Is education a fundamental right

This article is written by Shriya Singh. It seeks to discuss in detail the journey our right to education had to embark on to become a fundamental right for us all.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

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                                                                                                            -Nelson Mandela

The fundamental rights are enshrined in the Constitution of India, 1949 consisting of Article 12 to Article 35. It is commonly known as the magna carta of India. Also, these are considered fundamental most importantly because they are in the essential interest for the overall improvement of an individual that is regarding material, intellectual, moral as well as spiritual development and growth. With the passing of time, education, being one of the vital concepts of it, has found its rightful place as a fundamental right.

In the beginning, the right to education was not included as a fundamental right in the apex law of India, that is, the Constitution of India but it was always present in the form of Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 45 of the same law.

The aforementioned directive principle essentially provided for the State to attempt to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they attain the age of 14 years, within the period of 10 years from the initiation of the apex law of the land. This endeavour was not merely restricted to primary education only, it extends to early childhood care to every child. Along with it, it also promotes secondary schooling with regard to both vocational and general education. Most importantly, it puts a duty on the State to put forward not only its intentions and good faith but also policies and resources to maintain the fundamental right of education provided within the Constitution.

Education in India has come a long way, right from the Vedic days to today’s age of electronics. However, the importance of education has remained intact, no matter what. Eventually, India realised that it is education which will help shape the future of the country and youth would be the ones targeted for their empowerment the most, attaining the ability to bring about a positive and remarkable change. Once, the importance of education was recognised by the majority, there was no going back. To this day, the inherent goal behind each change in the provisions, policies, guidelines, schemes or programs towards education is only and only regarding the creation of a quality education system and good opportunities so that it results in the development of the youth. This improvement would in addition help improve the country and shape its future better.

Pre-constitutional era

The major proportion of knowledge which generations get is passed from vedic literacy. As we all know, it was the gurukul system which was the most prominent way of imparting knowledge as both student and teacher used to reside together. Everything from waking up in the morning to going to bed in the night was taught in the most disciplined way possible in the gurukul. However, not everyone was privileged to be a part of such an education system as it was the higher castes, like, the royals or the brahmins who could avail of it. 

It was succeeded by the mughal period which brought Islamic influence on education and then came the British raj period which opened many Christian schools and colleges. 

After the British raj when the colonial system came into existence, the usage of the English language increased and is now the most commonly used, accepted and also expected language in the world. In this period, higher education during the 20th century formed its roots and basis as it transformed the education system. Apart from colleges and universities, government schools also embraced education in India as they provided education to students from any background, be it, urban or rural. Then later, even private institutions came into being that offered quality education with required and fulfilling facilities.

If we look back to where education started in India in terms of it becoming the fundamental right, although, in the vedic period, the leaves were in use on which the knowledge used to be incarnated. However, to make it a uniform practice, it was the Charter Act of 1813 embarked as a landmark in the history of education of British India as it was the first legislative initiation of the right of education in India which reached the eyes of the public. 

  • The first declaration of the British government in the interest of education in India was the resolution of March 1835 passed by Lord William Bentinck which recognised the need for education in India as well as promoted western arts and sciences. It also stated that the medium for the education would be English. 
  • Further, as the British rulers recognised the need for educated employees to run the administration and commerce, they adopted the policy of downward filtration theory, the aim of which was to get people educated to become efficient for the jobs in the administration.
  • Then, the British parliament appointed a special parliamentary committee to review the Charter Act of the East India Company and to suggest a suitable educational policy for India. Wood’s Despatch policy document was prepared and was named after the President of the Board of Control of India, Charles Wood. It was not only aimed at imparting education just for the fitness of a job but to also increase the moral character of the person as well as to be fit as servants for them. The outcome of this policy was the Universities Act of 1857 which was passed establishing three universities, at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. 
  • In this Victorian era of Indian education, the light of interest in education saw a shift from London to Calcutta but the parliamentary interest in the education of India was moved down to a minimum. 
  • Lord Rippn appointed the Indian Education Commission by the resolution of Government of India, in 1882 under the chairmanship of William Hunter. The commission submitted its report within 10 months which was an enlarged as well as revised version of Wood’s policy. In pursuance of the recommendations of the commission, reasons to develop primary education and high school education were essentially considered by the government.

Post-constitutional era

After India attained independence numerous committees and commissions were set up to review the problems in the education system of India and to make recommendations to make them effective and efficient in catering to the changing needs of the people and in the interest of evolving societies. The government built educational institutions to make sure that students were not dependent on abroad education for their higher education. From government schools to IITs and IIMs to all other essential institutions were built for the proper education of children.

Committees and Commission on educational rights 

In 1948, the Radhakrishnan Commission was set up which was considered as a landmark in achieving the objectives of higher education in independent India, It was chaired by Dr. Shri. S. Radhakrishnan. Its most vital recommendation was that education must aim at the promotion of the ability of an individual and to train him or her for the development of both a democratic attitude and oneself. The commission put a lot of emphasis on the importance of post-graduate education in India as well as training and research for the enhancement of knowledge. It also emphasised that the medium of education in India cannot be the straight jacket to just one English language, which is why it recommended that the medium should be replaced with an Indian language. 

A lot of commissions and committees were appointed until 1952 when the secondary education commission, popularly known as the Mudaliar Commission was established under the chairmanship of Dr. A. L. Swami Mudaliar. In its report in the year 1953, it stated that character formation and personality development must be made the main criteria of secondary education which should be for the age group of 11 to 17 years. It also recommended agriculture to be made a compulsory subject in the rural areas and home science to be made one compulsory subject for girls. It gave more importance to the regional languages of India and envisaged it to be the medium of imparting education.

