FAQs - Definitions in the Act
Education being a concurrent subject under the constitution, meaning both the central and state governments have responsibility for it, appropriate government in the Act refers to either of these governments, or the government of a Union Territory with a legislature (like Delhi). The full definition is at 2(a) in the Act.
As mentioned earlier, by confining the Act to Article 21A. The government’s decision to do so has obviously got Parliamentary approval with this Act. The original Article 45, and the Unnikrishnan verdict both include the age group 0-6. The Juvenile Justice Act defines a child up to age 18. The United Nation’s Child Rights Convention (UNCRC), to which India is a signatory, also defines a child from 0 to 18. In principle, by referring to the JJ Act, the UNCRC and Article 21 (right to life) in the Aims and Objects of the RtE Act, the age could have been defined from 0-18. However, citing economic compulsions, the present Act has been confined to the age group 6-14 as contained in Article 21A. A great deal of public pressure would need to be kept up in order to have the Act amended to incorporate the 0-18 as the age of the child.
The Act makes school education a tripartite partnership between the community (school management committees), the PRIs, and the government. As is evident from definition 2(h), the purpose of defining a local authority is to decentralize administrative control by bringing in panchayati raj institutions. However, since differing situations exist in states, the term is flexible and it is left to the state governments to notify an appropriate local authority. For example, Jharkhand continues to be a state where panchayat elections have still not been held, and West Bengal already has a Primary Education Council that it may decide to designate as the local authority. Similarly NE states like Meghalaya have District Councils, which they may want to retain as ‘local authority’.
Section 2(k) only defines the parents of a child, and section 10 also refers to parent’s duty in ensuring education of their children. However since under Section 8 (explanation (i)), the ‘compulsion’ is on the state and not on parents, the appropriate government shall have to take the responsibility to ensure education of children without parents.
Where ever the word ‘prescribe’ occurs, it implies that the appropriate government shall make relevant rules.
At section 2(n), four categories are defined: (i) funded and managed by the government or local authority, (ii) private but aided by the government or local authority, (iii) schools defined under special category, like Kendriya Vidyalaya, Navodaya Vidyalaya, Sainik School, school under the Central Tibetan Schools Association and similar others, and (iv) private schools receiving no aid from the government or local authority.
Any test or interview/interaction of the child or interview/interaction of parents would constitute a screening procedure to admit one child over another. Section 2(o) along with Section 13(2)(b) prohibits any of these screening procedures and calls for only random procedures to be used for admitting a child to school. This prohibition would apply to all schools, private or special category schools like Navodaya schools too. No school can claim special category status because it indulges in screening procedures at the elementary level. Random procedure implies that if the number of children applying to a school exceeds the available seats, an open lottery system shall be used to fill the seats. This applies to all categories of schools. Various methods could be employed for the open lottery system, the easiest being having name/number for each child that applied on a folded paper slip in a container, out of which children themselves fish out one each randomly, in the presence of parents in an open transparent manner.
Children belonging to disadvantaged groups are defined at 2(d). These include children from SC/ST, and other socially and educationally backward categories based on cultural, economical, social, geographical, linguistic, gender or other categories that the appropriate governments can separately notify. Appropriate governments can for example notify different categories in different districts and sub-districts of the state, educationally backward religious communities, for example as identified by the Sachar Committee and so on. Weaker sections as defined at 2(e) are children belonging to weaker economic categories that the appropriate governments have to notify, based on a minimum annual income of the parents/guardians.