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Right to Education Bill introduced in RS
Almost six years after Parliament passed the 86th Constitutional Amendment, the Centre on Monday introduced the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill in the Rajya Sabha. The 86th Amendment made free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 and 14 years, a fundamental right.The proposed legislation provides a blueprint for systemic reforms in the elementary education. It is aimed to provide quality education. It promises to counter the growing lobby for the privatisation of school education. The legislation is a step towards the common school system, first proposed by the Kothari Commission.However, the passage of the Bill is not expected to be easy. The biggest hurdle will come from the growing and influential private players in education sector and their votaries among the country’s political leadership.The statement of object and reasons clearly explains the aim of the legislation: “The proposed legislation is anchored in the
belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all. The provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility if schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds.”

The private school lobby has consistently called for the opening up of the education sector, allowing “for profit” rganisation to play a role on the grounds that government schools can’t provide quality education. The Bill makes it andatory for private unaided schools to set aside 25% of their annual intake at the entry level (standard I) for disadvantaged hildren in the school’s neighbourhood. This effort is in keeping with Article 15(5), which allows the state to make special provisions for advancement for disadvantaged groups. In keeping with Article 29 and Article 30, minority institutions will be exempt from this exercise The Bill also bars capitation fees,making it a punishable offence with fines “up to ten times of the capitation fee charged”. It also makes screening of students a punishable offence, fees would be as high as Rs 25,000 for the first contravention, and Rs 50,000 for subsequent contravention. none of this is expected to sit well with the private school lobby.

Despite the unanimous support for the move to make the right to education a fundamental right, the enabling RTE legislation hasn’t had an easy passage. Work on the RTE was started by the NDA government soon after Parliament passed the constitutional amendment in December 2002.
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