Education has continued to evolve, diversify and extend its reach and coverage since the dawn of human history. Every country develops its system of education to express and promote its unique socio-cultural identity and also to meet the challenges of the times. There are moments in history when a new direction has to be given to an age-old process. That moment is today.
The country has reached a stage in its economic and technical development when a major effort must be made to derive the maximum benefit from the assets already created and to ensure that the fruits of change reach all sections. Education is the highway to that goal.
Prevelance of Child labour: All non-school going children are child workers in one form or the other. Agricultural child labour constitutes the core of the problem. Child labour policies and education policies have to be formulated and operated in tandem. Parents do want to send their children to be educated and poverty as a limiting factor is highly over-rated. Motivation and availability of infrastructure rather than poverty are the key factors. The paper underlines the strengths of formal education in eradicating child labour and forcefully argues for a legislation to provide for compulsory education.
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The main argument against child labour and compulsory education is that it is necessary for the wellbeing of the poor as the state is unable to provide relief. The second argument, is that education would make the poor unsuited for the kind of manual work that is required to be done. The third argument is that certain industries would be forced to close down if they did not have the facility of the low wage child labour. The last argument against banning child labour and enforcing compulsory education is that the State should not be allowed to interfere in the parents’ rights who know what is best for their children and families.
Lack of Coverage: Despite the regular expansion of the ICDS, the coverage of children for ECCE is still as low as 20 percent. This is an issue of both inadequate access and inadequate quality of service delivery. With ICDS continuing to be the main vehicle for ECCE, the GOI is proposing to expand the service further and universalize it within the next few years. While this is a welcome proposal, the risk is of expanding too fast and compromising on quality.
Girl Child Education: The Indian government has expressed a strong commitment towards education for all; however, India still has one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia. In 1991, less than 40 percent of the 330 million women aged 7 and over were literate, which means today there are over 200 million illiterate women in India.
Laws Relating to Child Education in India
Constitutional position of education in India
While considering the various aspects of education with regard to state obligation, judicial interpretations, given to this obligation by various jurists are the primary source of learning. In the good old times, education was essentially an act of charity or philanthropy. Then, it was thought of as an ‘occupation’. Judicial dicta went so far as to consider it as an ‘industry’. Whether or not to perceive education as a fundamental right or not has been debated for a long time. The establishment and the administration of an educational institution for the imparting of knowledge to students is an occupation, protected by Article 19(1) (g) and additionally by Article 26(a), if there is no element of profit generation. Imparting education has come to be a means of livelihood for some professionals. It is considered as a mission in life for some altruists.
“Education” was a State Subject in view of the following Entry 11, placed in List II State List:- “11. Education including universities, subject to the provisions of entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of List I and entry 25 of List III.”
By the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act 1976, the above-said Entry was directed to be deleted and instead Entry 25 in List III Concurrent List, was directed to be suitably amended so as to read as under:-
“25. Education, including technical education, medical education and universities, subject to the provisions of entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of List I; vocational and technical training of labour”
The Constitution of India has laid a directive before the state to make a provision of free and compulsory education for children below the age of fourteen years.
45. Provision for free and compulsory education for children: The State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
However, the government has not been successful in providing adequate facilities of education for the under privileged children, located in the rural areas.
The Supreme Court in the case Unnikrishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993) ruled that the right to education is a fundamental right that flows from the right to life in Article 21 of the Constitution. Following this ruling, the 86th Constitution Amendment Act, 2002 added Article 21A, stating, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.” The 86th Amendment also modified Article 45, which now reads “The State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of 6 years.”
The state recently enacted the Right to Education Act, seeking to effect the 86th Constitutional amendment
Judiciary and Education
In the judgment of Unnikrishnan, a Constitution Bench of this Court framed a scheme that governs admissions to professional colleges. The main objective was to ensure that merit prevails in the matter of admissions, both in respect of what were called “free seats” as well as in respect of “payment seats.” This judgment was rendered on February 4, 1993. The scheme was to be effective from the Academic Year 1993-94 onwards.
