The much vaunted Indian Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) is making no impact on education for low income children according to a new study from the Centre for the Child and the Law, in Bangalore. The centre carried out a research project in one school area in the state of Karnataka.

The study of the 15 schools in the area showed that there had been no progress since the act. Parents are still having to pay 300.- (Indian rupees) a month on the education needs of their children. Moreover they are having to contribute towards improving the woefully poor infrastructure of the schools. All 15 schools studied have inadequate sanitation, often no clean drinking water, no sports facilities, often no furniture and inadequate materials. The requirement to find this money discriminates against the poorest of the poor, exacerbating social differences in access to education.

Teachers are often poorly trained and demoralised. Most of them are on short term contracts. Large amounts of their time are used carrying out administrative tasks so that there is little time to teach. All of this is in direct contravention of the act, whose putative aim is, as its title suggests, to provide free education for all. Far from improving public education, the study points out that the act has the effect of bringing in privatisation by the back door, since it provides that 25% of all places in private schools should be reserved for the poor.  

As Abhinav Jha, the author of the report says: "The Public Education system continues to be woefully neglected, possibly amid the other economic ambitions. Therefore, despite the advent of the RTE Act, we still have miles to go before we accomplish our mission."

The title of the report is: 'The Free and Compulsory Education Act: Miles to Go"