  • Ramamurti Review committee

A Ramamurti Review committee was appointed in 1990 under Acharya Ramamurti to look into the shortcomings of the existing educational system. The report it submitted is considered as the first official document on the right to education in India. It recommended a common schooling system for securing social justice and equity in both the public and private educational sectors of India. It further was of the view that the management of education should not be centralised but decentralised in nature, from centre to state, from state to district and further. It also recommended empowerment for the workforces in the education sector, participatory social order and introduction of compassionate principles and values along with equity and social justice.

Then in 1992, the Janardan Reddy Committee was appointed, which recommended the development of government schools in the system in the light of providing all the required facilities to even the neglected class of people. 

Finally, Tapas Majumdar Committee was set up in 1999 aiming at the insertion of Article 21A in the Indian constitution. The committee recommended that even the children who belong to the poorest sections of society must receive education of the best quality possible. 

National Policy on education

  • National Policy on Education,1968

In 1968, for the very first time, a National Policy (NPE, 1968) was formulated on education in India structuring various fields. Within its ambit, it had free and compulsory education, protection and development of the Indian languages as well as equality in the educational opportunities including the identification of the children that are gifted, sports and games, etc. 

  • National Policy on Education,1986

After 20 years, India made changes catering to the changing needs of society and declared a new education policy in 1986 which was known as the National Policy on Education,1986 targeting the disparities among the education to women, scheduled caste and scheduled Tribes, the handicap and the other minority groups which were being deprived of education under the sham of imparting education to boys.

  • National Education Policy, 2020

As of the current day, the Union Cabinet approved the new National Education Policy, 2020 for schooling in higher education and it replaced the old policy. The main motive behind it is to make India, a ‘global knowledge superpower’, which is why it basically stands on four very important yet so basic pillars, which are, access, equity, quality and accountability. The government’s objective behind this policy is to make the system of education one which is in all aspects of it multidisciplinary as well as more flexible, which would enhance its unique capabilities.

University Grants Commission, 1953

Today, we live with the ideology that the values of equality, social, justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only and only through the provisions of inclusive elementary education for all. Thus, the Government of India is obligated to arrange, allocate and distribute the financial resources which are required by the University Grants Commission for the establishment of a Central University in India in the light of education. Not only that, it is also required to formulate policies for the improvement of equality of higher education in India and to make education more and more accessible in every area of India.

Education as Directive Principle 

The directive principle of State Policy as enshrined in part IV of the Constitution of India lays down guiding principles for the State to consider while formulating policies for the welfare of the citizens and the society. Although these are not enforceable in nature but they are recognised to be of great importance as it’s aim it to ensure economic and social justice whilst promoting welfare of the people by creating a just and equitable society.

Article 41 of the Constitution of India is based on socialist principle, that is, it march towards dismissing the discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, caste, religion or language. It aims for social and economic equality. Article 41 directs the State to secure, in cases such as unemployment, old age, displace disablement and sickness, the right to work, education and public assistance.

It was in 1950 when education was provided in the constitution of India under its Article 45 as one of the directive principles of State policy, approximately 43 years before the supreme court found education to be within the ambit of being a fundamental right Under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Article 45 in the Indian constitution which is based on liberal intellectual principle which means that liberalism and equality rights of the citizens must be without any kind of discrimination. The principle is enshrined over a belief that each and every individual has some of the other rights and liberties inherent with them which required to be protected. In the light of aforementioned principle, Article 45 directs for providing early childhood care as well as education to all the children up till they reach the age of fourten years. 

Article 46 on the other hand is based on the Gandhian principle, which is all about ‘Sarvodaya’, that is, welfare for all, and it purports the promotion of educational and economic interests of the weaker section, that is, the people particularly of schedule castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections of the society. It also directs to safeguard them from all and every form of exploitation and social injustice.

Education as fundamental right

Article 28 and Article 30 of the Indian Constitution offered safeguards to secular education in light of India being a secular nation. Also, equality of opportunity in education institutions was given under Article 29 and Article 30 of the Indian Constitution to the minorities for their cultural and educational right in regards to the established educational institution of their choice based either on religion or language. Article 15 and Article 46 promoted the education of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, also,  Article 29 gave language and educational safeguards to the citizens. Just like Article 15 safeguards the interest of weaker sections, similarly, Article 17 safeguards against untouchability, making them very eligible to live free from any discrimination for anything including education. 

In the case of Mohini Jain vs. the state of Karnataka and others (1992), also known as the capitation case, in the same year, the Supreme Court of India recognised that the right to education is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. It was said that in order to ensure one’s dignity, the right to education is a must. The Honourable Court went ahead and ruled that education is a fundamental right under the Constitution and it cannot be denied to a person by imposing any higher cost. Then in 1993, in the case of Unni Krishnan J.P. vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and others (1993), the honourable Supreme Court enunciated that every child being a citizen of this country is privileged with the right to free education up till his attainment of 14 years of age, however, this right of his is subjected to the limitations of the economic capacity of the State.

Then the 86th Amendment was passed in the year 2002 inserting Article 21A in the Constitution.

Education as Fundamental Duty

Where fundamental rights other rights that are given to the people of the nation by the state and the directive principle of state policy are principles that are provided for the state to look after why formulating policies for the welfare of the society, it is only right to put some duties on the citizens is well in order to facilitate the overall welfare of the nation. Fundamental duties are the responsibilities of the citizens towards their country.

It was the Swaran Singh committee which recommended fundamental duties for our constitution in 1976 as the need arose during the period of 1975 to 1977 during the internal emergency. In its pursuance, 10 fundamental duties were introduced to the Indian Constitution as Article 51A by the 42nd amendment act of 1976 but it was by the 86th Amendment Act of 2002 when the 11th fundamental duty, that is, Article 51A(k) was added to the list which is a fundamental duty on the parents to provide opportunities for education to their child or ward between the age of 6 and 14 years. The provision casted a responsibility as well as a duty for the parents and the guardians towards their children in terms of education.

