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Author: Saptarshi Roy, II year of B.A.LLB (H) from St. Xavier's University, Kolkata


The Right to Education Act is also known as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The RTE Act contains a total of 7 Chapters and 39 sections. On 4th August 2009, the Constitution of India included Article 21-A which provides for free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of six and fourteen, as prescribed by law.[1] The purpose of the Act was to improve the quality of education. Thus, the education of all children less than 14 years of age is a fundamental right.

History of Right to Education Act

There were a lot of commissions and provisions of the government to increase the rate of literacy but still, it was a sad state of affairs. After Independence, Article 45 under the newly drafted Constitution provides free and compulsory education for children.[2] This meant that the State shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years within ten years from the commencement of this Constitution. Many people in India were still illiterate and it was not that the literacy levels were not increasing rather the growth rate was low. Thus, a rough vision of the Right to Education draft was first made in the year 2005.[3] It was met with a lot of criticism because of the large number of percentage of reservations made mandatory across all schools for disadvantaged children.[4] However, the Central Advisory Board of Education, the founders of the draft, justified the 25 percent reservation as a specific requirement for a democratic society. Therefore, the bill was approved by the Cabinet on 2nd July 2009. The bill was then passed by the Rajya Sabha on 20th July 2009 and also by the Lok Sabha on 4th August 2009. The bill received presidential approval and became a law. The law came into effect on 1st April 2010 by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.[5]

Changes after implementation of the RTE Act

In India, a census is conducted every 10 years by The Ministry of Home Affairs.[6] After Article 45 of Directive Principles of State Policy was accepted, India's literacy rate was at 18.33% in 1951.[7] Then in 2001, before the Right to Education came into force, India's literacy rate was at 64.83%.[8] Then in 2011, India's literacy rate was at 74.04%[9] which meant that the Right to Education Act was successful as the literacy rate in India improved. India’s literacy rate has increased six-fold since Independence.[10] According to the latest Census conducted in 2011, the literacy rates of the top five states are Kerala, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Tripura and Goa.[11] The significant shift also shows an increase in female literacy over the years. There has been some progress made in improving literacy in India especially after the enactment of the Right to Education Act in rural areas for both men and women. Mizoram, Tripura, Goa, Kerala, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have shown tremendous improvement in the last decade. According to the 2011 Census, these states have a literacy rate of almost 85%. The total number of female school teachers has increased from 29.3% in 1991 to 47.16% from 2013 to 2014.[12] In Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka[13] and Unni Krishnan J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh[14], the Supreme Court of India declared the fundamental right to education.

However, the Right to Education Act had some flaws. The 2014 National Survey on Estimation of School Children estimated that the total number of children between the age group of 6-13 years to be 20.41 Crores, out of which, around 60.41 lakhs are out of school.[15] It was seen that Odisha has the highest percentage of children out of school in India. At the national level, more girls are out of school than boys. Also, there are more children from rural areas out of school than from urban areas. 92% of government schools have not yet fully implemented the RTE Act.[16] An estimate by the State of the Nation 2015 report by IIM Ahmedabad, based on official data obtained from the District Information System for Education, puts the total number of seats as 1.6 crores over the coming 8 years.[17] However, according to the information given in the parliament, only 5-6 lakh seats are being filled on an annual basis.

Quality Education under RTE Act

The Right to Education Act is seen as too focused on input-focused rather than outcome-oriented. Although the bill guarantees the admission of the children, it does not promise the quality of education. However, the Central RTE Rules have been amended on 20th February 2017 to focus on quality education.[18] The learning outcomes in each primary level classroom have been finalized and shared with all states. These would serve as a guideline for States to ensure that all children can achieve adequate levels of education. Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), State Governments supported several interventions to boost teaching standards, together with regular in-service lecturers coaching, induction coaching for recently recruited lecturers, coaching of all unskilled lecturers to obtain skilled qualifications through Open Distance Learning mode, enlisting of further lecturers for refining pupil-teacher ratios, educational support for lecturers through block and cluster resource centres, continuous and comprehensive analysis system to equip the teacher to calculate pupil performance and supply remedial action where needed, and teacher and educational institution grants for development of applicable teaching-learning materials, etc.[19]

