This is in relation to and continuation of one of my previous article – RTE Act and Alternative schools / Innovative schools in India and other articles related to legal aspects of Homeschooling & Alternative education in India.
Recently there was an interesting discussion related to above on the Alt ED India Yahoo group mailing list (mainly by Bhuvana). This gave me an idea to put up relevant excerpts to understand the legal impact of Right to Education Act (RTE) w.r.t Homeschoolers and Alternative schools in India.
Here are some pointers from the Document prepared by Vinod Raina (You can read more about it here – National Consultation on the impact of the RTE Act on Alternative/ Innovative schools – July 14, 2010 – Multiworld India)…
Where do existing State Acts on Education stand in relation to the RTE Act?
They would have to be brought in conformity with the central Act. As per article 254 of the constitution reproduced below, a state Act can not violate the provisions of the central Act in a concurrent subject. States could amend such a central act, but that would require presidential assent. However, if the state Act contains anything on which the central Act is silent, then that may remain as a part of the state Act.
Does Right to Education under the Act include home-based education, alternative education or education at other alternative sites? Could a child studying at home seek expenditure from the state?
No, the Act does not recognize a child’s right to free education at a site other than a school defined in the Act. In that sense, the Act is more like a “Right to Free and Compulsory Schooling’. Schooling would in fact be compulsory for all children.
Would special schools run by NGOs qualify as legal schools under the Act?
Not unless they attain the norms and standards as defined in the Act; within three years of notification of the Act.
Would education through the open schooling system be deemed to be equivalent to formal education as envisaged under the RTE?
Open schooling provides external certification at various levels in the 6 to 14 age group, even when a child is either not in a school, or is in an informal or non-formal school. Since the Act replaces board examinations by Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) in this age group, and makes education in a neighbourhood school of minimum norms and standards provided by the schedule of the Act compulsory, open school certification would no longer be admissible under the Act. The National Institute of Open Schooling has already withdrawn its certification process for the 6 to 14 age group. All children not in school, or previously under an open school situation have a right to be admitted to age-appropriate class to a neighbourhood school, without having to produce any certification of their earlier education.
On whom does ‘compulsion’ lie?
….the state is compelled to provide free education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education. The implication is that if a child in the age group 6-14 is working at a tea shop, agricultural field and so on, cooking at home or simply wandering around when the school is functioning the government is violating his/her fundamental right. It is the government that must ensure that all children are attending, and complete elementary education. This has immediate impact on child labour. If the child is engaged in child labour and is not in school, it is the government now that is in violation of law. Consequently, the Child Labour Act 1986 is no more in coherence with this Act and there is already pressure building on the Labour Ministry to review and amend the 1986 Act to bring it in harmony with the Right to Education Act.
Why not on parents?
In a country like India where such a large majority of parents are poor, migrate for work, do not have support systems, putting compulsion on them, with punishment, would imply punishing them for being poor – which is not their choice. As the well-known educationist J.P.Naik once jocularly remarked, if parents are sent to jail for not sending their children to schools, there may be more parents in jails than children in schools!
If parents don’t send children to schools…?
Section (10) of the Act makes it the duty of the parents to ensure that their children go to schools, without prescribing any punishment. This implies that SMC members, local authorities and community at large must persuade reluctant parents to fulfill their duty. For child labour and street children, the government would have to ensure that they are not compelled to work and provide schools for them, perhaps residential in many instances. Parents and communities who traditionally forbid their adolescent girls from going to school, or indulge in child marriage would have to be persuaded, or the child marriages act would need to be invoked against them. Civil society interventions would be crucial here.
Would home based education to the severely disabled come within the purview of the Act?
As the Act stands, education would be inclusive for all categories of disability, including severe and profound.
What about children not in schools right now?
The Act, at Section 4 lays down that all children who are out of school, as never enrolled or drop outs (in the 6-14 age group), would have to be admitted in age appropriate class in regular schools, and they would have a right to complete elementary education even after crossing age 14.
You can download the full document from the above Multiworld link or here.
You can also explore archives on the Alt ED India Yahoo group with keywords like PIL, RTE, legal issues, etc.