Right to Education Act: Section 12(1)(c)
As per Article 21A of the Constitution, children between the ages of 6 and 14 have the Fundamental Right to elementary education. To give effect to this right, Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 commonly known as the Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was enacted in 2009 and came into force in 2010. Rajat Malhotra explains, “‘Free education’ implies that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent them from pursuing and completing elementary education in government-owned schools and ‘compulsory education’ casts a legal obligation on the Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education.” The Act highlights the extent of the aforementioned rights of children and the extent to which schools are responsible for education.
Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act, 2009 states, “specified in sub-clauses (iii) and (iv) of Clause (n) of Section 2 shall admit in class I, to the extent of at least twenty-five per cent of the strength of that class, children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory elementary education till its completion”.
Explanation of Section 12(1)(c)
The section states that private unaided schools have the responsibility to dispense and provide free education to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections and admit at least one-fourth of the total strength of class I. According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, “the said section is rooted in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy can be achieved only through the provision of inclusive elementary education to all.” Free and compulsory education acts as an equaliser to an extent.
What is an Economically Weaker Section?
People belonging to the General Category (i.e., not belonging to the SC/ST/OBC/MBC categories) and having an annual income lower than a certain amount are said to belong to the subcategory of the Economically Weaker Section. The exact amount of annual income required to qualify in the EWS category varies from state to state. For instance, the income limit for the EWS category is Rs. 55,000 per annum in Uttarakhand and is Rs. 3.5 lakhs in Karnataka.
What is a Disadvantaged Group?
Those from SC/ST/OBC can apply under the DG (Disadvantaged Group) category. The specific criteria to qualify under the DG category also differs from state to state. Orphans, disabled children, mentally challenged children, children of widows, children of divorce, and transgender children are just some of the people that can qualify for the DG category. Income limits for the DG category are different for every state. For example, for people belonging to SC/ST/OBC, the income limit in Gujarat is Rs. 1.5 per annum and there is none for the others. Alternatively, in Bihar, the limit is Rs. 1 lakh for every sub-category.
Types of schools included for Sec.12(1)(c)
S.12(1)(c) applies to those schools that are ‘specified in sub-clauses (iii) and (iv) of clause (n) of section 2’ of the RTE Act. Section 2(n) defines a “school.” Sub-clauses (iii) and (iv) focus on “a school belonging to specified category” and “an unaided school not receiving any kind of aid or grants to meet its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority” respectively. However, the types of schools also slightly vary depending on the states. In most states, only unaided private schools are included under this section but in Gujarat, some minority schools are included and in Rajasthan, minority schools are given an option.
Importance of Sec.12(1)(c)
Ramachandra and Saihjee explain that the Indian school system is characterized by what they call the “hierarchies of access.” There exist elite private schools, low-budget private schools, state-run local schools, schools run by religious organisations, and tribal schools just to name a few. The highly differentiated nature of schooling in India shows that weaker sections of society find it difficult to access good quality schooling for various reasons vis-à-vis political, economic, and cultural. There exists an inverse relationship between the quality of education and the access to the school which implies that schools that provide a higher quality of education, infrastructure, and opportunities are harder to access. Exclusion in the education system, according to Govinda and Bandyopadhyay, is a reflection of a child’s personal history into their present social context. The exclusion is caused by 4 main factors: 1) gender discrimination, 2) social differences of caste and religion, 3) location disadvantage and 4) economic disadvantage. Along with this are other vulnerable sections of children like those who are mentally challenged or physically disabled, etc.
Section 12(1)(c) works to resolve some of these issues. In the words of Majumdar and Mooji, the section “is an acknowledgement of the segregated school system in India, and that of the rising dominance of private schools.” Private schools have better educational opportunities than state-run public schools which are usually low-funded. By making unaided private schools reserve a quarter of their seats for those who belong from disadvantaged groups, the section challenges the current school system in the country that segregates opportunities available to children. The section works against some of the aforementioned factors of the exclusionary process.
Implementation of Sec.12(1)(c)
Though S.12(1)(c) is undoubtedly important, however, its implementation remains a problem. Other than resistance to follow rules from private schools, it was found in a research that the parents of the other 75% students as well as the school administrators tend to have a prejudice against the people from marginalised communities. A report by IIM Ahmedabad also found that there were problems with clarity and enforcement, especially of the rules regarding eligibility criteria and admissions. It was found that several schools do not adhere to the 25% quota and overall, the window for the admission process for RTE Act vacancies is very narrow.
S.12(1)(c) of the RTE Act is vital as it recognises the difficulties faced by the vulnerable sections of society and strives to reduce the gap between the educational opportunities received by the children in the country. However, the implementation of the section could be handled a lot better. The IIM Ahmedabad report suggests stricter rules for enforcement, an RTE cell and help centre, availability of alternative modes of application other than the online mode, and active participation of officials, judiciary, and private stakeholders.
ReferencesInternational Journal of Social Science and Economic Research
A Study on Implementation of Section12(1) (c) of RTE Act, 2009