Law in India to Help Kids Learn Closes Schools Instead

Sangeeta Pillai has a complaint for the regional government: her daughter’s private school was closed, compelling her to enter a government-funded school with classes as large as 100 students, where her daughter is forced to sit on the floor and her work is never checked by the indifferent and often absent teacher. She wants to know why her daughter’s private education was forcibly interrupted to put her into an educational environment that was worse than the one she came from by authorities who claimed this was necessary in order to enforce the Right to Education law. She’s not the only person asking this question across India as thousands of schools are being closed in the name of ensuring equal access to quality education in a safe environment.

Passed in 2009, RTE mandates that students be provided with an education through elementary school, in facilities that provide running water and toilets for girls and boys alike, along with playgrounds. In theory, the legislation was supposed to address the growing educational gap in India, which was also contributing to massive income inequalities. By ensuring that all children could go to school, the act could improve literacy, provide access to more opportunities and build a better world for Indian children.

But something has gone tragically wrong with the way the Right to Education is enforced, as it’s leading to the forced closure of thousands of small private schools across India. These schools offer education for under two dollars a month, in most cases, a price which puts them in reach of at least some impoverished laborers and members of the lower classes. However, they can’t upgrade their facilities to meet RTE standards without raising their fees dramatically, and this would put them out of reach for many of their students.

Consequently, officials are closing them, arguing that they don’t provide running water and basic amenities, and calling their performance into question as well. Yet, parents are fighting back, and so are statistics. Evidence suggests that education in such schools can actually be of quite high quality, with students performing better in math, and receiving more attentive education than they receive in crowded government schools with minimal teacher accountability. The situation is creating a tension between parents, students and officials who are attempting to provide Indian children with the best educational options, but are caught between the RTE and a hard place.

The issue is particularly troubling in light of a recent UNESCO report indicating that it will take 70 years to achieve full parity when it comes to global access to early childhood education. In a nation that is already struggling to meet the educational needs of its youth, the thought of closing schools and forcing children into environments where they may not get the education they need and deserve is troubling. Is the RTE a case of a well-intentioned law that may not be so beneficial when put into practice? India may find out, possibly at the cost of this generation of children.

Photo credit: Yorick_R.


Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago


June Lacy
June Lacy4 years ago


Julie Botsch
Julie Botsch4 years ago

Thank You.

Jelena Radovanovic
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you.

Martha Ferris
Martha F4 years ago

What???? Incredible!

Angela Ray
Angela Ray4 years ago


Donna F.
Donna F4 years ago

the situation as it stands is tragic! I hope this is corrected

Evelyn B.
Evelyn B4 years ago

How often such situations are occurring: the wrong criteria are given priority in applying laws and regulations. School desks, running water, high qualifications for teachers .... In ideal conditions, maybe these are good ... I'm not convinced about standardised desks helping better studies for people used to sitting on the floor ..... But common sense should tell the decision-makers that priority should be on how well children are able to learn, not the facilities. I've seen groups of kids loving their lessons, sitting on the floor in a slum school with no latrines (other than the communal ones they use from home or school), no school playground, no special school taps .... and being taught by people with only a few years of education themselves, because the community doesn't have any BA holders & few people with complete secondary education. No - not ideal, but it allows the kids a good start - and maybe they will be able to go on to secondary level - and then their children will be able to go to university, become professionals. The quality of teaching in a school with desks, latrines, running water & teachers with higher qualifications isn't necessarily high quality schooling, either - depends on teachers and class size. Why place physical conditions as the measure? Better to judge schools by what the kids have learnt ...

Helen Krummenacker

I can see why they would be concerned about having running water and restrooms for students, but the implementation is wrong, It should be phased in, with inspectors who can write exemptions for schools which have a source of clean water, and either an indoor play area (urban) or in rural areas, surely children have enough opportunity to play outdoors and not need a special area on the school ground for it.
The restroom access has something to do with the fact many girls do not have equal access to education. Private loos instead of multi-stall could enable schools to allow children equal access no matter what the ratio of boys to girls is and help keep girls in school.
The regulations arent senseless but the implementation must be improved.

Lynn C.
Past Member 4 years ago