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Is the Right to Education (India) an Inclusive Act?

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In 2009, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) became a law in India. The Act has ratified education as a fundamental right and seeks to promote equitable access to education for all children up to the age of 14 years. In this presentation, I discuss the mixed nature of inclusiveness of the act. On the one hand, the stringent norms for operating schools in India pose restrictions on private school owners as well as parents, and distort the incentives for improving quality of education. On the other hand, the Act mandates reservation of 25% of the entry-level seats in all private schools for government-sponsored students from economically and weaker sections (EWS) of society with the rationale that this will lead to better learning outcomes for EWS students and increased levels of integration between children from different sections of society.

In this presentation, I discuss this apparent disconnect through a study of the social and financial implications of the Act’s norms and standards using a small sample study conducted in Delhi, and simultaneously examine the opportunities and pitfalls of this reservation policy. Finally, through the lens of a study on primary school vouchers given to 400 randomly selected students in Delhi, I propose a mechanism to reconcile the two contradictory aspects of the Act.

This talk is part of the Centre for Commonwealth Education (CCE) series.

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