People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 44

November 01, 2009

An Assessment on the Right to Education Act

                                                                                                                    V  Sivadasan

THE right of children to free and compulsory education Act 2009 (RTE) technically came in to effect on 26 August 2009 when the bill was passed in the parliament of India. It aims to give free and compulsory education to all children in the age between six and fourteen. The Act declares that quality and equality in the field of education should be imparted to children of this age group. But a micro-level analysis of the provisions of the Act would pin-point that this Act is not adequate to accomplish its declared goals.

Unfortunately, within 15 days of RTE coming into being, five students were killed in a stampede in a school in New Delhi. Since it has not occurred in a remote village, but in the capital city of our country, we cannot write it off. The school �Khajuri khas� is situated in Delhi, not far away from the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Around 35 students were injured in the incident and most of them are in a critical condition. The reason for this accident was the bad condition of the building where the class rooms are set up. There are only seven class rooms in the school and the number of the students is more than one thousand. The school operates in two shifts and on the day of accident, the school authorities were compelled to accommodate all the students in a single shift in order to conduct an examination. The authorities failed to manage the problems due to the   overcrowding of students and finally this resulted in the stampede. This incident exposes the pathetic condition of most of the schools in India.

The chapter II, clause 3 of the Act declares that �Every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education. 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 the elementary education�. But the problem is that, most of the villages in India have no school at all. In India, we have 6,51,381 primary schools and 6,38,588 villages. Even though it may sound reasonable, but the problem lies in the disparity in the distribution of the schools among the villages. Let us consider the case of Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh. There are 6697 primary schools in Kerala spread in 1364 villages. But the case of Arunachal Pradesh is shocking as the state has only 1337 Schools for 4065 villages. Situation is more pathetic in Narendra Modi�s so-called �developed� state, Gujarat. There are only 7245 primary schools in the state for 18,539 villages. The statistics of the schools and villages of some of the states are given below (seventh all India school education survey)


 State                                              Villages                          Primary schools

Jharkhand                                       32615                                1705

Arunachal Pradesh                          4065                                  1337

Gujarat                                         18539                                   7245

Rajasthan                                     41353                                  32953

Orissa                                          51349                                  36677

 Himachal Pradesh                        20118                                   11868


The distance between the schools and the residential areas plays a crucial role in accessing quality education. Most of the students cannot join the school because of the distance and the problems in transportation. Most of the parents are not financially sound enough to bear the huge expenses, so they detain their children from the schools. In order to solve the problem, the government has to ensure the availability of schools in tribal and populated areas. The government also should provide sufficient transportation facility to the students coming from remote areas. But Right to Education Act did not address such fundamental matters seriously. The infrastructure in the schools run by most of the state governments is very poor. There are many schools in our country which are being run without proper buildings and basic amenities. The students in these schools are forced to attend classes under the burning sun and even in the pouring rain. States like Kerala, Tamilnadu and Tripura, to name a few, are an exception in this regard. The major problem is that, the concerned governments are not spending at least Rs 5 per students per day. Contrast this with some private unaided schools. They are collecting lakhs of rupees as fees and are providing library, well equipped class rooms, swimming pools, gymnasiums, A/c rooms etc. for the children of the privileged group. This shows the existence of two different �worlds of education� in our country- one for the haves and the other for the have-nots. The RTE Act does not have provisions to erase these discrepancies. Neither does it talk about �common school system� proposed by Kothari Commission in 1964 nor about concrete steps to improve the conditions in government run schools.

In India, we have 981 central schools and 444 Navodaya schools. Around 11,83,184 students are studying in these institutions. The central government spends Rs 2,162 for them per year that is Rs 18,300 per students. Most of the students in these schools belong to the upper class families and there are less than 0.05  per cent students who come from the ordinary working class. The Act asserts that quality education will be imparted to all children in the age group of 6 to 14. But the Act did not put forward any suggestions to improve the infra structural facility of the schools where the children from poor family do learn. While the central government provides facilities in the central and Navodaya schools, it does not provide sufficient monetary aid for the state government owned schools. The disparities in the facilities provided in these schools also mar the quality of education imparted. The Act proposes no suggestion in the judicious distribution of the fund allocated by the central government among the states.

The concept of library shared by the Act is childish. According to the Act mere newspapers and some bench and desks would constitute a good library. A well equipped library is essential for any school; it should be equipped with sufficient books, journals and internet facility.  

 The Act also says that the vacancy of the teachers should not be more than 10 per cent of the total number of the teachers. It means that 10 per cent of the total number of teachers can be kept vacant. If the Act aims for quality education it should ensure that the vacancy of teachers is filled within no time. Talented and dedicated teachers are very essential for quality education.

The Act did not give sufficient emphasis for the pre-primary education system in India.  Crores of children depend on these schools and they are an integral part of the education system in India. More than 20 lakhs teachers and non teaching staff are working in this field. Now the state governments spend crores of rupees for these institutions through the local self government institutions. The fact is that more than 15 crore students are deprived of the pre- primary education in India even today. The Act also has to include this sector in its preview. It also neglected the physically disabled  and the mentally retarded students in the country. There is no suggestion for educating these children in the Act. The government should take initiatives to start sufficient number of special schools for them. Thousands of children are forced to work in very dangerous environment like mines and explosive factories in various parts of our country for their daily food. The Act never shows any concern about the rehabilitation and education of this young future of India.

In the Act there is a provision to give financial assistance by the government to the private un- aided schools. The Act says that 10 per cent of the total number of seats should be reserved for the neighbouring students, and the expense will be met by the �appropriate government�. Instead of strengthening government schools and initiating steps towards the common school system, the Act claims to address the �concerns� of deprived students in this round about manner. In states like Kerala, that have a strong government school system, this step would help the private unaided schools instead of helping the government schools. In this way, the Act promotes the emergence of private un-aided schools in such states. Though the Act is a step forward, however small it is, gives rise to many apprehensions about the presence of �hidden agendas�. It is the necessity of all democratic progressive movements to intervene seriously in this issue to stop privatisation of school education and to accomplish the dream of equity and quality education for all children in our country.