Analysis of Right to Education Act, 2009


The Right to Education Act (RTE), which came into effect on April 1, 2010, is a landmark legislation in India. It upholds Article 21A of the Constitution, which recognizes the right to free and compulsory education as a fundamental right for children aged 6 to 14 years. The Act envisions providing quality education to all, especially the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of society. In this research paper, we assess the status of the implementation of this right by examining various dimensions of RTE’s impact.

Historical Background:

1)      Pre-RTE Era: 

At the time of the formation of the Constitution, several members tried to make primary education mandatory on the state, but taking certain things into consideration they settled it by making it a Directive Principle of State Policy(DPSP) under Article 45. Due to the 86th Amendment, 2002, Article 45 was substituted by Article 21, thus, making Primary education free and compulsory thus, creating an obligation on the side of the state to give it to all the children in the country. Education in India before the enactment of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2009 was marked by several challenges and disparities.


Overview of Education in India before RTE: 

Before the RTE Act, the state of education in India was characterized by the following key features:

  1. Inequitable Access: Access to quality education was highly inequitable. Rural areas, in particular, faced a severe shortage of schools, and many children from marginalized communities had limited or no access to educational institutions.
  2. High Dropout Rates: The dropout rates were alarmingly high, especially among marginalized groups like Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and girls. Economic constraints, social discrimination, and a lack of proper infrastructure contributed to this problem.
  3. Quality of Education: The quality of education was a major concern. A large number of government schools suffered from inadequate infrastructure, poorly trained teachers, and a lack of teaching materials. This resulted in poor learning outcomes.
  4. Private Sector Dominance: The private education sector, including unregulated private schools, played a significant role in providing education, but often at a high cost. This led to exclusion of economically weaker sections of society.
  5. Inadequate Funding: The government’s allocation for education was insufficient to meet the growing demand for quality education. This shortage of funds hindered the development of educational infrastructure and the recruitment of qualified teachers.

The Need for Legislative Intervention:

The pre-RTE era highlighted the pressing need for legislative intervention in the Indian education system for the following reasons:

1.  Constitutional Mandate: While the Indian Constitution provided for the right to education as a fundamental right under Article 21A, there was no comprehensive legislation in place to enforce this right. The absence of a legal framework allowed for disparities and a lack of accountability in the education system.

2.  Social Justice: Education is a powerful tool for social mobility and empowerment. The absence of equitable access to quality education was perpetuating social and economic inequalities in India. Legislative intervention was necessary to rectify this.

3.  International Commitments: India is a signatory to international agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which emphasize the right to education. Enacting the RTE Act was essential to align Indian laws with these international commitments.

Considering these challenges and the fundamental importance of education for the development of individuals and the nation as a whole, the enactment of the Right to Education Act in 2009 was a significant milestone. The RTE Act aimed to provide a legal framework for ensuring free and compulsory education for all children aged 6 to 14, addressing many of the shortcomings of the pre-RTE era and setting India on the path to achieving universal education.

2)      Enactment of RTE: 

The Right to Education (RTE) Act, also known as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, was enacted in 2009 with the primary aim of ensuring that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years in India has access to quality education. This section provides an overview of the key provisions and objectives of the Act, as well as the constitutional amendments made to facilitate its implementation.

Key Provisions of the RTE Act:

  1. Free and Compulsory Education: The RTE Act mandates that every child in the specified age group has the right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school until the completion of elementary education, which is typically up to the 8th grade.
  2. Admission and Age: The Act prescribes guidelines for the admission process, including age-appropriate admission to the appropriate class. No child can be denied admission on the grounds of age, and children with disabilities are to be provided with special facilities and support.
  3. Infrastructure and Norms: The Act outlines specific infrastructure and teacher-student ratio norms for schools. It mandates that schools must have certain minimum facilities, including a school building, separate toilets for boys and girls, a library, and playgrounds.
  4. Quality Standards: The RTE Act emphasizes the need for quality education. It lays down guidelines for the qualification and training of teachers, the curriculum, and the evaluation system. It also promotes child-friendly and child-centered teaching methods.
  5. Prohibition of Capitation Fee and Screening: The Act prohibits the charging of any kind of capitation fee or donation during the admission process. It also prohibits schools from conducting interviews or screening tests for admission.
  6. Financial Provisions: The Act mandates that the government allocate adequate funds for the implementation of RTE and provides for the sharing of financial responsibility between the central and state governments.
  7. Private Schools: The RTE Act includes provisions for private schools to reserve a certain percentage of their seats for children from economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups. These children are entitled to free education in these schools, and the government reimburses the schools for the cost.
  8. School Management Committees (SMCs): The Act requires the establishment of SMCs at the school level, with parent and community representation, to monitor the functioning of schools and ensure transparency and accountability.
  9. Special Provisions for Children with Disabilities: The RTE Act recognizes the unique needs of children with disabilities and mandates the inclusion of these children in mainstream schools. Special educators and support services are to be provided.
  • Impact of Right to Education Act, 2009:
  1. Increased Enrollment: The RTE Act led to a significant increase in enrollment rates across the country. It made education more accessible and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14.
  2. Improved Infrastructure: The Act mandated that schools meet certain infrastructure and teacher-student ratio standards, resulting in the improvement of facilities and overall learning environments.
  3. Reduced Dropout Rates: The Act’s focus on universal access and retention contributed to lower dropout rates as more children stayed in school.
  4. Enhanced Equity: RTE aimed to reduce disparities by providing free and compulsory education to marginalized communities. Scholarships and incentives were introduced to encourage the education of girls and children with disabilities.

