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

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Roadblocks towards the Right to Education

Experiences from Delhi

A study in three slum communities in Delhi identifies and analyses the problems and challenges that parents and children from economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups face while accessing the right to education. These problems are partly on account of the apathetic administration of private schools and partly due to the lack of accountability from the state government, and the lack of awareness about the provisions of the RTE Act.

The field surveys for this article were supported by the Krishna Raj Travel Fellowship from the Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics. This research has been carried out under the supervision of Janaki Abraham of the Department of Sociology and Deepti Goel of the Department of Economics at DSE. The authors thank Anirban Kar of the Department of Economics at DSE, and Narender, their colleague at the DSE, for supporting them in data collection. The authors thank the anonymous referees.

Quality elementary education is the need of the day.1 In India, the lack of opportunities for affordable quality elementary education creates an everlasting pattern of huge differences in learning abilities among children of different schooling backgrounds. Most disadvantaged communities in slum localities2 opt for elementary education provided in government schools. The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which ensures the right of children to access free and compulsory education till the completion of elementary education, seeks to rectify this inequity.3 Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates all unaided private schools, including aided minority schools, to reserve 25% of their entry-level seats for the economically weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged groups (DG) up to the completion of elementary education.4 The costs associated with the educational expenses of the children availing education under the RTE rules are reimbursed according to the financial norms of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan based on the stipulated unit costs from Classes 1 to 8.

While all states now have free elementary education due to the compulsions of the RTE Act, bureaucratic delays inhibit its full implementation (Mehendale et al 2015; Srivastava and Noronha 2016). Moreover, gross negligence towards recommended scholarships under the RTE Act and the lack of parental awareness about Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act were found to be major problems in popularising these welfare measures (Soni and Rahman 2013). In some states, schools raised issues of delayed reimbursements and lack of communication from the government as a barrier in the implementation of Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act (RTE Forum 2014). Complex questions relating to accountability at various levels have also remained unaddressed (Jha and Parvati 2010). Srivastava and Noronha (2016) showed that successfully securing a “free” seat is linked to a high level of motivation and persistence, better social positioning and advantageous social networks. Their research showed that free education remained an elusive myth for all, including those accessing “free” private schools’ seats as well as government schools.

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Updated On : 20th Dec, 2019
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