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The Right to Education Act, 2010

Author : Bhavyani Dodda

Access to education in India is disproportionately affected by a historical barrier of inequity over education and the creation of a monopoly over the dissemination of knowledge. The extent of this is easily observable by India’s presence on the nadir of most rankings concerning human development, education and occupational mobility, many of which have given India the attribute of the country with the largest illiterate population. The 2011 Census of India reveals nearly one fourth of the Indian population does not possess the ability to read and write in a single language. A constitutional commitment to education was made via the 86th Amendment to the Indian Constitution, which, inter alia, obligated the state to provide free and compulsory education to children of the age six to fourteen.

With time, there has been a considerable increase in the number of educational institutions and the degree of literacy. This improvement, however, is far from satisfactory. The difference in gross enrolment varies from 99.3% in primary schools to 11.4% in tertiary learning institutions. Apart from availability, the quality of education in India remained very poor. Drop-out rate stands at a discouraging 53% in primary schools. Hence, in simple terms, it can be explained that this situation is not a consequence of a lack of demand but because of the quality of supply. Factors such as low accessibility, inadequate financing, haphazard governance and a lack of accountability have also deteriorated the quality of education.


It is now high time to prioritize education and reform the existing system. On 4 August, 2009. Right to Education Act was passed by the Indian Parliament and was brought into effect from 1 April 2010. This act made India the 135th country to make education a guaranteed right of children. The Act mentions “compulsory and free education” to each and every child in the country without any discrimination. In addition, provisions are present in the Act to ensure a corresponding rise in the quality of education with a rise in coverage. To achieve this goal, the Act specifies a list of norms to be followed by educational institutions, including the maintenance of libraries and labs, provision of teaching equipment, access to fields and sporting equipment. The Act strives to improve learning outcomes by developing a new curriculum of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation. The Act also stresses on the overall development of children in various other aspects, including sports, art or other co-curricular activities.

The Act divides various responsibilities among the state and central governments, local authorities, school management, teachers and the parent community. The role of government is to ensure sufficient financing for public schools, accessibility to education by having a school in every neighbourhood within a radius of three kilometres and monitoring the compliance of norms under the act. The school authorities are mandated to look after the quantity of teachers as to maintain a certain teacher-student ratio and monitor the quality of teachers also.

As the act came into existence, a highly applaudable change is the allotment of a huge amount of Rs.1710 billion for the development and establishment of schools and other resources required for the term of next five years. To ensure a successful implementation, a 14-member National Advisory Council (NAC) under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development was made including members from NCERT, NASSCOM, and educationalists from various universities across the county.


When we go through the reports of improvement under RTEA, it is only a materialistic development and almost no appreciable improvement in the standards of Indian education. To begin with the positive outlook, the number of schools considerably increased and the relative student-teacher ratio was reduced so that every child can have better assistance. The most important reason which led to girls dropping out of schools, the lack of washrooms, is overcome to a good extent. Along with this, basic facilities like availability of drinking water, benches and books have improved considerably. But compared to the positives, the act lacked in many domains that made it unsuccessful.

There are mainly five major aspects which led to these ineffective results.

Firstly, there is no improvement in the quality of education offered by the public schools. In India, more than 80% of children seek education in government schools. Lack of teachers, infrastructure and in many cases lack of school itself critically affected the quality of education. This failure of government schools is mainly regarded as the result of extravagant pays of teachers along with lack of accountability.

Secondly, the private schools in the country were doing good when compared to public schools in terms of outcomes as well as cost per unit as the salaries of private teachers is estimated to be only 1/3rd of that paid to government teachers. But the imposition of rigid norms under the RTEA increases the cost of private schools which might potentially lead to the shutting down of them. Another cause of increase in cost is the decrease in student-teacher ratio, which means that schools now are expected to hire more teachers than usual.

Thirdly, the act doesn’t hold any accountability on the teachers which makes it beyond reach to expect them to work with their full potential. Their extravagant pay scale is an adding factor to this behaviour. Studies reveal that reduction in the ratio of students and teachers lead to an increment in teacher absenteeism.8 Since the act prescribes a reduce in ratio it might yield negative results.

Fourthly, the idea of no detention until 8th standard, which also meant there shall be no exams conducted. This is the most criticized point because without any means of assessment if a student is kept on pursuing higher grades, it becomes hard to analyse whether the student is actually capable of that grade or not. This can lead to weak foundations which in turn gradually deteriorates the zeal in students to learn. This is the major issue faced by students in India as under many experiments by various organisations such as PRATHAM, TIMSS etc, Indian students were ranked 72nd out of 74 set of students from different countries. This portrays how essential it is to have a good foundation on elementary subjects to yield good outcomes. Hence scraping out of examinations is a widely opposed idea under the act.


Education is the highly neglected domain by the government and it was proved through RTEA 2010 that formulating laws is not equivalent to implementing them. The quality of education is a long term determinant which has a high impact on the economy of the country by the times these students reach working age. Education should not be viewed as a choice but as a basic necessity for every individual. There are still many areas that hardly had any improvement over the years such as vocational courses, arts, quality of public education, student friendly curriculum, dropout rates and the mental health of the students. It is important that these key issues are addressed and resolved. Education is not an outcome of development but it should be viewed as the key to development.



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