Katha public school, south Delhi. India’s challenge now is to translate the Right to Education Act into into real changes. (Photo: Brendan O'Malley © UNESCO)

India’s ground-breaking Right to Education Act

Numerous voices have risen this week to praise India’s historic Right to Education Act, which came into force on 1 April. The new law establishes the right to education of every child aged 6 to 14, and addresses India’s need to provide more schools and teachers, and further develop training and curriculums.

The impact of the new law is staggering – it carries the hope of bringing an estimated eight million extra children into school. The act also develops a plan to train one million new teachers in the next five years.

With this law, India joins over 130 countries that have legal guarantees to provide free and compulsory education to children.

In his speech to the nation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered powerful personal testimony of the value of education: “I was born to a family of modest means. In my childhood I had to walk a long distance to go to school. I read under the dim light of a kerosene lamp. I am what I am today because of education.”

The prime minister equally drew attention to the vital importance of reaching marginalized people, including caste and tribal groups: “The needs of every disadvantaged section of our society, particularly girls, dalits, adivasis and minorities, must be of particular focus as we implement this act.”

In the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, we highlighted the need not only to pass laws guaranteeing education for marginalized groups, but also to combat the stigmatization and discrimination these groups face on a daily basis. The challenge for India’s authorities now will be to translate this ground-breaking law into real changes.



  1. Dear Kevin,

    You wrote well and the topic of the ground-breaking news re Right to Education Act is very helpful to build the general picture of the status report & future plans for achieveing the EFA goals in India.

    My concern, is that the news does not reach the local communities as the government wishes. So, the simple question is, what efforts is the Indian government and the donors doing to ensure that both INGOs and NGOs are equiped and participating in the awarenes raising needs for delivering the news to all the villages and communities of India? The government alone will not be able to do this work in the five years time before the deadline of EFA 2015 goals deadline. All resources and lines of communication should be harnesed to ensure that the local communities are aware of this act. The second and more challenging task is to see the ownership of the SHGs and Gram Panchayats to raise and take a strong grip on implementing the act into practice.

    Thank you and have a nice Labor Day (May 1st)!

  2. Dear Kevin, you rightly said that now the challenge for India is to translate this law into reality and to eliminate gap between promise and performance. However, there are many challenges on the way to translate this law into reality, such as household poverty, low levels of parental education, child labourers, millions of out-of-school children, lack of pre-school education and quality of education. These challenges are discussed at http://kaizen-inside-out.blogspot.com/2010/04/fundamental-right-of-children-to-free.html and there are many more known and unknown challenges. How UNESCO and such other organisations could be helpful and what help they can provide to address such challenges to the individuals and organisations who would like to do social work for the right to education in India?

  3. By Rama Kant Rai, convenor of the National Coalition for Education (India)

    India’s Right to Education Act has raised very high aspirations for those children who have been deprived of the right to education. Unfortunately, the current year’s budget allocation was disappointing, as it does not reflect willpower on the part of the government to implement this act.

    The government’s proposal to involve private players has raised serious doubts as to whether it is really a fundamental right and one able to be defended in court.

    We don’t see enough groundwork to identify out-of-school children and infrastructural development to bring education to children who are currently out of school.

    We hope this law will be backed by lawmakers to make it a reality.

Leave a Reply