Right to Education under the Constitution

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This article is written by Tanya Singh, a 1st year student of Amity University, Chhattisgarh

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty.

Normative instruments of the United Nations and UNESCO lay down international legal obligations for the right to education. These instruments promote and develop the right of every person to enjoy access to education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion. These instruments bear witness to the great importance that Member States and the international community attach to normative action for realizing the right to education. It is for governments to fulfill their obligations both legal and political in regard to providing education for all of good quality and to implement and monitor more effectively education strategies.

Education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens.

The right to education is a universal entitlement to education. This is recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a human right that includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education.

The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses the obligation to rule out discrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to improve the quality of education.

THE PROMINENT ORGANIZATIONS AROUND THE WORLD STRIVING FOR PROMOTION OF RIGHT TO EDUCATION ARE:

  1. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  2. United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  3. World bank
  4. International Labour Organization (ILO)

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS:

The Constitution of India has provisions to ensure that the State provides education to all its citizens. Right to education is the only right which finds its place in three parts of our Constitution- Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties. The three articles in all these three above mentioned parts were added by The Constitution (Eighty Sixth) Amendment Act, 2002.

The 86th amendment added Article 21-A, a fundamental right which says that- ‘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’.

Article 45 earlier read as ‘The State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years’ which is now substituted by the following- ‘The State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.’ The amendment of 2002 also added a clause in the fundamental duties.

Article 51-A clause (k) was added- ‘(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.’

RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT:

The Constitution of India has originally defined education as a state subject. However under Article 42, an amendment was added in 1976 which made education a subject of the concurrent list. This enables the central government to legislate on matters related to education in the manner suited to it. Nearly eight years after the Constitution was amended by the 86th amendment act to make education a fundamental right, the government of India implemented the law to provide free and compulsory education to all children in age group of 6-14 years from 1st April 2010.

‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ or ‘Right to Education Act’ is an Act of the Parliament of India which was enacted on 4 August 2009. It describes the procedures and also explains the importance of free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years in India under Article 21 A of the Indian Constitution. This Act makes it a right of every child to get education. The Act makes it obligatory for the respective governments to ensure that every child between the ages of 6-14 years gets free elementary education.  The Act authorizes that even private educational institutions have to reserve 25 per cent seats for the children from weaker sections. The government’s estimate found out there will be a requirement of Rs 1.71 lakh crores in the next five years for implementation of the Act.

The Act also lays down that no school can deny admission to a student and all schools are required to have well trained and experiences teachers. In case of those schools which are not having trained teachers, they will have to comply with this provision within three years.  The schools should also have certain minimum facilities to help in providing a good learning atmosphere to the children. Basic minimum facilities such as adequate teachers, playground and infrastructure should be there. The government will evolve some mechanism to help marginalized schools to comply with the provisions of the Act.  The government had prepared and arranged for model rules which have been circulated to the states for preparing their own rules in order to provide for the implementation of the Act. The Center had also prepared separate rules for the Union Territories.

However, the reservation for weaker section was not be implemented from the year of implementation as the admission season was almost over. It was implemented from 2011-12. The state government and local authorities were directed to establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighborhood. In the cases of children studying in class VI to VIII, the children’s school should be within a walking distance of three km of the neighborhood.

CONCLUSION:

Though Right to Education Act makes the constitutional right of free education legal, this act is evidently silent on increasing the State outlay for Government schooling. Instead, it shifts the responsibility of ‘poor students’ to private schools which is evident by the 25 per cent reservation clause. The reservation in private institutions has already raised many objections in the past. Instead of the reasonable and unbiased education based on mutual dignity that the Amendment clearly lays down, such a provision shuts out the poor as a class and further deepens class barriers which already exist in our society. Also, following on the lines of the Constitutional Amendment, the Act limits its ambit to children between the ages of 6 and 14 years.

 One important point of consideration is also that giving education to children up to class 8th is hardly sufficient to either prepare a child with the basic skills required and important for gainful employment or even to make an individual equipped to function with a basic degree of self- sufficiency and empowerment in this world full of competition.

After all, this is the right to education Act and not the right to literacy and numeracy alone. Education is much more than mere literacy and it aims at the full all round development of an individual. Low standards of education are being provided and offered to all children by limiting the provision of free education only between students of classes 1 to 8. It is a decision that affects and impacts the poorest section of the society badly. The selection of the 6-14 age groups may be called arbitrary and it somewhat does not do justice to the country’s promise to its children of making education available, accessible and acceptable.

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