Free Education to 6-14 age group
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Free Education to 6-14 age group

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Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared Right to Education Bil, a big-ticket move to make education a fundamental right for every child in the 6-14 age group. It's slated to be introduced in Parliament in the current session of Parliament. When passed by it, one of the longest awaited political promises would have been honoured. The first UPA government spent five years discussing and debating it through various committees and groups of minister, and by the time it was finalized, the Bill could not be introduced in Rajya Sabha. Therefore, the Bill, incorporating three major suggestions by the Standing Committee of Parliament, had to be brought to the cabinet again. When RTE becomes law, it would empower the seven-year-old 86th Constitutional amendment that made free and compulsory education a fundamental right. The RTE Bill sets down guidelines for states and the Centre to execute and enforce this right. Earlier, education was part of the directive principles of state policy.

Both the Centre and states will be responsible for the finances. The Centre will prepare the capital and recurring expenditure and provide it as grants-in-aid to each state from time to time. However, the share between the Centre and states will be decided later. The cost to the exchequer will be nearly INR 12,000 crore every year, even private unaided schools will get assistance as 25% of their seats will have to be reserved for poor children in the neighbourhood. However, the Bill is clear those schools that got land at a concessional rate and were anyway obliged to give reservation to 25% poor children in the neighbourhood will not be compensated. Compensation will be based on per child expenditure by government on education. Currently the per child cost borne by government is around INR 3,000 per annum. The principals of many schools raised the compensation issue with HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday. But minister said schools should not mind losing their profit a little bit. The legislation has a host of features that stress not only on reaching out to every child in the 6-14 age group but also on quality and accountability of the state and education system. To ensure that the law gets effectively implemented, the Bill has provisions prohibiting teachers from undertaking private tuition as well as not letting them being used for non-educational purposes.

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