ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Primary Education as a Fundamental Right

In an attempt to attain the goal of universal primary education, many developing country governments, including India, have abolished official fees in primary education. The 86th amendment to the Indian Constitution made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children in the age group 6-14 years. There are other direct and indirect costs that can deter children from going to school. In this paper, using a rich nationwide data set, the authors construct the incompressible direct costs of attending primary school in India. After controlling for the opportunity cost of going to school (as proxied by the ratio of children's wages to adult's wages), it is found that the direct costs of education adversely affect the probability of children going to school, more so for children from poorer households. The results show that relative to boys, girls are more likely to be affected by the direct costs of schooling. The authors show that making primary education completely free will not increase the attendance rates to 100 per cent. They find that the government will have to incur an additional minimum expenditure of over Rs 2,900 crore every year in order to defray the basic or incompressible cost of attending school.


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