A law making primary education compulsory in India went into effect last week, opening the schoolhouse door for millions of impoverished children who have never made it to school because their parents could not afford the fees or because the children were forced to work instead.
The new law entitles all children between the ages of 6 and 14 to a free education, regardless of their social status, gender, or income level. Some 8 million children—mostly girls—are currently out of school, according to the United Nations. The law is also expected to help educate Dalit children, who as members of India’s lowest caste are treated as outcasts and are often barred from schools.
Today, our government comes before you to redeem the pledge of giving all our children the right to elementary education, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a televised address. This demonstrates our national commitment to the education of our children and to the future of India.
A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 2010 edition of Education Week as India Enacts Law Promising Free Elementary Education