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

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Are We on the Right Track?

Right to Education

Despite a few glaring shortcomings, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 proved to be a landmark. It provided a justiciable legal framework that entitled all children (6–14 years) to education and established basic parameters for quality education. Several provisions are, however, still not in place, which brings the efficacy of its features and implementation into question. This article considers the progress and shortcomings of the implementation of the act.

The much-awaited law that guarantees children access to free and compulsory education—the Right to Education Act—came into effect 63 years after India attained independence. This right, despite being integral to ensuring the quality and dignity of life of children, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s insistence on the same, was not listed under the fundamental rights granted by the state to its citizens during the formation of the Constitution. The goal of providing education to all children under 14 years of age was included in Article 45 in the non-justiciable Directive Principles of State Policy, to be achieved within a 10-year time frame. Since the directive principles are not legally binding on the state, the timelines kept getting extended with impunity. Finally, in 2002, Parliament passed the 86th amendment to the Constitution, making the right to education (RtE) a fundamental right of every child from age 6–14 years. In fact, it placed RtE on par with the right to life by extending Article 21 to include Article 21a—the right to education. This arrangement came to an end when the RtE Act was passed in August 2009 and came into effect on 1 April 2010. Despite a few glaring shortcomings, the act proved to be a landmark judgment as it put in place a justiciable legal framework that entitled all children in this age group to education and even laid down the minimum parameters of quality education.

A three-year deadline, ending on 31 March 2013, was fixed for meeting infrastructural requirements and for deploying an adequate number of teachers in schools. The provisions related to training teachers had a more extended timeline, that is, ending on 31 March 2015, but even this deadline has now been extended to 2019.

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