Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009


The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) was enacted in 2009 to provide free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years of age. It was subsequently amended in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

The legislation follows from the 88th Constitutional Amendment of 2002 that recognised the right to education as a fundamental right. It directs the central and state governments as well as the local authorities to work together to ensure that all children (aged 6-14) have access to quality elementary education for free. It holds the relevant governments responsible for the availability of funds, infrastructure, teachers, syllabi and so on.

Interestingly, the Act also requires all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for students who live in the vicinity and are from the weaker sections of society. It prohibits unrecognised schools from practice, bars charging capitation fees or donations for admission, and forbids children from being expelled, held back or required to pass a board exam till the completion of elementary education.


  1. What does the right to free education entail?

    According to Section 3 of the RTE Act, a child has the right to get a free education at a neighbourhood school. He/she also has the right to not have to bear any kind of expense that could prevent him/her from pursuing elementary education, including on text books, uniforms and so on. 

  2. What are the obligations of the government?

    Section 8 of the Act defines “compulsory education” as the obligation of the government to ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education; the availability of neighbourhood schools; no discrimination against children from the weaker sections of society; infrastructure at schools, including buildings, staff and equipment; relevant training facilities for drop-outs and teachers; a good quality education; and timely prescription of syllabi and courses of study.

    Section 6 requires governments to establish neighbourhood schools in places where there are none within three years of the law being passed. 

  3. What are the duties of a parent under the RTE Act?

    As per Section 10 of the Act, every parent or guardian must enrol or make sure his/her child or ward is enroled in elementary education at a neighbourhood school.

  4. Can a parent be reimbursed for expenses by a private school?

    According to Sections 8 and 9, parents who admit their children to schools other than those established, owned, controlled or substantially financed by a local authority or government, cannot apply for reimbursement of education costs.

  5. To what extent are schools required to provide free education?

    Section 12(a) requires all government schools to provide free elementary education to all admitted children. 12(b) requires all government-aided schools to provide free education to a certain number of children (at least 25 per cent of the ratio of the school’s annual aid and expenses). 12(c) requires all unaided (private) schools and those in certain specified categories to ensure that at least 25 per cent of Class 1 children belong to weaker and disadvantaged groups and are educated for free. 

  6. How do private schools recoup their expenses if they have to provide free education?

    Private schools that provide free education are reimbursed by the government. The reimbursement is calculated according to a formula mentioned in the law, and as prescribed by government.

  7. How does the RTE Act aim to improve the quality of education?

    The Act mandates minimum standards for the quality of education, and requires that the government lay down pupil-teacher ratios, put in place proper infrastructure (especially bathrooms), prescribe syllabi, and specify teachers’ working days and hours.

    It prohibits the functioning of “unrecognised schools” (Section 18) or those that don’t meet certain standards (Section 19); the refusal of admission because of absence of age proof (Section 14[2]); physical punishment or mental harassment (Section 17); gender, class, caste and religious discrimination; screening practices for admission or a capitation fee (Section 13); holding back a child or expelling him/her till elementary education is complete (Section 16); and providing of private tuition by school teachers (Section 28).

  8. What are the duties of a teacher under the RTE Act?

    Section 23 lays out teachers’ duties and ensures disciplinary action if they are breached. Section 24 states that teachers should not to be made to do non-educational work, except duties related to the census, disaster relief and elections.

  9. How does the RTE Act promote transparency?

    The Act aims to promote transparency and accountability of the school system through School Management Committees and a grievance redressal mechanism that hears cases related to violations of the law. 

    Focus and Factoids by Rishab Bailey.


Ministry of Law and Justice 


Government of India


04 Aug, 2009