Report No. 259
D. Perspectives from other jurisdictions
5.5.1 A rights-based approach has indeed been adopted by some other developing nations where - due to various social, cultural and economic reasons - the position of children in society and their access to basic amenities has been unsatisfactory. Article 227 of the Brazilian Constitution declares: "It is the duty of the family, the society and the State to ensure children and adolescents, with absolute priority, the right to life, health, nourishment, education, leisure, professional training, culture, dignity, respect, freedom and family and community life, as well as to guard them from all forms of negligence, discrimination, exploitation, violence, cruelty and oppression."
This emphatic constitutional imperative has been given detailed shape through legislation. The Child and Adolescent Statute, 1990 is a unique example of a legislative initiative that treats all children as one group and grants them rights by virtue of their belonging to that group without any separate criteria of classification. Health, nutrition, care and education are all considered essential for the child's well-being, and specific rights are provided for; special implementing policies and executive bodies to implement them have been created under the Statute.
Further, later legislation reinforced several of the rights granted by the Statute and addressed issues that needed special attention. There was thus a concerted legislative and political effort to create a comprehensive system of children's rights under an umbrella legislation and backed by efficient implementation mechanisms.
5.5.2 The Philippines ECCD Act, 200956 (now replaced: see below) provided an example of an integrated ECD statute focusing on the 0-6 age-group. Section 3 of the Act listed its objectives, which are extremely comprehensive and cover all aspects that need to be covered in an ECD legislation:
"(a) To achieve improved infant and child survival rates by ensuring that adequate health and nutrition programs are accessible to young children and their mothers from the prenatal period throughout the early childhood years;
(b) To enhance the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, psychological, spiritual and language development of young children;
(c) To enhance the role of parents and other caregivers as the primary caregivers and educators of their children from birth onwards;
(d) To facilitate a smooth transition from care and education provided at home to community or school-based setting and to primary school;
(e) To enhance the capabilities of service providers and their supervisors to comply with quality standards for various ECCD programs;
(f) To enhance and sustain the efforts of communities to promote ECCD programs and ensure that special support is provided for poor and disadvantaged communities;
(g) To ensure that young children are adequately prepared for the formal learning system and that both public and private schools are responsive to the developmental needs of these children;
(h) To establish an efficient system for early identification, prevention, referral and intervention for developmental disorders and disabilities in early childhood; and
(i) To improve the quality standards of public and private ECCD programs through, but not limited to, a registration and credential system for ECCD service providers."
5.5.3 It is significant to note that the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) System under the Philippines ECCD Act, 2009 referees to the full range of health, nutrition, early education and social services programs that provide for the basic holistic needs of young children from birth to age six, to promote their optimum growth and development. The Act declared the policy of the State to promote the rights of children to survival, development and special protection with full recognition of the nature of childhood and its special needs; and to support parents in their roles as primary caregivers and as their children's first teachers.
It proposed to institutionalize a National System for Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) that was comprehensive, integrative and sustainable, and that involves multi-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration at the national and local levels among government; among service providers, families and communities; and among the public and private sectors, non-government organizations, professional associations, and academic institutions.
The strategies for ECCD include service delivery for children from conception to age six, educating parents and caregivers, encouraging the active involvement of parents and communities in ECCD programs, raising awareness about the importance of ECCD, and promoting community development efforts that improve the quality of life for young children and families.
5.5.4 The National System was coordinated under an ECCD Council created by ordinance pursuant to the Act's provisions. The Council was charged with implementing the Act, and was thus a centralised authority with a clear mandate, clear mechanisms for operation and funding, and a clear allocation of responsibilities in order to create accountability and transparency. The 2009 legislation was replaced by the Early Years Act, 201357, which expanded the overall focus to the 0-8 age group while giving the Council a special role in the development of the 0-4 group. Apart from this modification, the general goals and objectives under the two statutes are similar.
5.5.5 The Philippines thus has a comprehensive and detailed legislative framework for ECD. It is suggested that this could be an effective model from which to seek inspiration for an Indian legislation, while retaining the focus on the 0-6 age-group. As seen above, the Philippines framework sets out in great detail the various implementing mechanisms and their powers and modes of operation for realising its objectives, and has created a central Council for ECCD to oversee the functioning of these mechanisms and to ensure that the regulatory objectives are achieved.
Thus, just like in the case of Brazil, there is a comprehensive legislative framework creating entitlements for young children combined with detailed provisions for implementation. The Philippines' ECCD Council is a statutory authority that has both the power and the responsibility to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to promote the right to ECD.
This is the ideal approach to take for entrenching the Right to ECD. Taking cue from experiences of Philippines and Brazilian systems and adopting them in Indian context the time is ripe for India, rather it is needed to create a full range of legal entitlements with regard to health, nutrition, care, early education and social services in favour of all children especially for children below six years.
5.5.6 Also looking to integrated nature and complexities involved in the idea of ECD and more so keeping in view that various schemes operating in India represent fragmented approach making coordination, monitoring and universality of quality and standards of services, a huge and formidable change that an institution or council like in Philippines could be constituted.
The Council may have representatives from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Industry apart from representatives of those working actively on the issues relating to child. Professions like law, medical and other be also brought on the proposed Council. One of the major task for such a Council could be to evolve Standards which could be universally applied, cutting across various schemes and programmes.