The State of the Nation: RTE Section 12(1)(c) Report
Segregation in access to education in India had been escalating since the 1970s when a large number of private schools capitalized on the opportunity to provide separate schools for the middle class. This initial segregation was further perpetuated with a boom in the availability of low-fee private schools catering towards lower income families. With the shift of the Right to Education from a Directive Principle of State Policy to a Fundamental Right, came Section 12(1)(c) of the Act.
The clause imposes a legal obligation upon private unaided schools to reserve 25 percent of the seats in the entry-level class for children from Economically Weaker Section and disadvantaged categories. The intention behind this provision is to ensure that the states as well as other stakeholders in society share the obligation of realizing the right to free and compulsory elementary education. The increased prevalence of unaided private schools makes them a natural stakeholder to the fulfilment of this obligation. The mandate should also be understood as an effort to arrest the increasing segregation in Indian schooling and promote an environment of knowledge sharing between different sections of society to encourage the narrowing of current societal divisions. It has the potential to impact 1.6 crore children from EWS and DG categories in the next eight years.
However, the implementation of this provision faces numerous challenges. This report looks at Section 12(1)(c) from the administrative, legal, and financial perspective to highlight the challenges and to recommend suggestions for improvement.