The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which was passed by the Indian parliament on 4 August 2009, describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the act came into force on 1 April 2010
The present Act has its history in the drafting of the Indian constitution at the time of Independence but are more specifically to the Constitutional Amendment that included the Article 21A in the Indian constitution making Education a fundamental Right. This amendment, however, specified the need for a legislation to describe the mode of implementation of the same which necessitated the drafting of a separate Education Bill. The rough draft of the bill was composed in year 2005. It received much opposition due to its mandatory provision to provide 25% reservation for disadvantaged children in private schools. The sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education which prepared the draft Bill held this provision as a significant prerequisite for creating a democratic and egalitarian society. Indian Law commission had initially proposed 50% reservation for disadvantaged students in private schools.
The bill was approved by the cabinet on 2 July 2009.Rajya Sabha passed the bill on 20 July 2009 and the Lok Sabha on 4 August 2009. It received Presidential assent and was notified as law on 3 Sept 2009 as The Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act.The law came into effect in the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir from 1 April 2010, the first time in the history of India a law was brought into force by a speech by the Prime Minister. In his speech, Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India stated that, “We are committed to ensuring that all children, irrespective of gender and social category, have access to education. An education that enables them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active citizens of India.”
The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 to 14 and specifies minimum norms in government schools. It requires the reservation of 25% of places in private schools for children from poor families, prohibits unrecognized schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission. The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age. The Right to Education of persons with disabilities until 18 years of age has also been made a fundamental right. The Act provides for the establishment of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and State Commissions for supervising proper implementation of the act, looking after complaints and protection of Child Rights. Other provisions regarding improvement of school infrastructure, teacher-student ratio and faculty are made in the Act.
A committee set up to study the funds requirement and funding estimated that Rs 1.71 trillion (US$38.2 billion) would be required in the next five years to implement the Act, and the government agreed to sharing the funding for implementing the law in the ratio of 65 to 35 between the Central Government and the states, and a ratio of 90 to 10 for the north-eastern states
The Society for Un-aided Private Schools, Rajasthan petitioned the Supreme Court of India claiming the act violates the constitutional right of private managements to run their institutions without governmental interference.The Bill has been also been criticized for excluding children under six years of age.