The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which was passed by the Indian Parliament on 4 August 2009. The Act is, without a doubt, a landmark event and India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the act came into force on 1 April 2010. It has been received with equal amounts of enthusiasm and scepticism. Either way, there are some serious implications for the different stakeholders involved. Here is a closer look at the Act.
What does it mean for children?
- Every child between 6 to 14 years will have the right to free and compulsory education in its neighbourhood and it is the duty of every parent or a guardian to enrol the child in the elementary school.
- There shall be no discrimination of children from a weaker or disadvantaged community.
- There shall be no physical or mental harassment.
- Children can enrol after the prescribed or extended period. These children, drop outs and others can avail of special training.
- There will be a free pre-school education for children between 3 to 6 years of age.
- No child shall be denied admission for lack of age proof.
- No child admitted shall be held back in class or expelled till it completes the elementary education.
- No child shall be required to attend any board exam till the completion of elementary education.
What does it mean for the school?
- At least 25% of the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups of the society.
- No capitation fee to be collected and no screening procedure for the child or its parents. Schools that default will be fined for it.
- Pupil Teacher ratio not to exceed 40. For standard 6 to 8, at least one teacher for language, science/mathematics and social sciences.
- A certain minimum infrastructure – all weather building, at least one class room per teacher, playground, library, separate toilets for boys and girls to name a few.
- A minimum number of working days and instructional hours to be followed by the school.
- Schools set up before the ACT was passed should conform to the norms on its own expenses within a 3 year period and new schools should follow it from the first year itself. Schools that do not conform can lose the recognition from the Government.
- The school must have a School Management Committee consisting of elected representatives of the local authority, parents or guardians of children admitted to the school and teachers. 50% of such committee shall be women. The committee will be involved in preparing the school development plan and monitoring the functioning – utilisation of funds, performance etc.
What does it mean for the Teachers?
- The teacher shall be regular and punctual in attending the school.
- The teacher shall complete the curriculum in time and supplement additional instructions after assessing the child.
- The teacher shall also hold regular meetings with parents and guardians to apprise them about the progress. A teacher defaulting in the duty will face disciplinary action.
What does it mean for the Government?
- An elementary school to be established in the neighbourhood (where it is not currently there) within 3 years from this act.
- The Government needs to monitor proper admission, attendance and completion.
- Provide infrastructural support.
- Timely prescription of the curriculum.
- Training for teachers.
- The national and state commission for protection of children’s rights will be set up and they will: review safeguard of rights and recommend effective measures, inquire into complaints and take necessary steps.
- The Central Government shall form a National Advisory Council and the State Government shall form a State Advisory Council that will include people who have knowledge and expertise in the field of education. The councils will advise their respective Governments on effective implementation of the ACT.
- A committee set up to study the funds requirement and funding estimated that Rs 1.71 trillion (US$38.2 billion) would be required in the next five years to implement the Act, and the government agreed to share the funding for implementing the law in the ratio of 65 to 35 between the Central Government and the states, and a ratio of 90 to 10 for the north-eastern states.
- For the comprehensive act please click here to download.
Prajayatna welcomes this much-needed initiative, but not without some caution. The heavy drop outs from Government schools is due to poor quality of education. From our experience, the situation can improve only when the community takes ownership of the school and its development. Therefore, we believe the performance of the ‘School Management Committee’ will be at the heart of this initiative.