Monday, July 13, 2009

Right to Education Bill

Education is the foundation of any nation. In this regard, the Government has finalised the Right to Education Bill. The Bill proposes to fix the minimum age for admission to pre-school at 3 years and 10 months. It would also protect parents and children from screening by schools and prescribes huge fines in case of violation. Prepared by the Human Resource Development Ministry, the Bill states that the minimum admission age for Class I should be 5 years and 10 years before the beginning of the academic year. This implies the admission age of pre-school would be 3 years and 10 months.

In 2007, the Delhi Government fixed 3 years as age for admission to pre-school, 4 for pre-primary and 5 for Class I.

Recently, the Union Cabinet has recently cleared the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2008, paving the way for its passage in the Budget session of the Parliament. The Government would ensure the availability of funds to states for the implementation of the law and that 25 per cent quota for poor students was a must.

The bill is the enabling legislation to notify the 86th Constitutional Amendment made in December 2002 to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. Once enacted, it would require all states to make neighbourhood schools available within three years and also reserve 25 per cent of their seats for the poor students.

Aim of the Bill
The Bill, which aims at implementing the Right to Education, guaranteed by the Constitution in 2002, shields parents from arbitrary admission rules of private schools. If found subjecting parents or children to screening, the school will be fined Rs. 25,000. A repeat offence will invite a fine of up to Rs. 50,000. If a school is found guilty of taking capitation fee, the fine will be up to ten times of what it charged.

The school has to follow the laid down procedure for admission at any cost. Any violation that results in a deserving child not getting admission would invite a fine of up to Rs. 10,000. This fine can also be imposed on the Government servant responsible for implementing the Right to Education law. The Draft Bill empowers the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights or any other authority designated by the State Government to impose the prescribed fines.

Education For All
The 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12) accepts that quality education has eluded most of the children. The Right to Education Bill can serve as a crucial instrument to ensure quality, which is intrinsically tied to systematic reforms for equity.

Almost six decades after the Constitution of India promised that all children until the age of 14 be provided free and compulsory education, and six years after the Constitution was amended (but not enacted) to include the fundamental right to education, a historic opportunity to enact a long pending law is before the Parliament.

The issue at stake is the need to ensure that all children not just get access to education, but are also assured of its quality.

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