This article, first part of a series, written by B Chandrasekaran, Research Fellow, CPPR, discusses the challenges faced by some of the state governments in implementing the RTE Act and analyses how they have failed to prioritise the needs of primary education of children belonging to economically weaker sections of the society as mandated in the constitutional provision. The following parts will explore alternative ways to ensure universal access to quality primary education to poor children.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons ( Image for representation )

RTE Act—Inputs vs Outcomes

The access to basic education for all children has been a much-discussed subject for more than a century now. The nationalist liberal leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale was the first person in 1910 to envision universal access to free and compulsory primary education for all children. Since then, given the vast diversity of states in India, each has taken varied measures to provide access to primary education according to its disposable resources on priority basis, but still much need to be done. Most of the states, perhaps except Kerala, did not achieve the goal till 2009.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE) was enacted on August 4, 2009 by the Indian Parliament to provide universal access to free education for children aged 6–14 years. By enacting the RTE law, India also joined the league of 135 countries to have primary education as Fundamental Rights in the constitutional provision under Article 21A as amended in 2002. RTE came into effect on April 1, 2010 with stipulations to states to have all the necessary resources in place by 2013 to achieve access to free and compulsory primary education for all children aged 6–14 years. Unlike other countries where parents are solely responsible for children’s education, India became the first country with the government being responsible for the enrolment, attendance and completion of primary education of children.

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Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research

Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan
Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan
Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan is Research Fellow (Urban Eco-system and Skill Development) with CPPR. His areas of research interest are economics of education, vocational education and skills development, economic reforms, liberal vision for India, water management, regional development, and city development. Chandrasekaran has an MA in Economics (University of Madras) and an MPhil in Social Sciences (Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya University, Indore).

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