Children’s rights: Provisions for free elementary education in neighbourhood government schools
- All children of the age of six to fourteen years have a right to free education in a neighbourhood government school till completion of elementary education (Classes 1-8).
- This right to free education in a neighbourhood government school extends to all children, irrespective of gender, religion, class, caste and includes those with physical and other disabilities.
- State Governments and Local Authorities are to establish neighbourhood government schools throughout the state, wherever required, by 2013. The State Government and Local Authorities are to establish the neighbourhood criteria and limits.
Neighbourhood school: The Maharashtra Rules specify that a neighbourhood school means that the State and Local Education Authorities are meant to provide a school within 1 km for children in Classes 1-5, and 3 km for children in Classes 6-8.
Free: Free education means that no fee or donations of any kind can be charged in government schools.
In government schools, free education includes the provision of textbooks, uniforms, writing materials, special materials for children with disabilities, in order to reduce the burden of school expenses which prevent many children from completing elementary education.
- Government-aided schools have to provide free education to children to the proportion that the recurring costs of these schools are met by government. This proportion of children receiving free education cannot be lower than 25%..
- Parents can choose to send their children to attend schools other than free government neighbourhood schools.
Children’s rights: Free elementary education for 25% of entering students in private schools and specified category schools
- Under the 25% reservations requirement of the Act, economically and socially disadvantaged children, as well as those with disabilities, can be admitted only in Class 1 or at the pre-primary stage, of private unaided and minority aided schools, and specified schools such as Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas and Sainik Schools.
- These children will receive free education including textbooks, and other facilities. Minority unaided schools, Madrassas, Vedic schools, Patshalas, schools for imparting religious instruction, boarding schools and orphanages are exempt from the 25% reservations category.
Children’s rights: Provisions for enabling admission to schools — no capitation fees or interviews
- While admitting children, no child or parent can be subject to tests, interviews or any screening procedure or be required to pay capitation fees or donation of any kind.
- Schools that violate these conditions can be subject to huge fines.
- No child can be denied admission for lack of age-proof. Admission should be given until an appropriate document attesting proof of age is provided.
Children’s rights: Provisions for enabling admission for older children and transfers
- No child can be denied admissions to a school if the child is overage or has not attended school.
- Such older children are to be admitted in an age-appropriate class, and provided special training and additional on-going academic support to bring them on par with the rest of the class.
- If in a school there is no provision for completion of elementary education, children have a right to transfer to a government or government-aided school.
- Children have a right to transfer within or outside the state, to a government or government-aided school.
- Delay in producing a transfer certificate cannot be grounds for delaying or refusing children admission to a school.
Children’s rights and quality education: Provisions for recognized, full-time schools
- No private school can operate without obtaining a certificate of recognition issued by the competent Government/Local Education Authority.
- Recognition requirements include that every private school should meet a number of conditions in terms of school facilities, teacher pupil ratios, special teachers, minimum hours of instruction, etc., by 2013. All teachers must also be qualified by 2015.
- All government, government-aided and specified schools should also meet all of the above conditions by 2013 and 2015. All of these conditions are specified in the Act itself.
- All children have to be enrolled in full-time recognized private/ government/ government-aided schools and be taught by full-time teachers, who need to be qualified by 2015.
- Part-time classes/schools/bridge courses run by NGOs or government, often taught by part-time and unqualified teachers, cannot be considered as legal alternatives to studying in full-time recognised private, government, government aided and specified schools.
Children’s rights and quality education: Provisions for norms and standards for a school by 2013
- Specific details on facilities and teachers are listed in the Schedule to the Act entitled, ‘Norms and Standards for a School’. The required number of facilities and teachers are to be in place in every school by April 2013.
Children’s rights and quality education: Provisions for school facilities and full-time school by 2013
- Every school has to be equipped with a basic set of school facilities such as an all-weather building, drinking water, toilets, etc. by 2013.
- Classes 1-5 to have 200 working days and 800 instructional hours, and Classes 6- 8 to have 220 working days and 1000 instructional hours.
Children’s rights and quality education: Provisions for teacher pupil ratios and special teachers by 2013
- Primary classes 1-5 should have at least one teacher per 30 students. In the upper primary classes 6-8, there should be one teacher per 35 students by 2013.
