Book review: Florian Matthey-Prakash, The Right to Education in India: The Importance of Enforceability of a Fundamental Right

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
AuthorRashmi Gopi
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 299
The necessity to link the idea of formal participation with substantive participation is underlined here in
a coherent and precise manner, and the raising of questions of sustainability of the women members’
representation in their liminal and marginal spaces is also significant. Finally, Rai and Spary aptly adapt
Nancy Fraser’s perspectival dualism of combining recognition of identities with redistribution of
resources to their case. Their most original insight is that while women need to be represented in
Parliament in greater numbers, the numbers can only deliver if they are rooted in progressive politics
aided by political parties and autonomous women’s movements. Then only can gender politics in
Parliament move beyond the recognition of identities to bringing about the redistribution of economic
and political resources for a gender-equal society.
Bijayalaxmi Nanda
Department of Political Science,
Miranda House, University of Delhi
Florian Matthey-Prakash, The Right to Education in India: The Importance of Enforceability of a Fundamental
Right (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2019), 446 pp. `1,495.
DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043028
Florian Matthey-Prakash’s primary question in this book is the enforceability of the Right to Education,
especially for the poor after it became a ‘fundamental right’ in 2002. Article 21A is further strengthened
with the provisions in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009. In the first
chapter, Matthey-Prakash makes significant observations that the Right to Education can neither be
reduced to the mere enrolment of children aged 6–14 years in school nor to the availability of
infrastructural facilities in schools. To make education meaningful, we need to concentrate on teaching
quality and learning outcomes. Matthey-Prakash raises the important questions of whether privatisation
can be justified for quality education and what the implications are for poor parents to claim the ‘right to
education’ for their children (pp. 52–53). He highlights the fact that fragmentation of the school system
in India into good private schools and bad government schools is nothing but the solidification of social
difference and less social mobility (p. 55). He discusses politics around the quota for ‘Economically
Weaker Sections’ in private schools to highlight class prejudice of the education system (p. 57). He
exposes the near monopolisation of education research by the NGO Pratham and its influence on one-
sided pro-privatisation view on education (pp. 52–53). Matthey-Prakash suggests that the social divide
between the privileged English speaking few and the majority of non-proficient English speakers will
not be overcome until teaching English to the masses becomes a priority (p. 62). This suggestion of
Matthey-Prakash is in contradiction with what has been envisioned in the New Education Policy 2020
(point number 4.11) in which the emphasis is on the medium of instruction being mother tongue/home/
local/regional language.
In subsequent chapters, Matthey-Prakash highlights that the categories of ‘fundamental rights’ and
‘directive principles of state policy’ are fluid, with many social and economic rights in the directive
principles getting absorbed as new fundamental rights. Matthey-Prakash explores the possibilities of
Right to Education as a fundamental right through four criteria: availability, accessibility, acceptability
and adaptability. He emphasises the shortcomings in both Article 21A and the Right to Education Act of
2009, which fail to fix responsibility for enforceability of Right to Education. He asks: to what extent are
violations in Right to Education deliberate (p. 162)? He argues that while the ultimate responsibility to

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