Children at school: India is becoming a less elitist country

At last, education for children is a right in India. On 1 April, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came in force, 63 years after the independence. Children of 6 to 14 are now entitled to have elementary education, meanwhile private schools will reserve 25% of seats to poor children. “India will join a group of few countries in the world , with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child”, wrote The Hindu; but, as a matter of fact, India is the 135th country in the world to adopt such a law which will require 28 billions euro in five years to implement it.

Now India is a less elitist state. Do not be fooled by the formal democracy and the economic successes of the country: the “regimented caste system” is everywhere and, with over one billion of people, it has been not so difficult to have a robust economic élite. According to William J. Baumol, the economic model of India is a form of state-guided capitalism with a taste – one can add – for oligarchic capitalism, which is not a guarantee of economic growth. Indeed, the Indian elite educational approach has had an unintended consequence, the success in Information Technology, more a result of “accidental” events than of a political strategy. This sector is important, it accounts for 5,9% of the country Gross domestic product (in 2009), but provides jobs for only 2,3 million people on a labour force of half a billion.

In any case, the new bill is bold. It wants to build up “child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent”, but also to make “the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety”, “helping the child to express views freely”. A noble, and difficult, goal.