The Central Government also supports States on early grade reading, writing & comprehension, and early arithmetic programmes through a sub-programme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which is, Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat (PBBB)[20] in categories I and II. Also, the Government launched Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyan (RAA) programme on 09.07.2015 as a sub-component of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), to inspire and attract youngsters between the age of 6-18 years in Science, arithmetic and Technology through observation, experimentation, model building, etc.[21] through within and outdoor schoolroom activities. The government also provides varied facilities to students of all levels to ensure high enrollment and quality education including scholarships and teacher training.


It has been 12 years since the RTE Act came into force, but there is still a long way to go before it is considered successful. The right to education will only make sense when education at all levels reaches all the sections of the people. A country can develop all the other organs by focusing on the educational part.

[1]'national portal of india,’ available at: https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/constitution-india/amendments/constitution-india-eighty-sixth-amendment-act-2002, accessed 3 March 2021

[2] ‘Indiankanoon’, available at: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1791268/, accessed 7 March 2021

[3]‘Byjus’, available at: https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/right-education-act-rte/, accessed 13 March 2021

[4]‘Jagranjosh’, available at: https://www.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs/right-to-education-rte-act-2009-free-and-compulsory-education-for-all-1353147964-1, accessed 26 February 2021

[5]‘Thelawlearners’, available at: https://www.thelawlearners.com/post/article-21a-the-essence-of-indian-education, accessed 25 February 2021

[6]‘Oxfamindia’, available at: https://www.oxfamindia.org/featuredstories/10-facts-illiteracy-india-you-must-know, accessed 11 March 2021

[7]‘PressInformationBureau’, available at: https://archive.pib.gov.in/archive/releases98/lyr2003/rsep2003/06092003/r060920031.html, accessed 15 February 2021

[8]‘ChildRightsAndYou’, available at: https://www.cry.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/International-Literacy-Day-2018.pdf#:~:text=A%20comparative%20analysis%20of%20the,up%20to%2074.04%25%20in%202011., accessed 12 March 2021

[9]‘Indiafacts’, available at: https://indiafacts.in/literacy-rate-india-2011/#:~:text=Literacy%20rate%20of%20India%20in,65.46%25%20according%20to%20Census%202011., accessed 2 March 2021

[10] ‘Ewablogs’, available at: https://ewablogs.com/literacy-in-india-must-know-facts-about-literacy-in-india/, accessed 20 February 2021

[11] ‘Census2011’, available at: https://www.census2011.co.in/literacy.php, accessed 13 March 2021

[12]‘Egyankosh’, available at: http://egyankosh.ac.in/bitstream/123456789/46159/1/Unit-1.pdf, accessed 28 February 2021

[13] Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, 1992 AIR, SC 1858

[14] Unni Krishnan J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1993 AIR, SC 217

[15]‘MinistryofEducation’, available at: https://www.education.gov.in/en/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/upload_document/National-Survey-Estimation-School-Children-Draft-Report.pdf, accessed 11 March 2021

[16] supra note 10.

[17]‘Thekashmirmonitor’, available at: https://www.thekashmirmonitor.net/marginalised-from-school/, accessed 4 March 2021

[18]‘PressInformationBureau’, available at: https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=178287#:~:text=Focusing%20on%20quality%20education%2C%20the,children%20acquire%20appropriate%20learning%20level., accessed 14 February 2021

[19]‘PressInformationBureau’, available at: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1495783, accessed 10 March 2021

[20]‘Loksabha’, available at: https://loksabha.nic.in/Members/QResult16.aspx?qref=65619, accessed 20 February 2021

[21] ‘Teachersbadi’, available at: https://teachersbadi.in/rashtriya-avishkar-abhiyan-raa-scientific-temper-outlook-among-students/, accessed March 13 2021