Education is a strong tool by which people can lift themselves out of poverty. Focusing more on education is highly beneficial for India as it has the largest number of youngsters as compared to the world unlike the countries like China, whose major population is aged.
But the major issue is that India also has one-third of world?s illiterate population. The literacy level in India is increasing slowly and gradually. Total literacy growth from 1991 to 2001 was 12.6%, this has declined to 9.21%.
Taking into account the literacy level in India, it was the need of the hour to take immediate action in the area of education. At first, Right to Education was made a fundamental right by the virtue by Article 21-A of the Constitution of India. Then, after several years, Right to Education Act, 2009 was passed.
DEFINITION OF EDUCATION
The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, 1960, has defined the term ?education? under its Article 1(2). It reads as ?all types and levels of education (including) access to education, the standard and quality of education, and the condition under which it is given?.
The Right to Education has been recognized as human right by various International Covenants.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR) has clearly acknowledged the Right to Education under its Article 26, which provides that education shall be free and compulsory at least in the elementary stages. It also provides that higher education shall be made accessible to all on the basis of merits.
Apart from UDHR, Right to Education is affirmed, promoted and protected in various other international Human Rights treaties, such as;
? Article 3 of Convention concerning Discrimination in respect of Employment and Occupation, 1958.
? Convention against Discrimination in Education.
? Article 13 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966.
? Article 10 of Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1981.
? Article 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
EDUCATION UNDER INDIAN CONSTITUTION
In India, Right to Education was inserted in the Constitution of India by the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002. Article 21-A of the Constitution of India provide free an compulsory education to all children between the age group of 6 to 14 years.
Article 21-A reads as follows ?The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.?
But before the insertion of Article 21-A under the Constitution, the Right to Education was made a part of Article 21 i.e. Right to Life and Personal Liberty. In the case of Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, the SC for the first time said that Right to Education flows from the Right to Life and personal liberty i.e. from Article 21 and held that it is thus a fundamental right of all.
Apart from being recognized as a fundamental right, it is also recognized as a Directive Principle of State Policy under the Constitution. Article 45 of Constitution talks about free and compulsory education for children. By the virtue of this Article, it is the duty of the State that it shall endeavor to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.
Therefore, it can be seen that education is a Fundamental Right for the children between the age group 6 to 14 years; but for the children below the age of 6 years and above 14 years, it has been made only a Directive Principle of State Policy.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT, 2009
After many years of making Right to Education a fundamental right, a statutory law regarding education was passed in the year 2009 under which Right to Education was also given statutory recognition. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009 came into effect on 1st April, 2010.
Section 3 of the Act provides that free and compulsory education must be provided to children between the age group of 6 to 14 years of age. Also, the cost of education will be borne by State.
Section 8 of the Act sets out various duties of the government pertaining to providing education. Some of these duties are to ensure free and compulsory education, ensuring that child is not discriminated and prevented from pursing and completing elementary education, maintain appropriate infrastructure of school building as well as the learning equipments, provide training to teachers, etc.
One of the most important provisions of the Act is Section 12. Clause (c) of this Section makes it obligatory for private schools to reserve at least 25% seats for the children from disadvantaged groups for the purpose of providing free and compulsory education.
Section 15 and Section 17 of the Act provides that children cannot be denied to get admission and they cannot be physically or mentally harassed.
There are various provisions made by the legislature for the welfare of children, some of which can be seen above. There is no doubt that the Act has proved to be a building block in the area of education. This Act not only helps an individual but also the country as a whole as it will ultimately help in the economic development.
LOOPHOLES IN OUR ACT
Apart from all these advantages, there are numerous loopholes in the Act and its implementation. These are as follows?
1. Quality of Education ? The quality of education provided by the government school has always been questionable. It is a common belief, backed upon various factors, that there is difference in education of private and government schools. The factors that make change in the quality of education are the quality of teachers, number of teachers, method of teaching, infrastructure, etc.
2. No provision for children above 14 years of age ? The education till the age of 14 years is equivalent to elementary education i.e. till 8th standard. It is a fact that education only till this stage will not be able to fetch fruitful future and gainful employment. Therefore, it is a serious issue ?is it satisfactory to make education compulsory only till the age of 14 years??
3. No provision for children between the age of 0-5 years ? Though, under Article 45 (DPSP), the State shall endeavor to provide education for all children till the age of 14 years that include the children between the age of 0-5 years. But Directive Principles of State Policy are non-justifiable, so the implementation cannot be questioned.
If a child is not provided proper education and teaching in their tender age, how is it possible for that child to pursue his further studies properly? And this is the main reason behind the weak base and understanding abilities of a child especially in government schools.
4. No provision for children with special needs ? It is very sad to see that the law makers have not added any provisions for the education of children with special needs. The main problem is with the children suffering with dyslexia or autism where special teachers and special teaching methods are needed. This scenario at the end increases the discrimination in the society.
5. Admission in the private schools under 25% EWS reservation ? Taking admission or get any child admitted to a private school under EWS quota is in itself a very difficult task. Firstly, because the schools are not cooperative with the parents and children, they basically do not want these children to take admission in their school. Secondly, the schools demand various certificates such as income statement, caste certificates, birth certificate, etc. As almost all the parents of these children are not educated and it is very hard for them to understand and fulfill these documentations. The schools demand document but the Act provides for admission of such children without any certification.
Status of Higher Education in India
The higher education in India is been provided by five groups of institutions Central, State, Private, Deemed University and Institutions of National Importance. The recognition to these universities is given by University Grant Commission (UGC). All these universities are legal to entitle degrees. In India education comes under federal list which means the responsibility shall be shared by Central Government and State Government. In India status of higher education is not at all satisfactory as there are thousands of students who pass 12th class every year but remain unsuccessful to seek admission in colleges. Because the merit list of universities are too high. Nevertheless the private colleges which do not rely on percentage have very high fee structure which is very difficult for a middle class family to afford. Also, there are very few renowned universities which are generally located in Metropolitan Cities. Students from all over India come to take admission in these universities which augment the competition. Even only these renowned universities guarantee placement. Furthermore students may take education loan to pursue their higher education, the interest rate over these loans are very low. The loan may create stress which apparently affects their study.
From the above discussion regarding the Right to Education, it is crystal clear that the laws and legislature have done a commendable job in the area of education. In real life scenario, we see that all these provisions are on papers only and when it comes to the implementation of the same provisions there is a huge accumulation of problems. Though the Act can also be amended to add more appropriate provisions for the welfare of children in the field of education; but before amending the laws or adding more provisions, the area of implementation must be strengthened. There will be no use of rights on papers which do in exist in real. As there are numerous children roaming on road who can never have the pleasure of education.
? Constitution of India, 1949.
? The Constitution (eighty-sixth amendment) Act, 2002.
? The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
? Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, (1992) 3 SCC 666.
? Right to education, by Manmeet Singh.
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