The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act, (RTE) passed by the Parliament of India, made receiving education for children between the ages 6-14 a fundamental right. The name of the act contains the words ‘free’ and ‘compulsory education,’ which refer to the obligation of the respective state government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education to every child.
It has been implemented since April 1, 2010 in all the states of India, (excluding the state of Jammu and Kashmir). Even though by law, every Indian child is bestowed upon with the right of compulsory and free elementary education, in actuality 20.2% of children still don’t get to exercise it. Despite giving free universal education to its children, why is it so, that 1 in 5 children in India is still out of school?
This can be attributed to a host of reasons, like poverty, lack of awareness, existing backwards social conditions, etc. but the major cause for all of the above-mentioned reasons are the prevailing flaws in the law as a whole and also in its execution.
One important reason is the inadequate funding allocated for education by the centre. Although the Kothari Education Commission, (1964-1966) recommended 6% of GDP to be used in government education, at present, only 3% of India’s GDP is used. Its share in the union budget, too, has been reduced to almost half, from 6.15 % to 3.7 %, in the past 5 years.
A study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy found that in 2015- 16, twelve states fell short of ₹82,072 crore required to meet the minimum standards in elementary education, under the Right to Education Act, thus just indicating how severely unfunded they were. Due to this severe underfunding, the overall quality of government-owned schools, which had already been in poor conditions, has deteriorated even more.
Another problem in the law is the fact that it only makes education till age 14 compulsory. Because of this, while enrolment rates in government schools for 14-year-olds are 94.7%, by the time the children turn 18, the rate declines to 69.8%. Countries like United States, Canada, and Finland, who are revered for their government schools, have all made education till the age of 16 mandatory.
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, mandates education till the age of 18. In order to prevent students from dropping out, India should emulate these countries and at least raise the compulsory education age to 16, so that students can give class 10 board exams and get the pass certificate. This will be beneficial to them, as it can be used as an official self -identification document.
If the central government wants to reach its goal of becoming a $5-trillion economy over the next five years, it needs to realise the significance of education, this law, and the need for improving its implementation and modifying its articles. The government should increase its funding for The Ministry of Human Resource Development, it should specifically work on the infrastructure of schools, (improving sanitation in the school building and its surroundings), it should conduct regular teacher training sessions.
Essentially, it must create an environment where a child is mentally, physically comfortable and is motivated to fight all social, economic barriers to get educated. The government should also introduce one year of pre-primary education so that children are made ready for education.