Right to Education under Law

This article has been written by Neeti Rana. Neeti, a recent graduate of Law College, Uttaranchal University, is a habitual writer and has a penchant for legal research.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment ad yields important development benefits.  Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty. Education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalised adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens.

Education has been neither free nor compulsory. For the state to guarantee education provision through a legislative enactment is a major shift, given a history of provision which has consistently failed disadvantages groups, privileging the interests of minority urban elite. As studies have consistently shown over time, those excluded continue to reflect inequalities within the wider social, economic and political fabric, particularly those of caste, class and gender. Axes of inclusion are broadly predicted around the following occupational and social classification children of the upper castes or from smaller families, or from households that are economically better off or dependent on non-agricultural occupation, with parents who are better educated, or from villages that have better access to schools thus underlining the roles played by social position , economic opportunity and the power exercised by local community leadership in securing state provided resources in education. Cutting right across these axes is the gender gap, which is more or less consistent across social groups.

The gap between discourse and operational framework in all policy efforts in education, and more wide development, has long been cited as a reason for India’s poor performance in securing equitable educational opportunity for all. Despite a range of commitments made in the Indian Constitution to equality, addressing the historical disadvantages faced by certain groups, and universal education, policies on the ground have done little to fulfil the ambitious vision developed at the birth of the modern Indian nation-state. This gap appears in danger of persisting even with the shift to guaranteeing the right to education. In this section, some of the issues raised by the current approach are explored.

To quote Justice PN Bhagwati, Former Chief Justice of India: “The child is a soul with a being, a nature and capacities of its own, who must be helped to find them, to grow into their maturity, into a fullness of physical and vital energy and the utmost breadth, depth and height of its emotional, intellectual and spiritual being, otherwise there cannot be a healthy growth of the nation.”

Every generation looks up to the next generation with the hope that they build up a nation better than the present. Therefore education which empowers the future generation should always be the main concern for any nation. It is now an undisputed fact that right to education can be realised on a national level only through compulsory education, or better say, through free compulsory primary education. However, due to the widespread poverty and various prejudices in the society, the efforts to develop an educational system in India with full access, equality and quality of educational has not been achieved. The inability to check the dropout rates among the marginalised sections of the population is another cause of worry.

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