Right to Education Act

Parliament enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which provides the right to full-time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. As we all know the Right to Education Act of 2009 is a very landmark legislation in India. It primarily aims at providing free and compulsory education to all children without any discrimination, between the ages of 6 and 14 years. It is a landmark also because its emphasis is not only the right to education but also the right to an education free from any discrimination. Its goal is that every child irrespective of his or her caste, religion, gender, ability or disability, and his or her social or financial background must not be left unprivileged when it comes to education.

Recent development

When the covid-19 pandemic had hit the world the schools colleges and universities were closed for obvious reasons and precaution. The whole world was forced to transition into the electronic ways of doing newly everything and education was also one of it. The impact of the pandemic was such that the students had to do online or distant learning for about two academic years. In the light of changing needs, the focus and aim of the reason national policy has taken a shift towards transforming the quality of education and to also improving the outcomes of learning. 

The emergence of e-Learning or online education provided students with new opportunities to an extent that today we see almost every educational institution providing distant courses as well as development programmes for the benefit and bright future of the youth. Also the remote and personalised digital learning is not only limited to one’s own country, with just a few clicks we are also given the opportunity to get such courses as we desire from the universities abroad in the form of online education.

Also the concept of artificial intelligence has provin to be revolutionary for all the fields including education worldwide. And th UNESCO acknowledges that do the implementation and the right full use of artificial intelligence is a challenge in its own yet it has tge required potential to curb in the challenges the education faces in the coming time, such as the gap that is present between improving knowledge sharing and access to quality education, etc.

Not to forget, the use of virtual reality is also a booming concept and is becoming relevant in education sectors well at a high pace.

“The child is a soul with a being, a nature and capacities of its own, who must be helped to find them, to grow into their maturity, into a fullness of physical and vital energy and the utmost breadth, depth and height of its emotional, intellectual and spiritual being; otherwise there cannot be a healthy growth of the nation.”

                                                                -Former Chief Justice of India, P N Bhagwati

In India, the importance of education can never be underestimated by any individual in today’s time. We have time and again recognised its value, it being the factor in improving the lives of people as well as for the advancement of human civilization. 

Right to education under Article 21 of the Constitution

As the Constitution of India is rooted in principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and is the goal of social revolution, its parts III and IV, which are the fundamental rights and directive principles respectively, are the soul of the said revolution’s commitment. Also as India is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, along with various aspects of human rights, India incorporated its stance on education as well. In light of this, under the directive principles of state policy India has enshrined in its Constitution education to be free for at least primary and fundamental stages. The Constitution also uses education as the state’s obligation and Article 41 provides that the state shall as per the limitations of the economic ability, provide efficient safeguards to the right to education among many other things. Article 45 makes a more important obligation on the state to provide all children, education, up to the age of 14 years regardless of the State’s economic conditions. 

Just like rights are complemented by duties, similarly when a right is laid down or an act is formulated in its regard it is complemented by its implementation. Therefore, for the efficiency of this right, its funding, implementation and monitoring become paramount.

The government allocates funds for the implementation and efficacy of the right. The implementation of this right however faces challenges due to lack of infrastructure and difficulty to reach in the remote areas. Also because there had been conservative mindsets, previously it was difficult to bring students to the centres where education was imparted because the parents were living with the ideology that the money would get wasted if they put it on the education of the children. Considering the situations we live in today, be it urban or rural areas, people are more and more open to educating their children. For keeping an eye there have been various bodies, such as the three national bodies, namely- the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the All India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission. Along with it, each State has its department under the Ministry of Education.

Now we see a significant impact as the enrollment rates in schools have increased in India and the most beautiful part about it is that the enrollment of girls has also been hiking. Because of government facilities and schemes, the rate of dropouts from schools has also gone down. Talking specifically about the girl child, the government has introduced a number of schemes providing them with hostels and other financial assistance. In a similar fashion, minority groups and children with disabilities have also been targeted by the government scheme for scholarships and other required aids so that they don’t have to drop out of their schooling. 

The mid-day meal was introduced so that there is no hunger attached to the education of the children as a hurdle. Along with it if the formal quality of infrastructure was also introduced in a building in which education would be imported should be there. In addition to it, toilets, drinking water facilities and a playground were also considered as a requirement.

Principles of right to education

The framework of the right to education is based on 4 principles, given below- 

  1. Availability – For education to become an integral part of every child, its availability is the key. There must be proper resources, infrastructure and enough teachers so that the education is provided effectively. 
  2. Accessibility– It was made in such a way that the schools are accessible to all the students. There must be no discrimination on any possible ground for students to be admitted. 
  3. Acceptability– When it was recognised that education is a need, we got it as a guaranteed fundamental right. Along with it, the State was made obligated to take care of the right that was guaranteed to us. In the very same way, it must be accepted that each and every child deserves to be educated and his ability or disability should never be a material quality to check whether he is eligible to receive education or not. 
  4. Adaptability– As times change we have already seen a transition from leaves to papers, books to soft notes, and the list is endless. So are the education system and the educational institutions must adhere to the required changes and adapt them in order to impart the appropriate education to the children.

Role of judiciary in introducing education as a fundamental right

Our Indian judiciary being as active as it has been since forever, recognised the importance of education in Ajay Goswami vs. Union of India and others (2006), the then Chief Justice of India, Dr. A. K. Lakshmanan stated that education is the most important function of state and local government. He recognised education as the foundation of good citizenship. Further, in a very important case of Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs. Union of India and others (2008), the honourable Court made a very correct remark that India has suffered in the past due to its underinvestment in higher education. Upon this observation, it recommended that careful strengthening and effective repairing of the education system was needed for the nation.

The Constitution of India has been designed such that it has in its basic structure itself the concept of social justice, thereby, making education an integral part of it.

