The author of this article Sumit Surya Prakash is a student at University Law College, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

Right to Education and Constitution.

The Constitution of India has given many rights to the citizens; the right to education is one of them. The Constitution has provisions to ensure that the State provides education to all its citizens. Right to education is the only right which finds its place in three parts of our Constitution- Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties. The articles were added in the above-mentioned parts of the constitution by The Constitution (Eighty-Sixth) Amendment Act, 2002. [1] The 86th amendment added Article 21-A, a fundamental right which says that- ‘The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine’. Article 45 earlier read as ‘The State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years’ which is now substituted by - ‘The State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.’ The amendment of 2002 also added a clause in the fundamental duties.[2] Article 51-A clause (k) was added- ‘(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.’[3] Education is an important aspect of life. It is important to be educated in order to get a job, earn a livelihood. This is the prime reason why it has been mentioned in three parts of the Constitution including Fundamental Rights.

In order to ensure that everyone gets the Right to education, The Right to Education Act was passed by the Indian Parliament on 4th August 2009. The act reiterates the provision of Article 21A and ensures free and compulsory education to all children of India between the age group of six to fourteen years. The Act also provides for 25 % reservation for the economically disadvantaged students in admission to class one in all private schools. It calls for a fixed student-teacher ratio and mandates improvement in the quality of education in schools. According to the Act, school teachers will need an adequate professional degree within five years or they will risk losing their jobs. School infrastructure should be improved within three years, else will lose recognition. The government will evolve some mechanism to help marginalized schools to comply with the provisions of the Act. The government had prepared and arranged for model rules which have been circulated to the states for preparing their own rules in order to provide for the implementation of the Act. The Centre had also prepared separate rules for the Union Territories. The state government and local authorities were directed to establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighborhood. In the cases of children studying in class VI to VIII, the children’s school should be within a walking distance of three km of the neighborhood.  The Right to Education The act came in force from 1st April 2010. The government’s estimate found out there will be the requirement of Rs 1.71 lakh crores in the next five years for the implementation of this Act and the financial burden will be shared by the state and central government. [4]

The Supreme Court of India has made a valuable contribution to the Right to education. Right to education was for the first time recognized as a fundamental right in the case of Anand Vardhan Chandel vs the University of Delhi[5], the Delhi High Court observed that the law has now settled that the expression ‘life and personal liberty’ in Article 21 of the Constitution includes a variety of rights, though they are not enumerated in part III of the Constitution provided that they are necessary for the full development of the personality of the individual and can be included in various aspects of the liberty of the individual. The Right to education is, therefore, also included in Article 21 of the Constitution. In Mohini Jain vs the State of Karnataka[6], the Court observed that ‘Right to life’ is the compendious expression for all those rights which the Court must enforce because they are basic to the dignified enjoyment of life.[7] The Right to life under Article 21 and the dignity of the individual cannot be assured unless it is accompanied by the Right to education. The State government is under obligation to make an endeavour to provide the educational facilities at all levels to its citizens.  In Unnikrishnan J.P vs State of Andhra Pradesh[8], the Court has clearly held that the Right to education flows directly from the Right to life.[9] The fundamental rights in part III will remain beyond the reach of the illiterate majority unless the ‘right to education’ mentioned in Article 41 is made a reality and the Court went on to hold that every citizen has a ‘right to education’ under the Constitution. Hence the major proportions evolved through these decision areas follows. Right to education understood in the context of Articles 45 and 41, means: Every child/citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes the age fourteen years, and after a child/citizen complete fourteen years, his right to education is circumscribed by the limits of the economic capacity of the State and its development.

The Right to Education The act has been criticized for being hastily drafted, not consulting many groups active in education, not considering the quality of education, infringing on the rights of private and religious minority schools to administer their system.[10] The Act provides for free and compulsory education but it is silent on increasing the State outlay for government schooling. Instead, it shifts the responsibility of poor students to private schools which are evident from the 25% reservation clause. The quality of education provided by the government school system is not good. While it remains the largest provider of elementary education in the country, forming 80% of all recognized schools, it suffers from a shortage of teachers and infrastructural gaps. Several habitations lack schools altogether. There are also frequent allegations of government schools being riddled with absenteeism and mismanagement and of appointments made on political convenience. Children attending private schools are seen to be at an advantage, forming discrimination against the weakest sections that are forced to go to government schools.[11]  The Act limits its ambit to children between 6-14 years. Education up to class 8th is hardly sufficient. In today’s world, higher learning is very important for gainful employment or even to make the individual equipped to function with a basic degree of self-sufficiency and empowerment in this world full of competition.

The right to education is being limited to the Right to literacy; education is much more than mere literacy and aims at all-round development of an individual. Low standards of education are being provided and offered to all children by limiting the provision of free education only between students of classes 1 to 8.[12] It is a decision that affects and impacts the poorest section of society badly. The selection of the 6-14 age group somewhat does not do justice to the country’s promise to its children of making education available, accessible and acceptable to them.

[1] http://lawtimesjournal.in/constitutional-right-education/
[2] http://righttoeducation.in/know-your-rte/about
[3] http://lawtimesjournal.in/constitutional-right-education/
[4] http://lawtimesjournal.in/constitutional-right-education/
[5] AIR 1978, Delhi 308
[6] 1992 AIR 1858
[7] https://www.indialawjournal.org/archives/volume1/issue_4/article_by_bagga.html
[8] 1993 AIR 217, 1993 SCR (1) 594, 1993 SCC (1) 645, JT 1993 (1) 474, 1993 SCALE (1)290
[9] https://www.loc.gov/law/help/constitutional-right-to-an-education/india.php
[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_Children_to_Free_and_Compulsory_Education_Act,_2009
[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_Children_to_Free_and_Compulsory_Education_Act,_2009
[12] http://lawtimesjournal.in/constitutional-right-education/


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