Review Petitions were filed by several institutions against the said judgment. They were dismissed by the Constitution Bench.
The judgment of P.A. Inamdar and others vs. State of Maharashtra was a landmark in the field of educational law. Law reports are replete with rulings related to the education in its several aspects. Until the T.M.A Pai Foundation case, there were four oft- quoted leading cases concerning the field of education, namely, (i) Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993) 1 SCC 645 (ii) St. Stephen’s College v. University of Delhi (1992)1 SCC 558 (iii) Ahmedabad St. Xavier’s College Society v. State of Gujarat (1974)1 SCC 717 and (iv) Re: Kerala Education Bill, 1957, (1958) SCR 995.
Right to Education Act
The Right to Education Act seeks to give effect to the 86th Amendment of the Constitution of India. Salient provisions:
The State shall ensure a school in every neighbourhood
Every school shall conform to certain minimum standards, defined in the Bill
Government schools shall provide free education to all admitted children Private schools shall admit at least 25% of children from weaker sections; no fee shall be charged to these children
Screening tests at the time of admission and capitation fees are prohibited for all children
Government schools will be managed by School Management
The National Commission for Elementary Education shall be constituted to monitor all aspects of elementary education including quality.
The Right to Education Act prescribes the Rights of Every Child as follows:
Every child between the age of 6 and 14 years has the right to full-time free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.
Non-enrolled children, of age group 7-9 years, have the right to be admitted in an age-appropriate grade within one year of the commencement of the Act, and children, of age group 9-14 years, have the right to be provided special programmes that will enable them to attend such grade within three years.
Children with severe or profound disability, who are unable to attend a neighbourhood school, have the right to be provided education in an appropriate environment.
A child cannot be held back in any grade or expelled from a school till Class VIII. Any expulsion requires an order of the School Management Committee (SMC), which will be given only after all other corrective measures have been exhausted, and parents/guardians have been heard. The local authority will take steps to enroll such a child in another neighbourhood school.
The Act also prescribes the responsibility of the State as follows:
The State shall ensure availability of a neighbourhood school for every child within three years. In case of non-availability, free transport or free residential facilities shall be provided. The state/UT government shall determine every year the requirement of schools, facilities, and their locations; establish additional schools as required; deploy teachers and create facilities for their training.
The State shall develop a mechanism to monitor enrolment, participation and attainment status of every child, and take corrective steps wherever required. Information in this regard will be made available in the public domain, including on an on-line basis.
No school can conduct any screening procedure of any child or parents at the time of admission.
Children will be selected for admission in a random manner. Capitation fees are prohibited.
Provisions concerning School Management:
All non-government schools have to be recognized by a Competent Authority or they must shut down. The Act specifies certain norms (such as teacher-student ratio, physical infrastructure etc.) to be fulfilled by all schools as a pre-requisite for being recognized.
All State and aided schools are required to form School Management Committees (SMCs) with at least 75% of the members being parents/guardians, and the other members representing teachers, the community and the local authority. SMCs will manage the school, including the sanction of leave
Provisions regarding Content and Process
Schools and academic authorities formulating curriculum shall conform to the values enshrined in the Constitution. Schools should operate in a child- friendly and child- centred manner.
No child shall be required to appear at a public examination before completing Grade VIII.
Policies and Schemes
Prominent Policies in the Context of Provision of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in India
National Nutrition Policy (1993) which recognized children below six years as high-risk groups to be given high priority.
National Policy on Empowerment of Women (2001), supported provision of childcare facilities, including crèches at work places.
India also ratified Convention on Rights of the Child in 1992 and reaffirmed its commitment to children, which resulted in formulation of policy framework to prepare a National Charter for Children. National Commission for Children has also been set up. The Commission as visualized would protect/safeguard the rights of children with a strong legal base.
National Plan of Action for Children (2005) included universalisation of ECCE as one of the goals. It specified care, protection and development opportunities for children below 3 years and integrated care and development and pre-school learning opportunities for 3-6 year olds.
