About the RTE Act

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The Indian government passed the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2009. It made free, compulsory education the right of every child aged 6-14. In addition, the Act also set certain standards for schools, such as pupil/teacher ratio and school infrastructure.

A history of education rights in India

Back in 1949 when the Constitution of India was first passed, Article 45 stated that “The State shall endeavour to provide… free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.” However, there was no legislation to back this up.

In 1992, the 73rd/74th Constitutional Amendments established the Panchayati Raj Institutions (local self-governance systems) and the provision of education transferred to become the responsibility of these local bodies.

In 2002, the 86th Constitutional Amendment made free, compulsory elementary education a Fundamental Right. This was then made into law in 2009 with the passing of the RTE Act.

RTE legislation 

The RTE Act states that:

  • No child has to pay any school fee or expense (including books, uniforms and writing materials) during elementary school.
  • It is compulsory for children to attend elementary school.
  • Corporal punishment is forbidden.
  • Children should be admitted to their age-appropriate class (no matter their education level).
  • No child shall be failed.
  • There should be at least two toilets per school (one for girls and one for boys).
  • The pupil teacher ratio should be 30-35:1.
  • Each classroom should hold one teacher and one class.

It is up to each individual State to implement and monitor this legislation.

Under the RTE Act, children like these pupils at the school in Dama village, Jharkhand, are entitled to free education, uniforms and school books.

School Management Committees

Under Section 21 of the RTE Act, all schools are required to constitute a School Management Committee (SMC). The role of a SMC is to manage, monitor and support a school in its functioning, and to ensure that it is meeting requirements as outlined under the RTE Act.

SMCs are made up of elected members of the local community. 75% of members should be parents or guardians (the other 25% should be made up of teachers, students and members of the local authority). Socially excluded communities should be represented on SMCs in proportion to their population in the village and 50% of SMC members should be women.

School Management Committees have the responsibility of performing the following functions:

  • Monitoring the working of the school.
  • Preparing and recommending a School Development Plan.
  • Monitoring the utilisation of the grants received from the appropriate government or local authority.

School Development Plans

Every SMC has to make an annual School Development Plan (SDP) as part of its school monitoring and assessment. It is up to each State to decide the format for SDPs but plans normally cover the following areas:

  • School access – is the school within 1km (for Primary) and 3km (for Upper Primary) of all elementary-aged children in the community?
  • School coverage – are all children aged 6-14 in the community in school?
  • Physical infrastructure – does the school have appropriate infrastructure (including well-lit classrooms, learning resources, a Mid-Day Meal preparation room and separate toilets for girls and boys) to ensure it can function effectively?
  • Teachers – are there enough teachers to meet the RTE ratio of 1:30-35 and have the teachers received training?
  • Retention, promotion and learning – how are children being taught, and are children achieving in line with expected academic levels?

Having assessed the school on these themes, the resulting SDP should then aim to address any issues that have been highlighted, for example the need for more teachers or more inclusive lessons.

Under the RTE Act, there should be no more than 35 children per class and classrooms should not be shared by more than one class.


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