Redefining Right to Education in India

The fundamental purpose of Education is the same at all times and in all places. It is to transfigure the human personality into a pattern of perfection through a synthetic process of the development of the body, the enrichment of the mind, the sublimation of the motions and the illumination of the spirit. Education is a preparation for a living and for life, when and hereafter.” Supreme Court in Unnikrishnan’s case.

The role of government as an institution for the furtherance of the common goals of a society had emanated long before, at a time when the concept of ‘state’ had sprouted up. In meeting its highly deliberated goals, the Welfare State devised policies attune to the changing needs demanded by the society like nationalization. This was envisaged with the ultimate aim of making a knowledgeable society free from the precincts of inequality, untouchability, caste etc. There is no doubt that the control of education in the hands of the government has been fruitful in reaching out education to the majority breaking the shackles of knowledge accumulation confined to the elites of the society and had achieved small but significant strides in increasing the knowledgeable levels of the population. But as times have changed and the common goals existed earlier has either become archaic or has outlived its purpose; needs to be redeemed into new goals which points to limiting the role of the government. This is where the government needs to re- look its functions as a Regulator. The Education Sector, in which the state has been monopolizing its function of imparting it, has become defunct owing to its laxity in bringing changes to the rapidly changing educational atmosphere created by the ever growing advancements in science and technology. Neither has it been able to increase the quantity nor the quality in its true sense. Though the various Institutions and Committees evolved by the government has pondered over the question of improving the educational standards and had devised plans and policies to tackle it, nothing has changed over the years in this area. This may be attributed to umpteen number of reasons such as lack of funds, red-tapism, lack of broad vision, delays in implementing many functions etc. This is the very reason why the Educational Reforms should be analyzed by re-looking the role of Government in Public Policy Making.

With the enactment of Right to Education Act (RTE), the Government has indeed taken a step forward. The RTE has made given voice to the concerns of the educational needs of 6-14 year old children. Interestingly, when the Government was going aggressive with its Universalization of education (Sarva Siksha Abhyan), by limiting the same to children with the defined limits stultifies and undermines the existence of the movement. Further the said RTE is only a statutory right and departs from the fundamental right as was inserted under Article 21 A in the Indian Constitution. The following concerns are however been eschewed by the Central and also the state governments by fighting itself on the issue of allocation. Going by the statistics, the Centre cannot accommodate the issues raised by various states for the simple reason that they do not have the financial viability for the same. Almost Rs 21,000 Crores is the additional burden created on the Centre once the Act goes into the execution stage. The Centre levies an Educational Cess of 2 percent and is pumped funds from World Bank and other International institutions. However the fact that they are highly indebted to them owing to the high interest rates and cannot repay it for a while shows the conundrum in which the state has been into.

This envisages the need to open up the sector for private parties who have the financial resources at stake. The Tatasand Reliance would be interested as a matter of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to invest in the future generation. While such corporates are proposing Finishing Schools to absorb them, the said pattern is not possible at the lower level. Unfortunately, the present laws of the country do not enable an individual to start a school!! Only an institution with a minimum capital ( approx Twenty lakhs)  can ever think of starting a school and has to follow obsolete laws like getting permission from other schools (within the vicinity of 5km), which departs from the reality. Unless the Government creates a unique model of Public Private Partnership (PPP) taking the larger public interest involved and the major issue of literacy and unemployment at stake, can India ever achieve the comforts of the biggest global economy taking the lead.

Madhu S

[Image courtesy:]