Right to Education Act: The Path to Progress?

— Dr. Mrs. Francin Pinto

The essence of human life is the ability to learn continually. Education is the process which enables the physical, social and psychological growth of the individual such that he can take his rightful place in the global arena. To enable every individual reach his true potential, education then becomes, a primary necessity.

India, as a nation, has worked on the Right to Education Act. Why is the Right to Education so important? We, the humans, are different from the entire animal kingdom and this difference is due to a long phase of growth and development that takes place in Childhood, a time for learning and education and when learning for life happens since:
1. Children are naturally curious.
2. Children are naturally uninhibited and daring. They would be less affected and less biased and more willing to try new forms of learning.
3. Children are also safe from criticism and social rejection. They effectively filter negative experiences, and hence they are more apt to obtain the fruits of learning.
4. Most importantly the skills learnt as a child and teenager become significant in terms of vocation and job opportunities in later life.

However, India today reflects, children without a childhood. Less than half of India's children (193 million) are between the ages 6 and 14 years and they are to go to school. But at least, 35 million children aged 6 - 14 years do not attend school. 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate. The average teacher student ratio in India is 1: 76

Why are children being robbed of childhood in India?

The reasons may be listed out as follows.

• 11 million children in India work. High cost of private education, need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by three in every four drop-outs as the reason for their leaving the school.
• Children put in 40 hours of labour per week.
• 19% of children employed, work as domestic help.
• 90% working children are in rural India, while 85% of them work in the unorganized sectors. There are approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age of 5 and 15 years...
• They form 40% of the total population of commercial sex workers in India.
• 80% of these are found in the 5 metros.
• 71% of them are illiterate.

The Right to Education Act – A ray of hope for India’s forgotten children.
The Right to Education Act (RTE) passed by the Indian Parliament on 4th August 2009, made the provision of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 years in India. India with a population of approximately 1,198,003,000 became one of the 135 countries to make Education a Fundamental Right of every child.

The Right makes it clear that no Child should be left, behind. The Right focuses on exploring the natural curiosity that children have to harness their true potential developed into a sense of wonderment. As childhood is the period when we as people actually learn to learn and learn for life. Education to every child is now neither a luxury nor a privilege. It is a Fundamental Right.

The salient features of the Right to Education act are –

1. Free and Compulsory Education to all children of India in the 6 to 14 years age group;
2. No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until completion of elementary education;
3. If a child above six years of age has not been admitted in any school or though admitted, could not complete his or her elementary education, then, he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age;
4. No child shall be denied admission in a school for lack of age proof
5. There shall be a fixed student-teacher ratio;
6. School infrastructure to be improved in three years, else recognition is cancelled;
7. Financial burden will be shared between the state and the central governments.

What are the key issues for achieving RTE?

RTE provides a ripe platform to reach the unreached, with specific provisions for disadvantaged groups, such as child labourers, migrant children, children with special needs, or those who have a disadvantage owing to social, cultural economical, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factor. RTE focuses on the quality of teaching and learning through:
• Creative and sustained initiatives to train one million new and untrained teachers within the next five years • Reinforcement of the skills of in-service teachers to ensure child-friendly education.
• Development of Families and communities to ensure child-friendly education especially for the 190 million girls and boys in India who should be in elementary school today.
• Elimination of disparities by investing quality with equity in preschools.
• Focusing on bringing 35 million out-of-school children into classes at the age appropriate level with the support to stay in school and succeed.

Right to Education Act in the context of India- The Path to Progress?

The statistics show that we as a nation face an uphill task. We need to first activate the Right to Education Act. It requires social, political, economic and environmental reforms which move from bottom to top, from grass-root to classroom. It calls for creating a skilled teacher training infrastructure with proper inputs to make teaching profession a more attractive career. It begs for banning child labor and child exploitation. It aims for returning to children, their childhood.

No more do we have the luxury of blaming the system or postponing our actions. The time to take collective as well as individual responsibility to remedy the present situation is here. Right now! Yes, the Right to Education Act is here, but what it needs is sustained action at all levels of society and to be the Act that makes a difference for India and her forgotten children.

More over we need to create an Employment Guarantee Policy which creates Sustainable Livelihood to all the educated under the Right to Education Act. For this, the Right to Education Act needs to go hand–in–hand with a Right to Sustainable Livelihood Act. Only then will the Right to Education Act bear dividend and prove to be, the Path to Progress.

About the Author
Dr. Mrs. Francin Pinto, Ph.D Environment Education

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