UNICEF Resource Centre

Fact Sheets




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.

India’s education system over the past few decades has made significant progress. According to India’s Education For All Mid Decade Assessment, in just five years between 2000 and 2005, India increased primary school enrolment overall by 13.7 per cent and by 19.8 per cent for girls, reaching close to universal enrolment in Grade 1.

Even with these commendable efforts, one in four children left school before reaching Grade 5 and almost half before reaching Grade 8 in 2005. Learning assessments show the children who do remain in school are not learning the basics of literacy and numeracy or the additional skills necessary for their overall development. 

Fast Facts

Out-of-School Children: The number of out-of-school children has declined from 25 million in 2003 to 8.1 million in mid–2009. The most significant improvements have been in Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur and Chhattisgarh. The percentage of out-of-school children in highly populated states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar remains a cause of concern.

Social Inclusion: Although there have been significant improvements in the proportion of children from socially disadvantaged groups in school, persistence gaps remain. Girls are still less likely to enroll in school than boys; in 2005, for upper primary school (Grades 6-8) girls’ enrolment was still 8.8 points lower than boys, for Scheduled Tribes (ST) the gender gap was 12.6 points and 16 points for Scheduled Castes (SC). 

In addition, ST and SC children are less likely to access their right to 8 years of schooling; the drop-out rate for ST children being 62.9% and 55.2% for SC children compared to a national average of 48.8% leaving school before completing Grade 8. 

Teachers: Children have the right to have at least 1 qualified and trained teacher for every 30 pupils. Currently, the national average is about 1 teacher to every 34 students, but in states such as Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal 1 teacher works with more than 60 students. 

Approximately 1.2 million additional teachers need to be recruited to fill this gap. Currently, about 1 in 5 primary school teachers do not have the requisite minimum academic qualification to ensure children’s right to quality learning.

Sanitation: 84 out of 100 schools have drinking water facilities overall in India. But nearly half the schools in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya do not. Sixty-five out of 100 schools have common toilets in India; however only one out of four schools in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan have this facility.

Fifty-four out of 100 schools have separate toilets for girls. On average, only one in nine schools in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur have separate toilets and one in four schools in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Orissa.

Key Issues

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. 

Also Read: Translate the promise of technology into tangible learning outcomes for ‘all’ children

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 existing teachers to ensure child-friendly education.

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. Substantial efforts are essential to eliminate disparities and ensure quality with equity. For example, investing in preschool is a key strategy.

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.

School Management Committees, made up of parents, local authorities, teachers and children themselves, will need support to form School Development Plans and monitoring. The inclusion of 50 per cent women and parents of children from disadvantaged groups in these committees should help overcome past disparities.

UNICEF in Action

India’s past achievements in education indicate it is possible to reach the goals set forth in RTE. Building on the achievements of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, UNICEF will continue to work with the government and other partners at community, state and national levels to promote child friendly schools and systems across the country through RTE.

UNICEF is committed to ensuring all children to have access to quality education and complete their schooling. UNICEF works with its partners to improve children’s developmental readiness to start primary school on time, especially for marginalized children.

Technical support on education quality, school retention and achievement rates are also given. UNICEF is also working to reduce gender and other disparities to increase access and completion of quality basic education. In emergencies, UNICEF helps to restore education to affected populations.

For more information and interviews, please contact:

Caroline den Dulk  Chief of Communication, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-1810-6093; E-mail:

Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-1810-5861; E-mail:

Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-101-70289; E-mail:

Real Lives 

Girls Learn Life Skills in Deepshikha
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Finding Innovative Ways of Putting Child Labourers Back in School
Anas is an ex-child laborer who has gone back to school with the help of a UNICEF project. The project aims to help an estimated 8,000 children working in metal ware industry.

Residential Schools Allow Tribal Children an Education
DALEIGUDA, India, 8 September 2011 – Krupasindhuv Pangi knows the challenges that indigenous communities face. At the age of five, his family lost their land when it was taken from them to build a factory.

Giving Voice to People: Community Radio Station Launched in Koraput
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Corporate Sector Can Play Important Role in Achieving RTE
The Right to Free and Compulsory Education and the role corporate sector can play in helping to achieve it was the theme of the consultation jointly organised by UNICEF, CII and TSMG

IKEA Investing in the Lives of 100 Million Children and Women
The IKEA Social Initiative – the corporate philanthropy arm of the international home-furnishings retailer – is providing funds so that activity-based learning and quality education can be expanded to all elementary schools in Uttar Pradesh

Bringing Child Labourers Back to School in Bihar
NALANDA, India 3 September 2010 – Wearing a clean, navy-blue school uniform with a sky-blue shawl draped over her shoulders, 14-year-old Khaushaliya Kumari is sociable and relaxed as she goes through her daily routines.

Masti Ki Paatshala Curbs Dropouts
JHARKHAND, India, 20 May 2010 –The Multi Grade Multi Level (MGML) teaching process aims optimise the abilities and mental aptitude of primary school children to bring out the best in them.

IKEA SUNNAN Lamps Light Up Students’ Lives in India
IKEA Social Initiative is partnering with UNICEF to promote the rights of every child to a healthy, secure childhood with access to quality education. What once started as IKEA’s fight against child labour in the supply chain has developed into a broad co

RTE in the News
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

The Right to Education: Fact Sheet
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.

The Right To Education: Frequently Asked Questions:
The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 marks a historic moment for children of India. This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right to get a quality elementary education.

The Right To Education
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Children enjoy learning in Activity Based Learning Schools
The initiative launched in 4000 primary schools for classes one and two across 50 districts in the state allows children to study according to their own pace in a child-friendly teaching and learning environment.

