The Supreme Court has said demanding fees (even for overheads) on activities and facilities that the school does not provide is indulging in profiteering and commercialisation. The Court said that private unaided schools should deduct 15 percent of their annual school fees in place of the facilities not used by students during the period of academic year 2020-21 when schools held online classes.
In this context, let us look at the right to education in India.
The law on Right to Education
Article 21A of the Constitution of India, 1950 states that education is a fundamental right. This means that the government has to provide free and compulsory education to all children from six to fourteen years of age. The right to education (RTE) law is the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act).
Who benefits from RTE?
Every child of the age of six to fourteen years has a right to full time elementary education i.e., from First Standard to Eighth Standard. Free education means that there is no need to pay any kind of fees/charges which might prevent the child from seeking and completing elementary education.
If a child above six years of age is not yet admitted in any school or could not complete elementary education, the school can admit them in a class appropriate to their age. If the child is directly admitted to an age-appropriate class, then they have a right to get special training to be at par with other children. The child’s right to free education continues after the age of fourteen years, till they complete the Eighth Standard.
What schools are covered under RTE?
Under the Act, children have the right to good quality education, in a formal school which meets certain basic standards. This could be a government school, or a school that receives financial support from the government.
Even unaided/private schools have to keep aside at least twenty-five percent of their seats in First Standard for children belonging to poor and other disadvantaged sections of society. However, this does not apply to private schools which are certified as minority institutions. Private schools which spend money on providing free education for children can get financial compensation from the government.
Screening procedure for admission
While admitting a child, schools should not conduct any screening procedure for the child or their parents/guardian. The punishment for imposing such a screening procedure is a fine of up to Rupees twenty-five thousand for the first violation, and Rupees fifty thousand for each subsequent violation.
Duties of the government
For providing free and compulsory education to every child, the government should:
- Ensure the admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education by all children in the six to fourteen age group
- Establish a school for each area or neighbourhood as required
- Provide infrastructure including school buildings, teaching staff and learning equipment
- Provide training facility for teachers
- Monitor the functioning of schools.
To know more about the right to education, read our explainer.