Both the government as well as the judiciary have time and again recognised that education is the stepping stone to the growth and evolution of not only an individual but also of the country as a  whole. 

It was in the landmark judgement of Mohini Jain vs. the state of Karnataka, that the right to education was given a new dimension and was explicitly included as a fundamental right in Article 21, Part III of the Indian Constitution. The court went ahead and held that the very essence of the right to life is the right to education and directly flows from Article 21. It also talked about how dignity can only be assured when it is coupled with the significance of education. In the same, as the capitation of fees in education was challenged, the court has held that education is not a product of sale and that there can’t be different fees charged from different people. And that the students as a right must be given admission to the institution of education regardless of whether it is state-owned or recognised in pursuance of their right to education which is guaranteed under the Constitution of India, went ahead and stated that charging of capitation fee in respect of the admission into the institution of education will amount to breaching citizens’ right to education.

Then in another landmark judgement of Unni Krishnan J.P. vs state of Andhra Pradesh, the five judges bench observed that the right to education of a citizen includes the right to call up the State for the facilities of education to them. As rights and duties both go hand and hand, in the same road was the observation of the honourable Court in this case.

Right to education under Article 21A of the Constitution

Following the above-mentioned case, the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth) Amendment Act, 2002 inserted a new Article 21A in the Constitution of India, which dedicated fundamental rights to education. Previously the said right came under the scope of the important Article 21 which guaranteed the right to life and personal liberty but by the said Amendment Act, the right to education was given a separate identity as a whole. 

In Avinash Mehrotra vs Union of India(2009), the honourable Court observed that the new Article which is Article 21A has been inserted so that each and every child can receive education free from any fear of security and safety.

Later in the year 2002, with the 86th amendment to the constitution, Article 21A was added to make sure that the State provides free and compulsory education to all children the range of whose ages are 6 to 14 years. As a result, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 was also brought into force.

The Apex Court of India further observed that the right to education is inclusive of a citizen’s right to petition that the state must provide educational facilities for the growth of the State as per its economic capabilities at its best.

The right to education became a significant and holy right for the poor and underprivileged as it also aimed at reserving 25% of seats for disadvantaged sections of the society where disadvantaged groups include: SCs and STs, socially backward class and differently abled in each and every private school so that financial difficulty does not become a problem for the students to get educated. Along with it it also ensured quality education by stating in the provision itself about the requirement of optimum teachers student ratio and other facilities including the minimum requirement of infrastructure as well.

The right in it inherently provided for no tolerance of discrimination based on gender, caste, creed, religion or financial status. It definitely provided for reservations but that was in accordance with the classification based on intelligible differentia that is in itself enshrined in the Constitution of India.

With the growth in the education system in India, the government time and again introduced a wide range of programs in order to achieve the goal through various schemes and programs.

Schemes for promoting elementary education

For elementary education, the government brought about various schemes, some of which are stated under

  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan aim at disseminating elementary education by enhancing it and curbing gender as well as social gaps in education. 
  • Mid Day Meal Program is an amazing initiative towards the health of all body, mind and education of a child by providing them lunch at government schools. Its motto is to protect students from classroom hunger. 
  • Mahila Samakhya Yojna aims at education and empowerment of women in rural areas, especially for women who are deprived socially and economically.

Schemes for promoting secondary education

For the next and the most significant stage of the education system, namely, secondary education, government initiatives are uncountable. The aim has been towards making secondary education available in more and more good quality, accessible as well as affordable for children lying in the age group of 14 years to 18 years. Some schemes in this regard are given below – 

  • Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan is a mission at the national stage for the development of secondary education throughout India. It came into existence in 2009 for the efficient growth of public schools for the distribution of knowledge to children.
  • A National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education was initiated in the year 2008 with the vision of bringing girl children on the same footing as any other child privileged enough to get an education in the first instance. It targeted the age group of 14 to 18 years and worked on the promotion of enrollment of girls in secondary education.
  • Inclusive Education for the Disabled at the Secondary Stage was launched in the year 2009. It aimed at including the students with disabilities with all the other students. Further, it provided for an inclusive and enabling environment for them in their secondary schooling.
  • Scheme of Vocational Education was introduced seeking its combination with the normal academic education so that students are not only given academic knowledge but are also enriched with the skilled craft.
  • The National Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme came in 2008 by the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, in order to award the students of economically weaker sections scholarships on grounds of their merit so that they are not forced to drop out of the class because of financial weakness. It aimed at encouraging the students not to discontinue their studies at the secondary stage of education.
  • A scheme for the construction and running of Girls’ Hostels for students of secondary and higher secondary schools, in 2012 was brought about to retain female students in their education by providing them with hostels. When distance schooling and financial weakness coupled with other societal horrors creep in, even if a girl child wants to study, their parents stop them. This scheme was introduced as a friend for such girls.
  • Scholarship schemes for minority students provide such students with scholarships to bring down their dropout rates in education and to not let finance become a hurdle in their way of education.

Schemes for promoting higher education

Higher education has more to offer than just a degree. It is the state which not only provides personal development but also cultural and scientific development along with technological and economic development along with the hint of social changes. It is a key stage for the personal growth and development of an individual. For the third and final stage, the government launched a number of programs, some of which are named below-

In the year 2009, the Indian Parliament passed the Right to Education Act 2009 which is commonly referred to as the RTE Act 2009. It establishes basic standards for elementary schools, outlaws the operation of unrecognised institutions, and opposes admissions fees and children interviews. Through regular surveys, the Act monitors every neighbourhood and identifies children who ought to have the opportunity for admission to an educational institution but do not.

The Right to Education Act establishes guidelines and requirements for educational institutions, boys’ and girls’ washrooms, drinking water facilities, and the number of school days and working hours for teachers, among other things. The aforementioned set of requirements must be followed by each and every elementary school in India (Primary and Secondary Schools) in order to uphold the minimal standard required under the Right to Education Act.

