It is one year since The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act came into force. While the State's /School Education Department released the draft rules for the implementation of the Act in late 2010, the final rules, after revisions and modifications based on feedback from consultations, are yet to be announced.

According to D. Jagannathan, former Director of School Education, who headed the advisory committee that evolved the draft rules, an announcement regarding the same can be expected soon.

“The Law Department has scrutinised the draft rules and final rules are nearly-ready. Officials are trying to get permission from the Election Commission. If we get the permission, the rules might be released even before the elections,” he said.

The announcement of the rules will be an important cue for all schools, particularly those run by private managements. To start with, schools would have to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for children belonging to disadvantaged groups.

This would mean that schools, while winding up the academic year, should also plan ahead for the next academic year, keeping in mind the provisions of the RTE Act.

D.C. Elangovan, secretary, Federation of Associations of Private Schools in Tamil Nadu, said that the Association would enquire about the legal obligations and ensure that schools take necessary steps. “So far, we have received no guidelines or directive from the government. Schools will certainly have to fulfil the legal obligations,” he said.

Heads of some CBSE schools said that they had not received any admission-related query from those belonging to disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood. Raising awareness among all sections is vital to ensure effective implementation of the act, note experts.

K. Shanmugavelayutham, convener, Tamil Nadu Forum for Creche and Childcare Services (TN-FORCES), said: “While ignorance of law is no valid excuse, we have to see it in the context of prevalent issues such as illiteracy. This being the first year, the government should create awareness. Once it is institutionalised, awareness will automatically spread.”

Emphasising the role of other agencies, he said civil society, student bodies, teachers' unions and parent associations should play an active role. “The Right to Education Protection Authority or the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has to be constituted soon,” he added.