Community radio connects, educates and entertains in rural India
Residents of Shivpuri, located in India’s Madhya Pradesh State, turned out in force for the recent launch of the station, which will broadcast to scores of villages in a 15-kilometre radius of the city.

Storybooks to help marginalised children bridge language barriers
Attractively illustrated and written in simple Assamese, the storybooks embody the flavour and culture of tea communities and have been specially designed, keeping in mind the language needs of first-time school goers in tea garden areas.

A Braille version of the CRC spells out rights for the visually impaired in India
In the run-up to 20 November 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about this landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children.

Community radio connects, educates and entertains in rural India
Pratibha says her dramatic transformation is thanks to lessons learned in Deepshikha, or the ‘Light a Lamp’ programme, which aims to break down age-old negative attitudes toward women

Isolated Islanders Support Schools to Educate Their Children Closer to Home
Education Coordinator Juri Gogoi makes her way along a beaten earth path about half a foot wide that twists from the shores of the Brahmaputra River to the Chapori or Island school, a 20-minute walk away

ADEPTS – An innovative strategy to improve educational performance through teacher support
Children from English medium school are now seeking transfer to our school. Last year, around thirteen students took a transfer from private schools to our government primary school,” proudly says the Head Teacher of Magodh Dungri Primary School.

Headmasters train to become better Managers
“I’m Anbu, Headmaster of the Mekala Chinampalli School in Krishnagiri District. My hobbies are reading books, listening to music and keeping myself updated with current affairs.”

Global Action Week of the Global Campaign for Education
Global Action Week of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is taking place from 21-27 April 2008 on the theme of “Quality Education to End Exclusion” - a priority within the Education for All goals and a priority for achieving the Millennium.

SRUJAN- Integrating folklore into education
Kamlu Chalan, Babuli Bhatra, Soudamini Dhanful and Sudharani Dhanful are just some of the children who wanted to go back to school at Bandaguda village in Kotpad block, after participating in the fair organised to showcase different aspects of education.

Vaijanti and Sugna
While the girls were experiencing one of the most joyful times of their lives, their parents paid no heed to the staff of the NGO CULP, talking about the importance of girls’ education.

Reaching out … taking education to the unreached!
On Sunday, the 10th of February 2008, an air of palpable excitement laced the cheery sunshine bathing the Chief Minister Shiela Dixit’s lawns, as her guests milled around in anticipation of the unveiling and launch of the ‘Chalta Firta School’ Mobile Lear

Radio Bachpan
‘Radio-o-o Bachpan-n-n!!!’ the voice of ten year old Shabnam trilled through the loudspeakers and the audience laughed and clapped with glee.

Mobile schools in tents to target migrant children in Madhya Pradesh
With 85 percent tribal population, a large number of children in Jhabua district, who move with their parents in their search for work, end up missing education altogether.

Rural children learn to read young
The success of the Activity Based Learning among rural children in a Corporation run primary school at Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai needs applauding.

Maharashtra adopts child-centered learning
Take a peep into Class I in Kavha village school in Latur district and you see children, sitting in groups, engrossed in looking at picture cards in their hands and sharing with each other what they see in those cards.

A Vending Machine Radicalises Girls’ Personal Hygiene Choices
The adolescent girls of Nemmeli School, Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu, are well informed when it comes to menstrual hygiene.

Quality Education Package for primary schools
Education quality has received a great deal of attention in recent years. There is agreement that quality needs to be improved.

Quality education package produces better results in Maharashtra schools
The "Quality Education" package adopts a multi grade multi level method where the class teacher knows the exact levels of understanding of students and assigns activities accordingly.

Anandshala - a model ‘school of joy’ in Bilpudi village, Gujarat
Anandshala is a success story of the model schools conceptualized and promoted by UNICEF. The school, with a focus on co-curricular activities, aims at mental and physical growth of its students by instilling among them a love of learning.

In Gujarat, Niloshi’s five-year olds enroll in school amidst jubilation
Niloshi, located at a rugged end of the Western Ghat mountains, is home to one of the most backward tribes in the state.

Girls speak out for equal access to education
Adolescent girls in India demand greater, sustained support for equal access to good quality education.

School sanitation and hygiene education - Rajasthan
The absence of safe drinking water and toilets in many schools in Rajasthan’s Alwar district used to make children fall frequently ill and seriously affect the enrolment and retention of students, especially girls.

Girls' education initiative - Uttar Pradesh
In 1999, in partnership with the government and other voluntary organisations, UNICEF initiated a project for girls’ education in four blocks of Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district, where female literacy was about 15 per cent.

Nali-Kali initiative - Karnataka
Developed in 1995 by teachers in Karnataka’s Mysore district, the Nali Kali strategy adopted creative learning practices to help retain children in school and bring in those not attending school.





Awaaz Do For Out-of-School Children

Awaaz Do

The RTE Act promises all children between 6 to 14 years the right to free and quality education.
To make the Right to Education Act successful, it is important that each one of us knows about it so that every child who isn't in school can be sent back for free and quality education.

Let us raise our voices and spread the word. Tell everyone around you, family and friends. Everyone you know must know that every child has the right to free and quality education. Let's support the RTE implementation process and provide the momentum it needs.

Awaaz Do!! Our collective voices will help make a difference.

You can play your role via:

1. Logging onto our website ( & getting to know more about RTE and its impact.
2. Telling your friends on Facebook or Twitter about the ‘Awaaz Do’ movement by updating your status.
3. Emailing or sending an SMS to your network and telling them about ‘Awaaz Do’

You can be the change agent! Start Now..

For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection