Tuesday, December 22, 2009

According to the Right to Education Bill every child in the 6-14 age groups will be eligible for free education.

According to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, every school will have to earmark at least 25% seats in class 1 for free and compulsory elementary education.

The bill seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the child or parents to any screening procedure.

The bill also seeks to ban private tuition by teachers and ensure that no child is subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.

The bill said it shall be the duty of every parent or guardian to admit the child to a neighbourhood school for elementary education and added that no child should be denied admission for lack of age proof.

This Bill seeks to provide every child of the age of six to fourteen years with the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school until completion of elementary education. Where a child above six years of age has not been admitted in any school or though admitted, could not complete his or her elementary education, then, he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age.

Highlights of the Bill

1. The 86th Constitution Amendment Act, 2002 requires the State to provide free and compulsory elementary education to all children. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008 seeks to give effect to this Amendment. All children between the ages of six and 14 years shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education in a neighbourhood school.

2. No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. Schools may not screen applicants during admission or charge capitation fees. A child who completes elementary education shall be awarded a certificate.

3. Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, Sainik Schools, and unaided schools shall admit at least 25% of students from disadvantaged and economically weaker groups.

4. A person who wants to file a grievance claim shall submit a written complaint to the local authority. Appeals shall be decided by either the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights or the specified authority.

Key Issues and Analysis

1. There are no specific penalties if the authorities fail to provide the right to elementary education.

2. Both the state government and the local authority have the duty to provide free and compulsory elementary education. Sharing of this duty may lead to neither government being held accountable.

3. The Bill provides for the right to schooling and physical infrastructure but does not guarantee that children learn. It exempts government schools from any consequences if they do not meet the specified norms.

4. The constitutional validity of reservations of seats in private schools for economically weaker sections could be challenged.

5. Minority schools are not exempt from provisions in this Bill. It is possible that this will conflict with Article 30 of the Constitution, which allows minorities to set up and administer educational institutions.

6. The Bill legitimises the practice of multi-grade teaching. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grade.


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