It ensures that the specified pupil-teacher ratio remains intact in every school without any urban-rural discrepancy at all, allowing for the sensible employment of teachers. Additionally, it requires the recruitment of teachers who have the necessary academic and professional qualifications. The Act also requires that a child who is not enrolled in school be admitted to a class for their age and receive specialised instruction to help them catch up to age-appropriate learning levels. Furthermore, it outlaws all forms of beatings and psychological abuse, inequality based on gender, caste, class, and religion, evaluation procedures for child enrollment in capitation programmes, private tutoring facilities, and operation of unrecognised schools.

Essential elements of Right to Education Act, 2009

The features of the Act are given as under-

  • All children between the ages of 6 and 14 are entitled to free and mandatory schooling.
  • Not a single child must be held back, expelled, or made to take a board test until the elementary school concludes.
  • Proof of age required for entry: The age of a child will be decided for admission to primary school based on the birth certificate issued in compliance with the provisions of the Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1856, or based on any other prescribed document.
  • Upon completing elementary school, a child will receive a certificate.
  • Every three years, if the need arises, the infrastructure of the school needs to be fixed; otherwise, recognition will be revoked.
  • A child above the age of six who has never attended school or who was unable to finish elementary school must be placed in a class that is appropriate for his or her age. However, if a child is enrolled immediately into the class that corresponds to his or her age, that child shall have the right to receive special instruction within the time frames that may be prescribed in order to be on par with others. Additionally, a youngster who is accepted into elementary school will be eligible for free education.

Key provisions of Right to Education Act, 2009

Significant provisions of the Act are-

  • The right to free and compulsory education has been embarked upon by this act. It supports it by providing the provisions of no school fees or capitation fees or charges to be paid by a child to get his elementary education. It further prevents any screening from being done on the child or his parents for the procedure of admission to a school. It also provides the child with the transfer facility from one school to a government or government aided School if the school is not providing the right facility for the completion of elementary education for that child. To support free education, each child is also entitled to free textbooks, uniforms as well and the materials needfully complementary to it.
  • The Act defines the term ‘appropriate government’ by including in its Central Government for the schools that are owned and controlled by the central government or the union territory region without legislature and the state and union territory government with the legislature for the schools established in their territory. 

The appropriate government or the local authority has to provide in the rural area a school within 1 km walking distance for children in classes 1st to 5th and for classes 6th to eighth within 3 km. Where the areas are densely populated depending upon the number of children between the ages of 6 to 12 more than one school may be necessary and for remote areas where the distance is more than the prescribed kilometres the facility should be provided for free transportation or residence as required. The act moves ahead and lays down a guideline for private schools that they are required to enrol 25% of students from the weaker and disadvantaged sections of the society and provide them with free education for which they would be eligible to claim reimbursement from the government regarding the expenditure that they incurred, however, the expenditure could not exceed the amount a government school would charge for the same. An obligation on the government is also made to provide funds for the execution of the objectives of the Act.

  • It requires each Government and government-aided school to compulsorily set up a school management committee, 75% of whose members have to be from among parents and guardians of the students of the school. Of the remaining 25% members, one-third will be among the elected representatives of the local authority, one-third from among the teachers of the school and the remaining one-third from among local children of the school. A blanket restriction on the whole of it is that 50% of the committee members should be women. 

This committee would be required to meet once a month and the details of the meeting would be made available to the public domain. It is the responsibility of the committee to effectively communicates to the population in the neighbourhood of the school regarding the right of the child as defined and the act and to protect the child’s right while he is in the school as well.

  • It defines the duties of teachers by stating that they have to come to the schools dutifully. They must make sure that the completion of the curriculum is done within the specified period of time. They must recommend special training as per the ability of each child and must conduct a parent-teacher meeting to praise parents on the attendance and progress of each child.
  • It lays down the duties for schools as well in the form of specifying norms. It states that there should be one teacher for every thirty students for classes 1st to 5th and one teacher for every thirty-five students for classes 6th to 8th. It asks for a full-time head teacher for a school with more than a hundred students.

Apart from that each School must have a building suitable for all kinds of weather with one classroom for every teacher, an office or head teacher room, a separate toilet for boys and girls and a hygienic drinking water facility along with a kitchen to prepare mid-day meals a playground, a library, all the necessary teaching and learning equipments as well as sports equipment.

In the age of digitalisation and continuous development of technology, it would be right to say that internet significantly enhances the quality of education as it has become one of the most important resources available for grasping knowledge. The internet can provide a student with a variety of educational materials that can compliment his or her traditional form of attaining knowledge. The e-material or the resources available on the internet can be seen as a supplements to the libraries which provide us with books to cater our curiosity and to help us understand. A case in which the right to internet was recognised as a very important right was the case of Faheem Shirin.R.K. vs. state of Kerala (2019). Justice P V Asha observed that right to the internet is a part of right to education as well as right to privacy.

The e-learning became more and more popular, to the extent of being used as a substitute, during the covid-19 pandemic time when the countries were shut and the reach to the traditional resources of education had become very difficult. Then initiatives were taken to introduce e-learning in order to facilitate the education of the young generation.

Other than the facility to read electronic news, books etc. because of the internet, in today’s time, one can even enrol oneself on courses while we sit at  our home or our hostels for that matter, such as SWAYAM which is recognised by the universities grant commission. And such courses can even be undergone when a student is enrolled on regular classroom studies, which makes Internet more and more important for education.

And it is not limited to only one country, because of the internet today we have access to the educational materials and courses which are being provided by various universities and colleges from all across the world. 