- One head teacher for lower primary classes exceeding 150 pupils.
- In the upper primary classes, there should be special subject teachers for mathematics and science.
- In upper primary classes exceeding 150 pupils, a head teacher and part-time instructors for art education, health and physical education, work education.
Children’s rights and quality education: Provisions for process and content of education
- The curriculum will reflect the values of the Constitution, and take into account the all-round development of children, and learning through child-friendly and child-centred activities.
- Continuous and comprehensive evaluation of children’s knowledge and their capacity to apply it.
- No child will be required to pass any Board examinations till completion of elementary education.
- No child will be subject to physical punishment and mental harassment.
- No child can be held back in a class or expelled from school, till completion of elementary education.
Children’s rights and quality education: Provisions in State Rules/Maharashtra Rules and the role of the Academic Authority
Some State Rules have added further dimensions of quality. The Maharashtra Rules state that an Academic Authority should be notified, and its functions would include:
- Developing the curriculum and evaluation procedures.
- Delineation of the learning outcomes for each class.
- Collaboration with other State-level institutions in the preparation of textbooks.
- Designing teacher training programmes.
- Developing guidelines for granting permission to meaningful and creative schools.
- Collaborating in the design of holistic school assessment processes.
The quality education assurance goes further in the Maharashtra Rules to include:
- Periodical evaluation of the Academic Authority itself, as well as State-level academic and other planning institutions.
- Placing such evaluation reports of external and internal agencies in the public domain.
Implementation: Provisions for role of Central and State Government and Local Authority
While it has other responsibilities, the main responsibility of the Central Government is to fund the implementation of the Act jointly with the State Governments.
The main responsibility of implementing and monitoring the RTE Act lies with the State Governments and Local Authorities. These include prescribing of rules and issuing of notifications to implement the Act. Sections 8 and 9 of the Act list the responsibilities of the State and Local Authorities.
An example of the varied responsibilities of the State and Local Authorities is to be found in the definition of ‘compulsory’ in the principal provision of the Act which states that ‘Every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education’. As listed in Section 8 and 9 of the Act, ‘compulsory’ means that the state and local authorities shall:
- Provide a neighbourhood school by 2013.
- Ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of eight years of elementary education.
- Guarantee that economically and socially disadvantaged children are not discriminated against.
- Provide remedial training for students in need.
- Take measures so that all schools have facilities and an adequate number of teachers as required in the Schedule to the Act by 2013.
- Perform many other tasks as detailed in Sections 8 and 9.
Implementation: Provisions for role of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) and other bodies
- The main functions of the NCPCR and SCPCRs which are to be constituted by every state, are to safeguard the rights of children under the Act, monitor its implementation in all schools and inquire into complaints.
- Complaints concerning the implementation of the Act can be filed at the Local Authorities and with the NCPCR and SCPCRs which can help in redressing the complaints. However, it must be noted that unlike the courts in which complaints can also be filed, the NCPCR and SCPCRs do not have judicial powers.
- The Central Government and all State Governments are required to appoint Advisory Councils to advise on effective implementation of the provisions of the Act.
Implementation: Provisions for role of schools and management committees
- In addition to the responsibilities of schools outlined earlier concerning admission, provision of facilities and qualified teachers, quality education and obtaining of recognition, etc., the main responsibility of most schools is to constitute and run a School Management Committee (SMC).
- The SMC will be mainly composed of parents. Its composition and exact functions will be determined by individual State Rules.
- The main function of an SMC is to monitor the working of the school and utilisation of all grants, as well as prepare and recommend the School Development Plan (SDP).
Complete/ partial exemptions from the Act
- The RTE Act extends to the whole of India, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Madrassas, Vedic Patshalas and educational institutions primarily imparting religious instruction, are exempted from the Act, according to the 2012 Amendment.
- Unaided minority schools are excluded from the Act, according to the 2012 Supreme Court Judgement.
- The Act exempts private unaided schools from constituting a School Management Committee.
- School Management Committees in minority aided schools and government aided schools shall perform advisory functions only.
- Acting on the Supreme Court directive, the Central Government guideline notes that the 25% reservation requirement does not apply to boarding or residential schools which admit students only after Class1.
- In boarding or residential schools which have class 1, the 25% reservation applies to day scholars only.