Parliament passes landmark Right to Education Bill
New Delhi: Children will get the fundamental right to free and compulsory education with the passage of a bill, hailed as "historic", by Parliament today.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, seeks to provide education to children between the ages of six and 14 years.
The bill, one of the flagship programmes in the 100-day agenda of the United Progressive Alliance government, also earmarks 25% seats in private schools for poor children.
While the Rajya Sabha had passed the bill earlier, the Lok Sabha put its seal of approval today with human resources development minister Kapil Sibal describing it as the "harbinger of a new era" for children to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Sibal said the bill is a "historic opportunity" for providing a better future to children of the country as there was never such landmark legislation in the 62 years since Independence.
"We as a nation cannot afford our children not going to schools," he asserted, noting that the measure details the obligations of the Centre and the states for providing free and compulsory education to children.
The bill also seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the child or parents to any screening procedure.
Sibal said it would be up to the states to implement the policy of reservation in admissions.
Responding to members' concern on the finances required for this gigantic task, he said a group is on the job and will give inputs to the 13th Finance Commission before its term gets over in October.
Sibal said the government has taken up a difficult task as it could not have waited any longer. He said the bill could become a reality only because of the inspiration of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh.
He said minority education institutions should also focus on giving education to the poor within the community.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the present system of examination, he said that at present the child has no choice but to take exams. The government, he said, is determined to end this system.
The bill seeks to achieve 10 broad objectives, which include free and compulsory education; an obligation on the part of the state to provide education; the nature of curriculum to be consistent with the Constitution; quality, focus on social responsibility, and obligation of teachers; and de-bureaucratisation in admissions.
The bill also provides for building up of neighbourhood schools in three years by the states. The HRD minister said the definition and location will be decided by the states.