Right to Education- Constitutional Insight

By Snehil Sharma

Education has always been considered as a tool to enhance the purpose of life. The reason being that the quality of life of any individual is determined by his education.

An appropriate education eventually leads towards enhancement of skills and knowledge. Apart from lifestyle, education also increases the chance of employability for any individual if he is well educated and such opportunities helps the individual to attain growth in any field.

Therefore, Education can be referred as a type of right which also aids in exercising all other vested human rights. It provides individual freedom and development benefits to every citizen. Yet there is a large fraction of human population which is deprived from the basic opportunities concerning education and the most common reason behind the same is poverty and lack of appropriate resources.

What is Right to Education?

The right to education is basically a fundamental right which is vested with every individual. Every person, irrespective of religion, age, gender, race, nationality, social & ethnic origin or disability, is entitled for free elementary education for a better life. This right to education has been universally recognized after the introduction of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) in the year 1948 and since has been enshrined in numerous conventions, constitutions of countries and plans of development[1].

Historical Evolution of Right to Education

The historical evolution of Right to Education can be traced through the following: ·      

The concept of “Right to Education” is not new. The Constitution of India prescribes that every individual is entitled to accessible and equitable education within Part IV (Art. 39f & 45). ·      

Ramamurti Committee submitted its report on 9 January 1991 which was the first instance when any official document had a mention concerning right to education. This report also recommended numerous changes in the education policies such as promoting women education, introduction of a common school system, Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW), Early childhood care and education (ECCE) etc[2]. ·      

Later in the case of Unnikrishnan JP vs State of Andhra Pradesh & Others, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India held that the “Right to Education” shall be considered as a Fundamental Right within the purview of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution i.e. Right to life & personal liberty. ·      

After the judicial recognition of right to education as a fundamental right, Tapas Majumdar committee was formed in the year 1999 which dealt with insertion of article 21A and its financial implications. This committee estimated a total expenditure of 1.37 lakh crores, if the school education is provided to every child between the age of 6-14 years between a time frame of ten years (1998-2007)[3]. ·      

In the year 2002, 86th amendment to the Indian Constitution was introduced and Right to Education was included in Part III within the purview of Fundamental Rights. Additionally, this amendment also inserted Article 21A. ·      

The Right to Education Bill of 2008 was also introduced as a follow up legislation to 86th amendment and was followed by Right to Education Act in the year 2009.  

Constitution & Right to Education

The Indian Constitution has always been known for its commitment towards the social justice and providing educational opportunities to every individual is a part of that commitment. Such commitment can be understood as follows: ·      

Mandatory & Free Education: As per article 21A of constitution which was added by the 86th amendment in the year 2002, state shall ensure education for every child between the age group between six-fourteen years which shall be mandatory and free of cost.

Additionally, Article 45 of Constitution which is a part of Directive Principles of State Policy states that, state is supposed to provide necessary and free education to every individual till the time such individual attains age of fourteen years. ·      

Education of minorities: As provided under Article 30, the rights of minority concerning the establishment & management of educational institutions shall be promoted and given special emphasis. ·      

Preserving the Language: Article 29(1) of Indian Constitution safeguards the distinct languages, culture or scripts of any division or region of India. An officer is prescribed to be appointed under Article 350 of the constitution, who will take requisite steps regarding the protection of linguistic minorities. ·      

Ensuring education to weaker sections: The interests of weaker section regarding education is protected through Article 15, 17 and 46 of Indian Constitution. Weaker section consists of those who are either educationally and socially backward or belong to scheduled tribes and listed castes. It has also been provided in the Article 15 that nothing can prevent the government to introduce any provision which will eventually develop those classes which are considered as educationally and socially diffident or belong to SC/ST category. ·      

Educational upliftment of weaker sections: As provided under article 46 of Indian Constitution, it is the liability of government to take initiatives concerning educational enlargement of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes[4].

Right to Education Act of 2009

After the educational reforms and insertion of Article 21A took place, finally on April 1, 2010, India achieved another historic milestone in providing Right to Education to children by introducing Right to Education Act of 2009.

The basic aim of RTE act was to provide stress free process of teaching & learning through various initiatives for curricular reforms. This was done to provide such a learning system which is child friendly. Various systems and processes were also introduced in this act for teacher accountability so that the right of child to learn in a friendly environment can be ensured & protected.

This act provides numerous norms and standards concerning the Buildings and infrastructure, Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), Teacher-working hours and School-working days. It also contains provision prohibiting the capitation fee, physical punishment and mental harassment of children, Private tuition by teachers, Screening procedures for admission and running of schools without prescribed recognition.

As an initiative to ensure education rights, the government also launched Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, which is an integrated scheme concerning the school education. It is inclusive of three sub-schemes:

1)     RMSA (Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan)

2)     SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan)

3)     CSSTE (Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Teacher Education).

Loop holes in Right to Education

Apart from the advantages of RTE (Right to Education), there are numerous loopholes which require attention such as: ·      

Minority Religious Schools are not included within the purview of RTE. ·       Quality of education should be given appropriate importance over the quantity of education. ·      

Teacher training programs are not given much emphasis under RTE. ·       Education for children shall be supported and promoted without any sort of biases. ·      

Requisite steps shall be towards making profession of teaching more attractive[5].


Every generation expects from its upcoming generations to build a better nation than the existing one. Therefore, the educational framework, which is the torch bearer for the future generation should always be the matter of focal concern for the government.

It has almost been 10 years since the RTE Act was enacted, but it can be easily observed that there is still a long way for RTE to go in order to be considered successful in achieving its purpose. Creating an atmosphere which is conducive and providing resources would eventually pave the path towards a better future for young individuals along with the nation as a whole.  

[1] Norad. 2020. The Right to Education

[2] 2020. Ramamurti Review Committee (1990)

[3] 2020. Essay On Rights To Education By Sangeeta S Godbole

[4] Monika, 2020. All You Need To Know About Right To Education Act, 2009. [5] Drishti IAS. 2020. Right To Education