The Right to Education Act (RTE) is troubling for an outsider like myself to read. It was passed on August 2009 and ensures that education is a free and compulsory right for young children. Schools must follow a strict set of rules and policies or be shut down.
Oftentimes the highest quality private schools that most Indian parents will spend their incomes on, aren’t even offering a good education. The RTE focuses more on the physical attributes of schools such as room sizes and the number of students, instead of the quality of education.
Problems with passing
When the bill was drafted in 2005, it caused some arguments when all private schools were forced to give 25% of their seats to poorer kids who couldn’t pay the admission fee. Now since the main selling point of the RTE is free education, this means that schools must rely on government funding and can’t charge money.
For private schools to lose 25% of their paid seats just to allow nonpaying kids to enter the school was a debated topic, but the government stood by its claims to create a more just and democratic society.
Discovering that another debated topic was that homeschooling, private tuition, and schools that were not registered with the government were illegal and could be shut down by the government at any time, gave me the chills, as it practically forced parents to send their kids to school.
Making it work
The central government and states of India each have a say on education, and the government is the one paying for the implementation, with the price rising as time goes on.
Reports have been released that say several million children are still out of school, and there is a shortage of trained teachers to work with them already. Plus a few schools are either corrupted or are simply non-existent, lacking students, teachers, and political control.
Troubles in Court
I soon found out that RTE has had various troubles in court, mostly relating to the mandatory 25% seating to poorer classes for private schools, with many private schools calling the government control unconstitutional.
Other troubles included the 2014 court case that labeled students with HIV/Aids as a disadvantaged group and therefore allowed to go into public schools without suffering discrimination.
The court also refused to review the act, stating that the right to education is a simple right for life, and by refusing the right to education the affected children are also denied of their freedom of speech and right to live a dignified life.
Debate will continue
The Right to Education Act has had a long and controversial history, and with the fundamental right to education and learning being constitutionally correct, the controversies and other problems of the act are simply swept under the law and ignored.
With the controversy not looking to go away anytime soon, I personally think that the heavily debated history of the RTE is only going to get heavier as time proves that it just isn’t working. The question is, what will work in its place?