The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory
Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE)
was passed by the parliament on 4 August 2009.
The act describes the modalities of the provision
of free and compulsory education for children
in the age groups of 6 to 14 in India under Article
21A of the Constitution of India. The act came
into force on 1 April 2010. Thus, India becomes
one of 135 countries which make education a fundamental
right of every child.
is a fundamental right of every child in India now. Thanks
to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education
Act or Right to Education Act (RTE). A child in India is entitled
to get free and compulsory education.
The act has realised at a time when India
is home to the largest illiterate population above the age
of seven. Further, estimates say up to 60 million children
(6-14 years) are not in school. Those who are in school, only
47 out of 100 children enrolled in Class I reach Class VIII.
When Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education
for All Movement) was launched in 2001, within two years there
was a drop in the number of children outside school by 15
But, millions of children would have
no way but stay away from getting education, and thus missing
a once-in-a-generation chance to come out of poverty and suffering.
Poverty compels many parents putting
all focus on meeting basic survival priorities; obviously
education does not stand a chance.
Education had to be fundamental right,
with the act ensuring modalities which would facilitate sending
all children to school.
The act came but was unable to put all
children in school. Or, it took birth with shortcomings.
It speaks about free and compulsory education
from the age of six. But, what about children who are below
six? The demon named child labour induction starts quite early,
putting the gullible children almost in a one-way path to
suffering. Children should be in the process of learning quite
early if ever they have to embrace the path of education.
of Smile's Mission Education centre in Noida enjoying
their Right to Education
With child labour in practice, there will always be children
outside the school. A zero-tolerance approach to the practice
of child labour can only enable the children to give education
It is never easy for a first generation learner, anyways,
to enter and stay in the fold of education. There must be
preparatory education for those children who are first generation
learners. Without such preparation and special attention,
they might drop out even after getting mainstreamed into schools.
Like learning, effective teaching is necessary for children
from disadvantaged backgrounds to benefit from staying in
school. It can be achieved by proper training of the teachers
with the right methodologies. Prior to that, the shortfall
of teachers in both primary and upper primary levels across
India must be met.
Besides the required number of teachers and proper training,
upgrading infrastructure in schools is another factor in making
the RTE a success.
The RTE act can bring home the change of the century provided
an identified agency or authority was in place, as is the
case with the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Despite the critical angles to the effectivity of the RTE
act, we have all reason to be hopeful.
Because, perfecting RTE act can wait; education cannot.
A few ways we can find. A few examples are already there
There have been hundreds of top-of-the-line public schools
across India which were already keeping their arms, and doors,
open for underprivileged children, much before RTE act came
The experience of Smile Foundation has been very encouraging
dealing with the best of schools, government, private or otherwise.
Children from Mission Education projects across India have
been mainstreamed to the best available schools in the vicinity
– on merit, with request and by invitation. Lives have
been changed through the power of education.
Parents of the first generation learners, children themselves,
privileged children already in school, their parents, teachers
and school authorities, and the civil society are the catalysts
in ensuring education for the underserved children.
Sensitizing the teachers, privileged children and their parents
have brought dividends in the efforts of Smile Foundation.
Thus came the much needed encouragement too.
“There are still issues of larger proportions for ensuring
proper implementation of the RTE Act, including provision
of huge resources. Resolving them is necessary, but one cannot
wait till all issues are taken care of. Smart NGOs are trying
to achieve the outcome in their own way and at least been
able to leverage the Act, though with lot of difficulties,”
says Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder & Executive Trustee, Smile