State-Wise Analysis:

 The implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in India has shown significant disparities among states and union territories. This section provides an analysis of the variation in RTE implementation, highlighting the disparities and discussing the factors contributing to these discrepancies.

Current Status of the school education in India: 

  •   Total Population of Children:

Source: UDISE+,2021-22

As per the data provided by the Ministry of Education in its UDISE+ Report 2021-22 the total number of people between the age group 6-15 years as projected went down from 23,84,92,800 to 23,68,17,000. The total number of students from 3-17 years also went down a bit.

  • Enrolment Rates:

The status of enrolled student between the age group of 6-14 is quite optimistic as per ASER survey, a non-governmental organization. Enrollment rates in primary education are essential because they indicate the extent to which eligible children have access to schooling. Higher enrollment rates reflect improved opportunities for children to receive an education, fostering personal development and societal progress.

It just shows that only 1.6% of the children within the age group of 6-14 are not attending schools. The detailed report regarding enrolment is provided by the Ministry of Education which greatly aids the government in making policies regarding students.

Source: UDISE+ Report 2021-22.

The UDISE (Unified District Information System for Education) report is essential as it offers a comprehensive data repository on education. It aids policymakers in assessing the state of education, identifying disparities, and directing resources effectively. This number becomes quite important to understand the state of education in India.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a notable impact on enrolment: (as per UDISE+ Report 2021-22):

1.     Particularly affecting young and vulnerable children, like those in pre-primary classes, the pandemic led to postponed admissions.

2.     In the 2021-22 academic year, overall student enrollment in primary to higher secondary education reached approximately 25.57 Crore, marking an increase of 19.36 lakh students compared to the previous year. However, pre-primary to higher secondary enrollment saw a net increase of 7.85 lakh students in 2021-22 over 2020-21, with pre-primary enrollment experiencing a decline of 11.5 lakh students.

3.     The total number of schools in 2021-22 decreased to 14.89 lakhs compared to 15.09 lakhs in 2020-21, primarily due to school closures under private and other management.

4.     The total number of teachers also decreased by 1.95% in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21, with 95.07 lakh teachers in 2021-22, down from 97.87 lakh in 2020-21.

  • Infrastructure: 

Infrastructure in primary schools, like classrooms, toilets, water, and playgrounds, is crucial for quality education and student well-being. Well-lit, ventilated classrooms and separate, hygienic toilets are essential. Clean drinking water, libraries, and teaching aids enhance learning. Safety measures like boundary walls and ramps for disabled students are important. Governments aim to improve facilities to ensure all children, regardless of their background, have access to quality education in a safe and inclusive environment, promoting educational equity. However, the infrastructure of some schools lacks necessities as required which is quite evident from the data shown by UDISE+ Report 2021-22.

  • Teacher-Student Ratios: 

The teacher-student ratio in school education is highly valuable. When there are fewer students in a classroom, teachers can give more individualized attention, making learning more engaging and effective. It’s reassuring to know that teachers can identify and help with any difficulties students face. Plus, smaller classes promote fairness, ensuring that all students have access to a quality education. Additionally, a positive classroom atmosphere and less stress on teachers can make the learning environment even better.

  • Source: UDISE+ Report 2021-22.

    Current Challenges in implementation and Suggestion for the future:

    1. RTE Act not being implemented by Private Schools:

    Instances of private schools violating the Right to Education (RTE) Act persist in India. Cases include arbitrary admissions criteria, discrimination against economically disadvantaged and marginalized students, and failure to reserve seats as mandated by the Act. These violations highlight the ongoing struggle to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, have equal access to quality education in private educational institutions.

    Incidents involving St. Lawrence School in Mumbai and Modern School in Delhi have drawn attention to issues of discrimination and unequal access to education in India. St. Lawrence School initially denied admission to a child from a single-parent household, citing problematic comments from the principal. Although the school later claimed a lack of seats, the inconsistency raised concerns.

    In a similar incident, Modern School in Delhi rejected a child from the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), despite the RTE Act’s 25% reservation mandate. Legal action ensued, with the court ultimately supporting the child’s right to education.

    These cases highlight broader challenges in ensuring equitable education access and fighting discrimination. They underscore the importance of upholding equality and inclusivity in education and enforcing the RTE Act consistently.

    The involvement of courts and child rights commissions is crucial in addressing RTE Act violations. These incidents stress the ongoing need for vigilance, awareness, and enforcement of the RTE Act to ensure every child’s equal access to quality education, regardless of socio-economic status or family circumstances.

    2.     Absence of penal action against the school:

    Lack of penal action against schools and administrators leads to widespread discrimination in admissions and student treatment. Regulatory bodies like National and State Commissions for

    Saurabh Vakantia, Navi Mumbai School Denies Admission to Child of Single Mother, Smriti Irani Raises Issue with HRD, India Today (June 15, 2019).

    Accessible at: Navi Mumbai school denies admission to child of single mother, Smriti Irani raises issue with HRD – India Today

    Abdul Kalam (Minor) v. GNCT of Delhi & Anr., WP(C) No. 3913/2020


  • Child Rights lack teeth, leaving action to school management or government, both ineffective. Symbolic penalties would promote compliance. Currently, seeking justice through high courts is costly and challenging due to geographical constraints.

    3.     Establishment of Regulatory Bodies for Teachers

    Creating professional regulatory bodies for school teachers and administrators, similar to bar councils for lawyers, is crucial. It would enforce stricter teacher qualifications and allow disciplinary measures for actions harming students. Currently, punishing schools can affect many students. Separate regulation of educators from schools is needed. The Right to Education lacks teeth without proper compliance. India must take steps to secure this right without burdening the courts further.