Is RTE Act concerned with homeschoolers?

As I read about the Right to Education (RTE) Act, I am unconvinced that it is concerned with homeschoolers who are happy to be homeschooling.

Nor do I believe happy homeschoolers need to view it as an obstacle to free homeschooling.  In fact, for those concerned about entry into the school system after some years of homeschooling, it seems to provide assurance since it states that schools cannot deny admission.

Section 18 seems to have raised special concern, and is being quoted in the media as being against homeschooling. I believe this is because the petitioners in the Delhi High Court have interpreted it that way.  But need it be interpreted that way?

Here is the first para:

Section 18:  No school, other than a school established, owned or controlled by the appropriate Government or the local authority shall, after the comencement of this Act, be established or function, without obaining a certificate of recognition from such authority, by making an application in such form and manner, as may be prescribed.

I don’t think it is addressing the concept of homeschooling at all.  It is concerned with the case in which a parent takes responsibility for educating someone other than his or her own children – and in some cases also takes fees or collects donations for the same.  That is why it talks about “alternative schools.”   It is talking about whether an institution can call itself a school.   Legally and socially there is a clear difference  between one’s rights to teach or care for one’s own children and one’s right towards others’ children.  At a small, occasional scale, looking after others’ children does not come under any regulation at all, but if one sets up a day care center then it may have to follow certain norms, obtain licenses, pay taxes, etc.

One may argue for the right of alternative school to operate without obtaining the certificates stipulated by the act but I would not be inclined to lump homeschoolers along with alternative schools, or to say that we are also restricted by this act.  I believe we are not.  I am inclined to trust the common sense reflected in this Letter from Department of School Education & Literacy.

Here is a scanned copy of the RTE Act, as published in the Gazette of India, 26 August 2009.

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