More and more we explore the world and the technology, and more and more we will find that the internet is no more a luxury in one’s life. Though it definitely has the potential of being misused as well but the wonders it is capable of doing in our lives once we use it rightly and in a fair manner cannot be neglected and sidelined, thus, making it a very important right in terms of education, or rather, quality education in the current times.

Importance of internet for education in India

In the present digital age, the advantages of the Internet for education cannot be emphasised. It has completely changed how people engage with educational resources, acquire new skills and access information. 

  • Students and teachers benefit from having access to a wealth of knowledge resources worldwide, thanks to the internet. In addition to typical classroom resources, this includes online libraries, research papers, textbooks, articles, and multimedia content. 
  • Students can communicate with their peers and professors all across the world through the Internet. By exposing young people to many different points of view, cultures, and ideas, this global perspective can enhance their educational experiences.
  • People can now access impeccable educational courses and programs online with the help of the internet. E-learning systems include a variety of disciplines, enabling students to achieve formal degrees while relaxing in the comfort of their own homes.The scheduling and location possibilities available with online education are flexible. Students can learn at their own pace, which is especially advantageous for those adults who are working or have other commitments.
  • Online resources such as plans for lessons, tools for learning, and teaching resources are available for teachers to use to enhance their classroom teaching methods. Resources on the Internet offer opportunities for educational engagement and professional growth as well.Through a variety of multimedia, exercises, virtual labs, and educational applications, the internet makes it possible to have interactive and interesting learning experiences. These resources improve the effectiveness and enjoyment of learning.
  • Using academic search engines and online resources, students can conduct research more effectively. Additionally, they have access to tools for collaboration and resources that are cloud-based as well as collaborate on group projects with peers. Data analytics as well as artificial intelligence are frequently used by internet-based educational platforms to personalise learning for each student, allowing them to advance at their own speed and concentrate on areas that require improvement.
  • The cost of online education is usually lower than that of traditional ways of learning. This may provide access to education for a wider spectrum of individuals, especially those living in underdeveloped economies.
  • The internet promotes ongoing personal and professional growth by offering possibilities for people to learn new skills and knowledge throughout their lives. Online learning has improved accessibility for those with disabilities. More people can participate in learning by means of technology that helps and online resources that can meet a variety of needs.
  • In order to prepare students for the needs of the modern workforce, online education frequently combines examples from the real world and practical skills that are immediately applicable to vocations and daily life. Because of its accessibility, adaptability, and capacity to link students with a plethora of knowledge and resources, the Internet has emerged as a crucial instrument in the field of education. As technology develops and becomes even more integrated into the learning process, its role in education will probably continue to expand.

Although there is an increasing recognition that having access to the Internet is essential for education, many areas still face difficulties connected to the digital divide, such as issues with affordability, infrastructure, and digital literacy. 

Government initiatives for education in India

Today even our government has recognised the importance of internet for education and is very active in promoting e-learning as a part of its initiatives. It has come up with a lot of schemes where it provides students with smartphones and laptops so that it facilitates the learnings of the concerned boys and girls.

There are a lot of initiatives that are ongoing and have been introduced in order to promote the internet education for students. 

The PM eVidya scheme is one such initiative that was introduced in the year 2020. It was brought with the goal to promote fair multimod available at education by organising all the initiative relating to digital, online or broadcast education. 

Digital infrastructure for knowledge sharing, famously referred to as, DISKHA, is one of the most important initiative for e-Learning taken by the Ministry of Human Resources Development. Its motto for the school education in India is ‘one nation, one digital platform’. It is a national flag for that is available for the schools in all the states, for classes 1 to 12. It it provides for the learning of teachers in order to rise of the quality of education for the youth of the nation. It gives teacher training courses as well as teaching resources and assessments for teachers. 

Another important initiative is E- textbooks that is provided with the help of the e-pathshala mobile app and the web portal which can be accessible by all students, teachers as well as parents.

TMA Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka (2002)

A very landmark Supreme court case, TMA Pai foundation vs. State of Karnataka (2002), was concerned with the extent of control the government must have over private institution or an institution which is not aided by the government in India. The case had a remarkable impact over education in India after it got decided in 2002. 

Facts of the case

In the state of Karnataka, several educational institutions were run by the TMA Pai foundation which even included medical colleges as well as engineering colleges. All these education institutions were not aided from any government financially and were self financed institutions. 

The state of Karnataka imposed regulations on the admission,fees as well as management of such private professional colleges which were self financed, by issuing government order. By virtue of Article 19(1)(g) and Article 30(1) of the Indian Constitution, the TMA Pai foundation challenged it in the court and called it voyative of their autonomy along with their guaranteed fundamental rights provided in the above mentioned Articles.

Issues raised

When the case came up in the court the primary issue that it dealt with was if the government word to impose regulations on the educational institutions which were not aided by them with special regards to admission and fees. Another important issue was to decide the extent of autonomy these self financed private educational institutions would have in matter of administration and management. 

Judgement of the court

The honorable Apex Court of India address these issues and late down important principles regarding the autonomy of these unaided private educational institutions. The honorable Court observed that these educational institutions have the autonomy to both established as well as administrator their self aided education institutions under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 30(1) of the Indian Constitution with simply means that they have the right to determine the fees they want to charge, their management processes and their admission criterias. Stating that, the court further held that the admissions must be not based on the whims of the management and laid down the requirement of merit based admissions.

The court went ahead and recognised the right of the government to impose reasonable regulations in order to ensure that these private institutions maintain their standard of education and do not indulge in any malpractice. The intent behind these regulations would be to ensure fairness and transparency but not to interfere with the essential autonomy of these self financed institutions.

The judgement give a clear notion that there is a freedom to establish and administer the self financed private educational institutions but the government can impose reasonable regulations to ensure that the quality of the education does not get compromised and the institution continues to have good practice in its management.

