From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 21A
Mains level : Minority welfare
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recommended that Minority Schools be brought under Right to Education and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
What is the report?
- The report is titled “Impact of Exemption under Article 15 (5) with regards to Article 21A of the Constitution of India on Education of Children in Minority Communities”.
- It has assessed minority schools (schools run by minority organizations) in the country.
Key recommendations of the report
- Minority schools are exempt from implementing The Right to Education policy and do not fall under the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
- Through this report, the NCPCR has recommended that these schools be brought under both RTE and SSA, amongst a host of other recommendations.
Developments in RTE
(1) 86th Constitutional Amendment (2002):
- In 2002, the 86th Amendment to the Constitution provided the Right to Education as a fundamental right.
- The same amendment inserted Article 21A, which made the RTE a fundamental right for children aged between six and 14 years.
- The passage of the amendment was followed by the launch of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) that aimed to provide “useful and relevant, elementary education’’ to all children between six and 14 years.
(2) 93rd Constitutional Amendment (2006):
- In 2006, the 93rd CAA inserted Clause (5) in Article 15.
- This enabled the State to create special provisions, such as reservations for the advancement of any backward classes of citizens like SCs and STs, in all aided or unaided educational institutes, except minority educational institutes.
(3) RTE Act (2009):
- The government subsequently brought the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which centers around inclusive education for all, making it mandatory to include underprivileged children in schools.
- Specifically, Section 12(1)(c) of the Act provided for a 25 percent reservation of seats in unaided schools for admission of children from economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups.
How are minority schools exempt from RTE and SSA?
- Article 30 of the Constitution states the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
- This article aims to provide opportunities to children from different religious and linguistic minority communities to have and conserve a distinct culture, script, and language.
- Subsequently, in 2012, through an amendment, the institutions imparting religious education were exempted from following the RTE Act.
- Later on, in 2014 (Pramati judgment), while discussing the validity of exemption under Article 15 (5), the Supreme Court declared the RTE Act inapplicable to schools with minority status.
- This was in the view that the Act should not interfere with the right of minorities to establish and administer institutions of their choice.
Why has the NCPCR carried out the study?
- The Commission’s objective was to assess the impact of this exemption of minority educational institutions from various guidelines that are mandatory for non-minority institutions.
- It opined that the different sets of rules under Article 21A, Article 30, and Article 15 (5) act as creating a conflicting picture between the fundamental rights of children and the rights of minority communities.
What are the findings of the report?
The Commission has observed in the report that many children who are enrolled in these institutions or schools were not able to enjoy the entitlements that other children are enjoying.
(1) Missionaries schools are elite cocoons
- It has been said that there have been certain detrimental effects of the exemption – on the one hand, there are schools, mostly Christian Missionary schools.
- Such schools are admitting only a certain class of students and leaving underprivileged children out of the system, thus becoming what the Commission has called “cocoons populated by elites’’.
(2) Minorities schools become overcrowded without facilities
- As opposed to this, other types of minority schools, in particular madrasas, have become “ghettos of underprivileged students languishing in backwardness’’ says the Commission.
- The Commission has said that students in madrasas that do not offer a secular course along with religious studies – such as the sciences – have fallen behind and feel a sense of alienation and “inferiority’’ when they leave school.
What are the findings with regards to madrasas?
There are four kinds of madrasas in India:
- Madrasas recognized by the government, which usually impart both religious as well as secular Courses, including the sciences has four percent Mulsim students (15.3 lakh) said the Sachar Committee report.
- There are 10,064 such madrasas in India and the Commission points out that these were the ones taken into consideration by the Sachar Committee when it said four percent of Mulsim students (15.3 lakh) studied in madrasas.
- There are unrecognized madrasas, which the government hasn’t recognized because they do not impart secular education or lack physical infrastructure, including the number and quality of teachers.
- Then, there are unmapped madrasas that have never applied for recognition and function in a more informal setup – there is no data on how many such madrasas exist and how many students study there.
Why bring them under RTE?
- The Commission believes this took place as schools wanted to operate outside the legal mandate to reserve seats for backward classes.
- RTE provides for norms pertaining to basic minimum infrastructure, a number of teachers, books, uniforms, Mid-day Meal, etc., that benefits students in minority schools have not been receiving.