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RS passes Right to Education Bill
It prohibits screening of either parent or child
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 20
The Rajya Sabha today passed the landmark Bill providing for free and compulsory education as a fundamental right of children in the six-14 age group.

The Bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December last will now go to the Lok Sabha for consideration and approval. It is one of the flagship programmes in the 100-day agenda of the UPA government.

“We are sitting on a great opportunity. We need to grasp it. If we lose it, the consequences will be disastrous,” Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said, while replying to the seven-hour debate in the House.

He added that it would be up to the states to implement the policy of reservation in the admission.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, also earmarks 25 per cent seats to weaker sections in schools and seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the child or parents to any screening procedure.

The introduction of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha last December came after several abortive efforts to draft the enabling legislation without which the fundamental right - enacted in December 2002 - could not come into effect.

The Bill, besides giving every child in the six to 14 age group the right to free and compulsory education also seeks to evolve norms and standards for primary education.

This will include norms for minimum qualifications for teachers, pupil-teacher ratio, and a ban on private tuitions by teachers.

The Bill also puts the responsibility on the government to ensure that every child in the target age group has access to a school in the neighbourhood within three years of the enactment of the law. It also tries to rope in the private sector in this endeavour.

Private schools will have to reserve 25 per cent of seats in Class I every year for children from the disadvantaged sections of society in the neighbourhood. The government will reimburse these schools.

The Bill prohibits collection of capitation fee, screening of either the parent or the child at the time of admission, detention or expulsion in any class till completion of elementary education, and physical punishment. 

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