Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 05/2015

Right to Education Act: Claiming education for every child

Oommen C. Kurian, Pooja Parvati

March 2015

Oxfam Publishing


A conscious neglect of school education in the initial decades of independent India is termed by Dreze and Sen (2013) as a ‘home-grown folly’. Public services like education are key to nurture participatory growth as well as to ensure that growth improves peoples’ living conditions. However, India’s highly privatised and compartmentalised education system (largely unaccountable to the public) offers very different opportunities for various social groups and perpetuates social inequalities, instead of reducing them. Three out of four children currently out of school in India are either Dalit (32.4%), Muslim (25.7%) or Adivasi (16.6%). Enactment of the landmark RTE legislation has triggered significant improvements, but evidence shows that quality has often been neglected. While concerns regarding privatisation of education remain, RTE Act offers a first step towards an educational system in India that offers access, equity, and inclusion of all children.