Islamic Academy of Education vs. State of Karnataka (2003)

In India, where every right is recognised and celebrated, there, rights of minorities are tackled with even more carefully and the case of Islamic academy of education vs state of Karnataka (2003) is one such significant example.

In this yet another landmark case, the the minority education institutions and their rights were dealt with. 

Facts of the case

The Islamic academy of education being an educational institution ran several schools and colleges including medical College in the state of Karnataka and it claimed to be a minority educational institution which primarily catered to the Muslim community and, thus, it sought protection of its autonomy and rights as a minority institution. By a government order, the state of Karnataka imposed certain regulations on the admission and selection of students for the medical college that was run by the Islamic academy of education. This regulation got challenged by the Islamic academy of education contending that it was the infringement upon their rights for being a minority institution.

Issues raised

The primary issue this case had was better the government regulations over admission and student selection of the medical college which was run by the Islamic academy of education was violating the institutions rights as a minority educational institution under Article 30(1) of the Indian Constitution or not. 

Judgement of the court

The honorable Supreme Court laid down important principles regarding the rights of minority educational institutions and upheld the claim of the Islamic academy of education recognising the institutions right to administer the institution and establish its own admission procedure under the Article 30(1) of the constitution of India. The court state away stated that the Islamic academy of education had the substantial autonomy in determining the admission criteria for institutions run by it. 

The Court laid emphasis that unless the government could demonstrate that the regulations it imposes are essential for maintaining the standards of education and that they do not unduly interfere with the institutions autonomy, the state government cannot impose its admission regulations on minority institutions. However, the court further stated that the right of the minority educational institution to admit student of their choice from their community was not absolute and the admission process mandatorily required fairness, transparency and and it should not amount to any discrimination against the other candidates who are eligible.

And it also laid down that the government could impose regulations with regards to the admissions in minority education institution but they should be limited to ensuring the admission process was fair, non exploitive and that it did not violate the principles in enshrined under the constitution of India.

PA Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra (2005)

The case of P.A. Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra (2005) is a significant Supreme Court decision in India that deals with the issue of the government’s role in regulating admissions to private unaided educational institutions. The case was decided in 2005 and has had a profound impact on the admission process for professional courses in India. 

Facts of the case

The case revolves around the regulation of admissions to private unaided professional colleges, including medical and dental colleges, in the state of Maharashtra. The government of Maharashtra had implemented a common entrance test for admission to these colleges. A certain percentage of seats was reserved for students from the state’s government schools, and another percentage was reserved for students from government-aided schools. The rest of the seats were available for open merit and management quota. Private unaided colleges, represented by P.A. Inamdar, challenged the government’s regulations, particularly the imposition of common entrance test and seat reservations, as they believed it violated their autonomy and their right to administer their institutions as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 30(1) of the Indian Constitution.

Issues raised

The main issue in this case was whether the government’s regulation of admissions, including the imposition of a common entrance test and seat reservations, in private unaided professional colleges was constitutionally valid.

Judgement of the court

The Supreme Court, in its judgment, addressed the central issue and laid down important principles regarding the regulation of admissions to private unaided educational institutions:

The court recognized the autonomy of private unaided educational institutions and upheld their right to establish and administer their institutions under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 30(1) of the Constitution. The court held that while the government can regulate admissions to these institutions to ensure fairness, transparency, and the prevention of malpractice, such regulations should not violate the fundamental rights of these institutions to administer their institutions.

The court ruled that the imposition of a common entrance test by the government was valid as long as it did not infringe upon the right of private unaided institutions to admit students of their choice.

The court also clarified that reservations for students from government schools and government-aided schools were constitutionally permissible, but the percentage of such reservations should be reasonable and not excessive.

The honourable court emphasized that merit-based admissions should be the norm, and management quota seats should not be subject to undue government interference.

The P.A. Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra case reaffirmed the autonomy of private unaided educational institutions in India and upheld their right to establish and administer their institutions. However, it also recognized the government’s role in regulating admissions to ensure fairness and transparency. This case has been pivotal in shaping the legal framework for admissions to private professional colleges in India.

Seeing the current scenarios and changing needs of both society and technology, any change that would come to the education system would definitely be a turning point.

The National Education Policy of 2023 is a watershed movement in the education system of India as the Ministry of Education has tried to transition from the old norms that were followed from time immemorial. 

The 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 structure is intended to become the educational framework to transform the traditional system of 10 + 2 structure that exists. It aims at bringing the foundation stage, preparing stage, middle school stage, secondary stage, etc. into the structure. 

By bringing the above-mentioned structural change in the existing education system, the new education policy keenly introduces the system where students would spend 5 years for the foundation stage, their three years would be invested in the preparatory stage, the middle stage would require 3 years and the remaining 4 years would be dedicated to their secondary stage. It is a major transformational shift in the history of the education system in India. 

The foundation stage would be for students from 3 years to 8 years of age and its basic focus will be on activity-based learning and the child’s development in language skills.

For age groups ranging from 8 to 11 years, the preparatory stage would offer classroom interaction along with physical education, reading, writing, speaking, art etc.

The middle stage targets the age group of 11 to 14 years, focusing on the critical learning of the children. Furthermore, it offers experiential learning in science, mathematics, social science, humanity, arts, etc.

The last stage, that is, the secondary stage offers multidisciplinary education along with the development of critical thinking, flexibility and choice of subjects among children from 14 years to 18 years of age.

The primary purpose of this new policy is to bring the standards of education in India to a global level which would bring our country to emerge as a leader in the sector of knowledge as it also eyes at universalisation of the education policy. New policies have been designed such that it would look to determine and nurture the potential of each child, improve the quality of education and also introduce children to their own culture which is the Indian culture. It further aims at the usage of technology in the required and efficient manner. One landmark change that the policy in tense to bring about is that the won’t be limited streams such as science, commerce and arts, recognising the need of the hour, we would be introduced to the mixing of subjects that were only designed for a particular stream with the subjects that are designed for a different particular stream. Special emphasis would be made on children’s talent vis-a-vis their education.

