FAQs - Right to Free and Compulsory Education
The main challenges is to implement the 25 per cent reservation for poor students, keeping all children in school until class V while reaching acceptable standard learning levels, monitoring private schools’ recognition, establishing School Management Committees that function well, and all done with similar mechanism in all States and Territories.
Free education is often meant to imply waiver of tuition fees. But tuition fee is only a part of educational expense, and poor families are often not able to raise other expenses needed for education. These could include textbooks, copies and writing material, uniforms, transportation, educational and support materials for disabled children (hearing aids, spectacles, Braille books, crutches and so on), or even library fee, laboratory fee, etc. which are not covered under tuition fee. The phenomenon of drop-outs in particular is related to inability of parents to meet the educational expense of their children, often daughters, somewhere during the course of elementary education. Keeping this in mind, the Act at Section 3(2) enlarges the term ‘free’ by mandating that “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 elementary education”. A list of free entitlements is made explicit in 5(1) of the Model Rules, but it is not restrictive; as per Section 3(2) of the Act, if any other charge or expense, other than that listed in Model Rules 5(1), for example, free residential facilities for children whose parents migrate, prevents a child from pursuing or completing elementary education, the state shall have to provide it.
In a country like India where such a large majority of parents are poor, migrate for work, do not have support systems, putting compulsion on them, with punishment, would imply punishing them for being poor – which is not their choice. As the well-known educationist J.P.Naik once jocularly remarked, if parents are sent to jail for not sending their children to schools, there may be more parents in jails than children in schools!
Section (10) of the Act makes it the duty of the parents to ensure that their children go to schools, without prescribing any punishment. This implies that SMC members, local authorities and community at large must persuade reluctant parents to fulfill their duty. For child labour and street children, the government would have to ensure that they are not compelled to work and provide schools for them, perhaps residential in many instances. Parents and communities who traditionally forbid their adolescent girls from going to school, or indulge in child marriage would have to be persuaded, or the child marriages act would need to be invoked against them. Civil society interventions would be crucial here.
No, it is universal. Any child who is a citizen of India, rich or poor; boy or girl; born to parents of any caste, religion or ethnicity shall have this right. If a rich parent decides to send his/her child to a school owned by the government/local authority, that child would also have a right to all the free entitlements. Only those children who are sent by their parents to a school that charges fees (private aided/unaided) will surrender their right, as per Section 8(a) of the Act, to free entitlements; they can not claim reimbursement from the government for their educational expenditure (except for the obligatory 25% quota for children of disadvantaged groups and weaker sections to unaided schools, described later).
There are deficiencies in the Act as it was passed in August 2009 in relation to children with disabilities. They should have been included in the definition of disadvantaged groups, but were inadvertently left out. The Act says that their education shall follow the provisions of the Disabilities Act 1996, but that Act has deficiencies in as much that it does not include mental disabilities. The central government has acknowledged these lacunae and promised to bring appropriate amendments in the Budget 2010 session of Parliament, as also to amend the Disabilities Act 1996 appropriately. The proposed amendments are at Q83.
As the Act stands, education would be inclusive for all categories of disability, including severe and profound.
The Act, at Section 4 lays down that all children who are out of school, as never enrolled or drop outs (in the 6-14 age group), would have to be admitted in age appropriate class in regular schools, and they would have a right to complete elementary education even after crossing age 14.
It means giving admission in a class where the child would normally be if she had joined school from class 1 at six years of age. So if a child is 11 years old and has never been to school, she will be admitted to class 5, but shall be given special education to make her come to the level in a time frame ranging from three months to two years (model rules 3(1)).
If NGO’s qualify as per the teacher qualifications and other norms, they could be associated, but as part of the regular school where the children are first admitted, and not as running separate residential or non-residential non-formal centers.
Pioneering work by groups like the MV Foundation has shown that it is indeed possible to do so. However certain flexibility could be used after the duration of special training. If a child after completing special training is 13 years old and should be in class 7 by the age appropriateness criterion, but the teacher/school feels that it would be better for the child, in terms of coping, to be in class 6, they could advise the child/parents accordingly.
They would have the right to get free education till they complete class 8, even if they exceed age 14. This would apply, for example, to a 13 year never enrolled child who may take 5 years to complete class VIII, up to the age of 18 years, or more.
In the absence of a regular birth certificate issued under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1886, a certificate based on hospital/ANM record, anganwadi record or an affidavit by the parents/guardian would suffice (Model Rule 9). However, under section 14(2) of the Act, if none of these are available, including a notarized affidavit, a child would not be denied admission, meaning if the parents say the child is six years or more, admission would have to be given, while any of the above mentioned documents is simultaneously arranged.
The head teacher would have to immediately issue a transfer certificate to a child moving away from the school, or face disciplinary action in case of delay. However, no child shall be denied admission in the absence of a transfer certificate, (Sections 5 (2) and (3) of the Act).
There is a certain overlap and complementarities in their functions. Essentially however, the appropriate government shall lay down policy, prescribe curriculum, make arrangements for teacher recruitment and their proper deployment, and make financial arrangements, and provide technical support. The local authority on the other hand will ensure the enumeration, admission and attendance of children, school mapping and availability of neighbourhood schools, and monitoring.
For example, to ensure proper school mapping and availability of neighbourhood schools, a GIS mapping of schooling facilities could assist the appropriate governments to understand the geographic dispersal of schools, the distance to schools from the habitations and the physical barriers, if any, as some state governments are already doing. This would require the appropriate government and the local authority to work in unison.
As per Section 8 (explanation) (1) and (2), the state is compelled to provide free education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education. The implication is that if a child in the age group 6-14 is working at a tea shop, agricultural field and so on, cooking at home or simply wandering around when the school is functioning the government is violating his/her fundamental right. It is the government that must ensure that all children are attending, and complete elementary education. This has immediate impact on child labour. If the child is engaged in child labour and is not in school, it is the government now that is in violation of law. Consequently, the Child Labour Act 1986 is no more in coherence with this Act and there is already pressure building on the Labour Ministry to review and amend the 1986 Act to bring it in harmony with the Right to Education Act.
Yes, and that shall not require a parliamentary amendment. As per Section 20 it can be done by the central government through a notification. Most likely, the National Advisory Council shall be assigned the task of reviewing the schedule periodically.