National Curriculum Framework (2005f emphasized two years of pre-schooling and considered ECCE as significant for holistic development of the child, as a preparation for schooling and as a support service for women and girls. It advocated play-based developmentally appropriate curriculum
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
India has the distinction of having conceptualized and floated perhaps the world’s largest program for children, modeled on the definition which says that working with children means a more holistic view one of its components is child education, as early as in 1975. Known as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), this program targets children, pregnant and lactating mothers and adolescent girls from a lifecycle perspective Non-formal preschool education has been one of its core components.
Other Policies and Schemes
â€¢ National Policy on Education, 1968
â€¢ National Policy on Education, 1986
â€¢ National Policy on Education, 1986 (As modified in 1992)
â€¢ National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA Government, announced in May, 2004 Extracts relating to Education
â€¢ National Curriculum Framework, 2005
â€¢ National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
â€¢ Jawahar Bala Arogya Raksha
â€¢ Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA)
â€¢ Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education
â€¢ Information and Communication Technology in Schools (ICT @ Schools)
â€¢ Primary Education – Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
Decentralized and holistic planning for children:
Given India’s diversity and scale the planning process and designing of interventions for children have to be contextualized. This can only be possible through a decentralized and participatory approach to planning and implementation. The Education sector already has experience of this approach to some extent and the programs /services for younger children would need to learn from this experience and reach out to children in a more targeted and local specific mode.
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Priority to and Ownership of ECCE:
Very recently, the total responsibility of ECCE has been shifted from Department of Education within the Ministry of Human Resource Development to a newly created Ministry of Women and Child Development. Though, it is too early to comment upon the implications of this decision, however, it is likely to generate a lot of discussion and debate about the issue of ownership and its logistic location with the education sector.
Prescription vs. Practice:
While, a favourable policy framework and appropriate curricular guidance is available in the country for ECCE; the reality is that there is a large gap between what is prescribed or suggested and what is practiced. In a study conducted by the NCERT (1998) it was found that almost all the ICDS centers observed adhered to teaching of 3 R’s ( reading, writing and arithmetic) and there was a virtual absence of any play activities. Typically, the activities of preschool education under ICDS are conducted for a period ranging from 45 minutes to two hours duration daily, with minimal play and learning material support and that too, largely in the absence of sufficient outdoor and indoor spaces, basic infrastructure facilities and competent workers. Preschool education in private/ public nursery schools, again, is largely a downward extension of primary education curriculum, with teachers often having no ECCE training.
Training Inputs and Institutional Support:
Effective preparation of teachers/service providers for ECCE is another issue, which is expected to determine quality. Corresponding to the range of ECCE programs and initiatives in India there is a variety of training provisions in ECCE, as well. These range from the two year integrated Nursery Teachers’ training program (NTT) which aims at preparing teachers for preschool stage (3-6 years) and for the first two grades (6-8 years) of the primary stage, In addition, the curriculum of higher/ senior secondary stage of education (+2) in Central Board of Secondary Education, National Institute of Open Schooling and many State Education Boards have also included early childhood education as an area of vocational education.
Public Spending on Children:
For the very first time, in the year (2004-05), the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in Government of India undertook a ‘child budgeting’ exercise to look at provisions and expenditures for children more holistically. This portends well for a more comprehensive approach towards planning and budgeting for children in the future. The public funds allocated to children are classified under four heads in the child budgeting exercise: ICDS & Nutrition, Education, Health and Child Protection and others.
As per the Constitution of India, child related provisions are in the concurrent list of responsibilities with the States having a prominent role in service delivery. However, most of the states spending are on recurrent items of expenditures, it is the funds which are made available through the Centrally Sponsored Schemes that provide for reform and quality improvement.
Overall, there has been an increase in expenditure on children as a percentage of GNP from 2.66 % in 1993-94 to 3.26% in 2001-02 (DWCD, Annual Report, 2004-05). As indicated in Figure 13 below, in terms of relative contributions, both the central and State contributions show steady increases over time, especially since 1997-98, with the states’ contribution being significantly more dominant. Still the overall public expenditure is far less than it should be.
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