The right to education is an essential human right that has been acknowledged and advocated by numerous international agreements and agencies. The world’s position on the right to education is based on a number of international treaties, declarations, and agreements which underline the value of education as a fundamental human right and an important variable in the growth of the economy and advancement of society. These agreements provide a framework for countries to work towards realising the goals of universal access to high-quality education, with a focus on primary schooling, and equality of women and men.

Listed below are some of the notable aspects of the international perspective on the right to education:

It was the French and the American revolution that established education in itself as a public function before which in the age of the 18th and 19th centuries, the responsibility of education was upon the shoulders of the parents, with no sight of education being important, for many.

By the 19th century, Sir Karl Marx while stating his views on socialism referred to education as one of the individual’s welfare rights when he stated that the State being a beneficial institution has a primary task which is to ensure not only the community’s economic but also its social well being through positive government interventions and regulations.

Further in 1917 after the Russian Revolution, socialist ideas became acceptable and Article 121 of the Soviet Constitution of 1936 was the first provision that expressly recognised a right to education and also obligated States to provide the same.

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

By Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, moral grounds were established for the educational right as it expressly states that every person has the right to education and it must be free at least in the primary and secondary level. Furthermore, it states that elementary schooling must be mandated and technical as well as professional education must be widely available and without any discrimination higher education must be open for everybody on a merit basis.

  • United Nations Economic and Social Council, 1945

The preliminary report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education by the United Nations Economic and Social Council recognised that international human rights law envisages that each child must have a right to free and compulsory primary education without any discrimination.

  • United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 1945

One of the goals of UNESCO is to provide educational opportunities to all people and to promote among them, all equal opportunities and treatment and terms of education. As almost all the States are members of UNESCO, it is viable to say that they resonate with the above-mentioned goal as well.

Article 1(a) of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation recommendation concerning the education for international understanding cooperation and peace and education relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms of 1974 puts forward a very broad meaning of the term ‘education’. It states that the entire process of education is a process of social life which lets individuals as well as groups of social beings learn to develop within themselves consciously, their attitude, their attributes, their knowledge, and also their whole capacities for the benefit of both national and international community. 

  • European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,1950

Article 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,1950 does not express the right to education but has been widely interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights to the extent that it includes the right to education in it.

  • Declaration of the Rights of Child, 1959

Then after the First World War concluded, the League of Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Child, which is also widely and most famously known as the Geneva Declaration. However, the right to education was not explicitly recognised by it but three of its principles enshrined the same which talked about how a child must be provided with the necessary resources for his development, how children who are backward must be assisted and how a child must be placed in such a position that he earns a living. In light of the aforementioned direction, this declaration is seen as the first step towards the development of education for a child.

Further, in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education(1954), the United States Supreme Court recognised the vitality of education by recognising its importance even for the performance of public responsibilities as well as the exercise of the rights that are given to these citizens. The honourable Court went ahead and stated that education is the primary means of transmitting societal values to future generations. 

  • International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights, 1976

The International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights under Article 13 established a link between dignity and education by purporting that education directs towards the full development of human personality and a sense of its dignity, recognising education as a requirement for the dignified existence of an individual.

  • Convention against Discrimination in Education of 1960

The Convention against Discrimination in Education of 1960, envisages the fundamental concept of equitable education opportunities as an International norm, without any discrimination.

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1991

Education is a very basic yet very important right in the life of any individual irrespective of his gender, caste, creed, race, economic background, religion, etc. The right finds its place in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is one of the most widely ratified human rights treaties in history as it was ratified by all the states except for the United States. Every nation is of the belief that one thing that can break poverty is education as it allows a child to learn not only life skills but also to attain the knowledge which is needed in the challenges that life throws upon them.

“Be educated, be agitated, be organized, be confident, never give up, these are the five principles of our life”. 

                                                                            -Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Education in itself is a very powerful term, even when we speak of it. With no education, a person can only have a mind which would feel hollow but with education, the hollow can be fulfilled. And thankfully it has been recognised by not only national but international entities in the form of rules, norms, guidelines and various other forms. 

The right to education being a fundamental right is essential for the growth and development of the individual as well as the society, for a better present and an even better future. 

Such is the reason why my country has been so actively involved in imparting education to the children. Today, there are numerous schools, colleges and universities, be they government-owned or private institutions, all have one aim which is quality education free from any kind of discrimination to shape the future of the child who in return would become capable of shaping the future of the country.

Is education a right or a privilege?

It is often advocated that education is a right and not a privilege. Education is considered as a human right and seen as a very powerful weapon as it is believed that education guides people’s mental capacity above anything. UNICEF is of the view that the trajectory of our education system is the trajectory of a future and the low levels of learning today mean less opportunity tomorrow.

Why is free and compulsory education so important?

In India, there is a good chunk of the population that is very much away from reading and writing even to the extent that they can’t make their own signatures for their own documents and as a substitution thumb impression is used for them. To curb this, education if free and compulsory won’t land as a burden on any person who even thinks for a fraction of a second of getting an education. It might result in that person taking a step to take admission and improve his literacy.

What is the significance of education policy?

Just like procedural law is important for substantive law, education policy is important for the right to education that is guaranteed. It works as a policy, rather, than setting up a standard that is to be followed for providing education. Its intention is not only to educate a child but to provide that child with the up to date education and in the most efficient manner possible.

Is Beti Bachao Beti Padhao abhiyan of any consonance with the right to education?

Our prime minister, Narendra Modi launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative in October 2014. Its objective is to spread awareness among girl children and to improve the welfare of women on a large scale. It has been recognised that education empowers women which is why it is being incorporated as a very important aspect of this scheme.

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