What is Wrong With the Right to Education
Education, especially universal primary education, is an important part of any civilized society. For us Indians, it is a matter of serious concern that even today, more than sixty years after independence, universal primary education remains a distant dream.
With the stated intention of addressing this sorry situation, and with some prodding from the Supreme Court (especially the judgment in the case Unnikrishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh), the parliament of India passed the 86th Constitutional Amendment in 2002, which inserted Article 21A into the Constitution of India, making education a fundamental right (it is numbered "21A" because this right is thought to flow from Article 21, the fundamental right to life and personal liberty). It is worded as follows.
Article 21A. The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
It is important to note that unlike other fundamental rights, the right to education granted by Article 21A is qualified by the phrase "in such manner as the State may, by law, determine".
So what is this law that is supposed to determine the manner in which the fundamental right to education will be provided? Enacted recently by the Indian parliament, this law is the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
Known more commonly, if informally, as the Right to Education Act or the RTE Act, this new law unfortunately leaves much to be desired.