable community. As a result, every country has established set rules and programs for their citizens to access education. Similarly, the Indian constitution, too, supports and promotes the right to education for its citizens.

In 2010, the Parliament of India enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, also known as the Right to Education Act (RTE). Through RTE, the government aims to provide free and compulsory education to children in India between the ages of 6 and 14 years. This act is considered to be a fundamental right of every citizen and cannot be taken away from them under any circumstance.

What is RTE?

The Right to Education Act calls for free and compulsory education for all children. Here, “free” implies that no child will have to pay any fee, charges, or expenses to attend a government or government-aided school. This is not applicable for private schools. The act requires private schools to reserve 25 percent of their seats and the private institutions will be reimbursed by the state. “Compulsory” means that the act holds each government body related to such schools responsible for providing good facilities, keeping a check on admission and attendance, as well as ensuring that the children complete their education as set out in the scheme.

The Right to Education Act calls for free and compulsory education for all children. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The Right to Education Act calls for free and compulsory education for all children. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The responsible government authorities also need to maintain the quality of education provided at the school. This includes maintaining the prescribed student-teacher ratio, developing a holistic syllabus as per the constitution, and appointing trained teachers and staff with the required academic qualifications. The act strictly prohibits mental and physical harassment of children, prerequisites for admission, and running of schools without any government recognition. Any child who has not yet been admitted to a school can also avail the benefits of this act and can be admitted to the appropriate class.

However, the act is only applicable to children up to the age of 14 — that’s up to grade 8. This only covers their elementary and middle school education. The government is now planning to extend its activities and cover free education up to grade 10, which will include education of children till high school.

More power to girl power

One of the major setbacks for India’s mission to achieve high literacy is the attitude of India families toward a girl child and especially toward her education. High literacy of a female is essential to bring up a community, as a whole, because of her social, economic, and health-related connections to the society and the next generation.

One of the major setbacks for India’s mission to achieve high literacy is the attitude of India families toward a girl child and especially toward her education. (Image: Biswarup Ganguly via flickr CC BY 3.0)

However, Indian culture only sees a boy child with the potential to “make good use” of his education and only focuses on educating the boys in the family. Since a woman is married off to another family, she is not considered an asset worth enough to spend on. On the other hand, boys are the ones who are considered to take care of the family, so their education and development take precedence over that of girls.

In order to combat this mindset and give girl children an equal platform to learn and develop, the Indian government has launched several schemes for girls. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign (Save the girl, educate the girl), offers a saving scheme for parents with a single girl child. Parents can save as much money as they wish for their daughter, for her education and wedding, and the account fetches a good annual interest of 9.1 percent.

Some states — such as Punjab, Te, Angana, and Karnataka — have also decided to provide free education to all girls from kindergarten to post graduation and even Ph.D. Apart from that, the government has set up various scholarships and allowances for girls to promote and encourage families to educate their daughters and be just as proud to have a female child.

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