Two days ago, the "Right to Free and Compulsory Education" has been passed by parliament amid much fanfare. I know I have celebrate the law, which many say has come 60 years too late. Education must be a right of every citizen. How can any person have 2 thoughts about this? Lets examine the Right. Basically it says, every child between the ages of 6 and 14 years has a right to free and compulsory education.
Technically, any child between 6 an 14 years of age enjoys this Right. What about children with mental and physical disabilities? Should a child compulsorily get educated, despite being physically or mentally incapable of receiving education. What kind of Right is that which is "compulsory". Punishments are compulsory, Rights are volitional. And what education should the child learn in those 8 years? Does learning how to repair a bike or fix a puncture or make a Dosa get qualified as education? Does learning religious scriptures or customs in Religious schools count as education? Though the former has more real life value than the later. And what breaks the straw is that education also includes teaching a child about its Rights. A child without education cannot know its rights (ideally), and hence cannot fight for it.
Rights, as the definition goes, belong to a person. Right to freedom, Right to freedom of speech, Right to religious beliefs are activities a person can undertake by and of himself / herself. A Right assumes that the person is not dependent on any other person for enjoying it. Thus Rights do not demand a sacrifice or effort from others. Education on the other hand is an activity between two people, a tutor and a student. When we say a child has a Right to Education, the question is who is providing the education? Who is financing it? Who will provide for the child when the child is enjoying its right to Education?
A Right implies the State takes up the responsibility of safe-guarding it and hence if it is violated, the State should restore the Right and punish the offenders. If a child is not getting educated, in most cases due to the poverty of its parents, will the government punish the parents ? if so, which parent? Mother, father or both? What if the child is an orphan? Do we get to punish its immediate relatives or neighbors? What sort or gimmick is this. Put the parents in jail, because they don't have enough money to educate the child, which renders the child helpless, and in lesser chance of getting any education. If nobody is getting punished for not sending their children to school, then how does government plan to ensure this Right? What if the child is not interested in studies? Must the poor parents still suffer the economic loss by sending the child to school, even when they know the child is not inclined to learn anything? We all know that many of our state-sponsored schools do not really provide any real education to students. Should the parents still be forced to send their children, even if they know that the child is not learning anything? The point is not what is good, the point is who decides what is good for them? People are the best judges of their and their children's life, not the government.
Rights are the minimum guarantee a State must provide to the citizens. Rights are not boons which a State can bestow upon its subjects. The concept of Right itself is misunderstood by our policy makers. Education is not a Right. Although we all like to have every child educated, granting it as a Right is against the spirit of constitution.