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The Right To Education: Frequently Asked Questions:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is the act significant and what does it mean for India?

The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. 

This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right (as an entitlement) to get a quality elementary education, and that the State, with the help of families and communities, fulfils this obligation.

Few countries in the world have such a national provision to ensure both free and child-centred, child-friendly education. 


What is ‘Free and Compulsory Elementary Education’?

All children between the ages of 6 and 14 shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education at a neighborhood school.

There is no direct (school fees) or indirect cost (uniforms, textbooks, mid-day meals, transportation) to be borne by the child or the parents to obtain elementary education. The government will provide schooling free-of-cost until a child’s elementary education is completed.

What is the role envisaged for the community and parents to ensure RTE?

The landmark passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India.  For the first time in India’s history, children will be guaranteed their right to quality elementary education by the state with the help of families and communities.

Few countries in the world have such a national provision to ensure child-centered, child-friendly education to help all children develop to their fullest potential. There were an estimated eight million six to 14 year-olds in India out-of-school in 2009. The world cannot reach its goal to have every child complete primary school by 2015 without India.

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Schools shall constitute School Management Committees (SMCs) comprising local authority officials, parents, guardians and teachers. The SMCs shall form School Development Plans and monitor the utilization of government grants and the whole school environment.

RTE also mandates the inclusion of 50 per cent women and parents of children from disadvantaged groups in SMCs. Such community participation will be crucial to ensuring a child friendly “whole school” environment through separate toilet facilities for girls and boys and adequate attention to health, water, sanitation and hygiene issues.

How does RTE promote Child-Friendly Schools?

All schools must comply with infrastructure and teacher norms for an effective learning environment. Two trained teachers will be provided for every sixty students at the primary level.

Teachers are required to attend school regularly and punctually, complete curriculum instruction, assess learning abilities and hold regular parent-teacher meetings. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grade.

The state shall ensure adequate support to teachers leading to improved learning outcomes of children. The community and civil society will have an important role to play in collaboration with the SMCs to ensure school quality with equity. The state will provide the policy framework and create an enabling environment to ensure RTE becomes a reality for every child.

How will RTE be financed and implemented in India?

 This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right (as an entitlement) to get a quality elementary education, and that the State, with the help of families and communities, fulfils this obligation.

Few countries in the world have such a national provision to ensure both free and child-centred, child-friendly education. 



Central and state governments shall share financial responsibility for RTE. The central government shall prepare estimates of expenditures. State governments will be provided a percentage of these costs.

The central government may request the Finance Commission to consider providing additional resources to a state in order to carry out the provisions of RTE.

The state government shall be responsible for providing the remaining funds needed to implement. There will be a funding gap which needs to be supported by partners from civil society, development agencies, corporate organisations and citizens of the country.

What are the key issues for achieving RTE?

The RTE Act will be in force from 1 April. Draft Model Rules have been shared with states, which are required to formulate their state rules and have them notified as early as possible.

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, which requires accelerated efforts and substantial reforms:

• Creative and sustained initiatives are crucial to train more than one million new and untrained teachers within the next five years and to reinforce the skills of in-service teachers to ensure child-friendly education.

• Families and communities also have a large role to play to ensure child-friendly education for each and every one of the estimated 190 million girls and boys in India who should be in elementary school today.

• Disparities must be eliminated to assure quality with equity. Investing in preschool is a key strategy in meeting goals.

• Bringing eight million out-of-school children into classes at the age appropriate level with the support to stay in school and succeed poses a major challenge necessitating flexible, innovative approaches. 

What is the mechanism available if RTE is violated?

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights shall review the safeguards for rights provided under this Act, investigate complaints and have the powers of a civil court in trying cases.

States should constitute a State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) or the Right to Education Protection Authority (REPA) within six months of 1 April. Any person wishing to file a grievance must submit a written complaint to the local authority.

Appeals will be decided by the SCPCR/REPA. Prosecution f offences requires the sanction of an officer authorised by the appropriate government.

How does RTE translate into action and become a reality?

Substantial efforts are essential to eliminate disparities and ensure quality with equity. UNICEF will play an instrumental role in bringing together relevant stakeholders from government, civil society, teachers’ organizations, media and the celebrity world.

UNICEF will mobilize partners to raise public awareness and provide a call to action. Policy and programme design/implementation will focus on improving the access and quality education based on what works to improve results for children. UNICEF will also work with partners to strengthen national and state level monitoring bodies on RTE.

For media queries and more information:

Angela Walker
Chief, Advocacy & Partnerships
Tel: +91-98-1810-6093
E-mail: awalker@unicef.org

Alistair Gretarsson
Communications Specialist (International media)
Tel: +91-98-7153-5586
E-mail: agretarsson@unicef.org

Geetanjali Master
Communications Specialist
Tel: +91-98-1810-5861
E-mail: gmaster@unicef.org

Sonia Sarkar
Communication Officer (Indian media)
Tel: +91-98-1017-0289
E-mail: ssarkar@unicef.org

 

 
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