The Right to Education (RTE) Act transformed Indian education in many ways including the accessibility of schools for the poor. New research shows that the RTE has expanded the school choices of disadvantaged households by giving them better access to private schools.
In an article published in the portal, Ideas for India, Ambrish Dongre and others of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad examine the impact of the RTE’s mandate reserving 25% seats in non-minority private schools for the weaker sections of the society.
The researchers, along with non-governmental organizations, disseminated information on the RTE mandate to 2,000 disadvantaged households in Ahmedabad prior to school admissions in 2015-16. Later, over 1,600 of these households were interviewed to collect information on their school choices and experiences of the admission process.
The results suggest that the RTE provision worked. The authors find that students who benefited from the scheme were enrolled in different schools compared to their older siblings (who had been enrolled before the provision kicked in). The provision increased students’ chances of being admitted to private English medium schools, even if these schools were far from their homes and had higher school fees.
However, despite these effects, the RTE mandate proves inadequate in addressing deeper inequities. The authors reveal that, among the target households, the relatively more educated and well off households were more likely to utilize the provision.
For better implementation of the RTE mandate, the authors say it is important to promote awareness, simplify the experience and make the process more transparent through online portals. They suggest that only by streamlining this process and recognizing the constraints faced by households can the policy’s benefits reach the most disadvantaged.