Nearly eight years after the Constitution was amended to make education a fundamental right, the government on Thursday implemented a historic law to provide free and compulsory education to all children in age group of 6-14 years.
The 86th Constitutional amendment making education a fundamental right was passed by Parliament in 2002. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, a law to enable the implementation of the fundamental right, was passed by Parliament last year. Both the Constitutional amendment and the new law came into force from Thursday.
The new law makes it obligatory on part of the state governments and local bodies to ensure that every child gets education in a school in the neighbourhood.
Its implementation will directly benefit close to one crore children who do not go to schools at present. These children, who have either dropped out from schools or have never been to any educational institution, will be enrolled in schools.
The Right To Education is being touted by the UPA government as another major achievement after Right To Information Act and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
At present, there are nearly 22 crore children in the relevant age group. However, 4.6 per cent of these children (nearly 92 lakh) are out of school, a ministry official said.
The school management committee or the local authority will identify the drop-outs or out of school children above six years of age and admit them in classes appropriate to their age after giving special training.
The Act makes it a right of every child to get education. The Act makes it obligatory for the appropriate governments to ensure that every child gets free elementary education.
The Act mandates that even private educational institutions have to reserve 25 per cent seats for children from weaker sections.
Certain schools have already challenged the law in the Supreme Court as being "unconstitutional" and violating fundamental rights of unaided private educational institutions. However, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said that legal process would not affect the implementation of law.
The Finance Commission has provided Rs. 25,000 crore to the states for implementation of the Act.
As per the government's estimate, there will be a requirement of Rs. 1.71 lakh crore in the next five years for implementation of the Act. Sibal said that the government has arranged the required funds for implementing the law.