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Report No. 259

Chapter - VI

Care and Education

6.1 Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) refers to the simultaneous inputs of care and opportunities for psycho-social development and learning in an enabling environment for all children, from birth to six years of age. It is important to focus on law and policy for this group, considering mortality or malnutrition of children under six.

The National Family Health Survey (2005-06) indicates that 48% of children under five are stunted and 43% are underweight for their age.58 Before proceeding it is important to stress right at the beginning that any project, scheme or law aimed at ensuring ECCE it needs to be based on the principle of equity, access for all children to quality services and State responsibility.

58 Children in India, 2012- A statistical Appraisal, Social Statistics Division, Central Statistics Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, p. 10

6.2 The Supreme Court, in Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1993 AIR 2178, held that the right to basic education is implied within the fundamental right to life (Article 21), when read in conjunction with the directive principle on education (Article 41).

The Court held that the parameters of the right must be understood in the context of the Directive Principles of State Policy, including Article 45, which provides that the state is to endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children under the age of 14. The 165th Law Commission Report (1998) reaffirmed this principle, emphasizing the need for free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years.

6.3 Even though the Law Commission and the Saikia Committee60 recommended making education free and compulsory for all children upto the age of 14, the Secretary of Education, in its statement to the Parliamentary Standing Committee61 stated that the Department thought that the right to education, as a justiciable fundamental right, could only be enforceable in the age-group of after 6 years, when one enters the a formal system. Prior to that, even though education is very essential, it is entirely a different exercise and unenforceable as a fundamental right.

60 Report of the Committee of State Education Ministers constituted to examine implications of making the right to free and compulsory, elementary education a Fundamental Right dated 14th January, 1997.

61 Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development Presented to both Houses of the Parliament on 24.11.97 at
http://www.educationforallinindia.com/page144.html

6.4 The Parliamentary Standing Committee stated that an infant's education in the age group 0-6 is an enormously complicated one. Much of the education imparted in this age group is non-formal through the mother and it is difficult to standardise it and therefore difficult to make a justiciable Fundamental Right. The Committee recommended that it would be feasible only to provide for free education to children of 6 to 14 years as a fundamental right. They added a further recommendation that Article 45 should be seen as complimenting Article 21A and Directive Principles should be followed wherever possible.62

62 Id

6.5 Consequently, the 86th Constitutional Amendment (2002) amended Article 4563 thereby retaining right to early childhood care as a Directive Principle of State Policy. It created a further category of right to education for children between the ages of six to fourteen by introducing Article 21A, which provides that "the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such a manner as State may by law determine".

This Amendment, however, has resulted in a failure to address the need for education of children under six by leaving them out of the education fold under Article 21A. It is recommended that Article 21A be amended to read as, "the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children in such a manner as State may by law determine".

63 The Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002: "Article 45. The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years."

6.6 The NCRWC had recommended inclusion of a new provision, which read as, "to foster a spirit of family values and responsible parenthood in the matter of education, physical and moral well-being of children" to Article 51A of the Constitution so as to make it the responsibility of the parents to discharge their fundamental duty to take care and provide for their children. Later, the same year, the 86th Amendment Act introduced Article 51 A (k) enjoining a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to a child or ward between ages of six - fourteen years.

Even though the Constitution now considers it a citizen's fundamental duty to provide educational opportunities for children under his/her care, this duty is limited to children between the ages of six to fourteen. It is recommended that this qualification for age may be removed and the Constitution be amended so Article 51 A(k) can read as, It shall be the duty of every citizen of India "who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward under his care".

6.7 The only existing central legislation, which deals with early learning, is The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. Section 11 of the Act states, "with a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate Government may make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children".

Although this is a laudable goal, the provision is not mandatory, and merely offers State Governments the option of providing education for children above the age of three years. Without a mandatory clause, there can be no accountability and clarity as to when and how the State Governments can be enjoined to make necessary arrangements and leaves education for children under six subject to the vagaries of political will.

Provisions in section 11 should be made mandatory and should read as "with a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate Government shall make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children".

6.8 Among the States, only Kerala explicitly provides for free and compulsory education for children under six years of age. Rule 6(11) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010. RTE Rules provides "The state government and the local authority shall provide free and appropriate pre-school education based on a Pre-primary Education policy that shall be formulated by the state government, to all children above the age of three years till they complete six years so as to prepare them for elementary education.

For this, Pre-school Centres shall be established in all government and aided schools in a phased manner within three years from the date of notification of the Rules. A unified child-friendly curriculum shall be developed by the academic authority for these centres, which shall have linkages with the Anganwadies for providing ICDS services to all the children.

The minimum academic and professional qualification of pre-primary teachers shall be as prescribed by the National Council for Teacher Education." Rule 8(1)(e) requires the State Government to "ensure quality in pre-primary teacher and elementary teacher training courses by revising the pre-service pre-primary and elementary teacher training curriculum in consonance with the pre-primary and elementary school curriculum every five years."

Rule 8(3) further mandates, "The State Government shall in consultation with other academic authorities prepare Scheme(s) to provide pre-service and in-service training of teachers of pre-primary schools and functionaries of Anganwadi centres and of teachers in government, aided and unaided schools, including a monitoring mechanism designed in accordance with the standards of training."

6.9 Although all other states have adopted RTE Rules in accordance with section 38 of the Right to Education Act, 2009, little thought has been given to children under six years of age. It is clear the section 11 of the RTE Act continues to be a mere provision on paper. States have not attempted to realize the aspiration of the provision. Rules established by all States define Anganwadis as "an Anganwadi Centre established under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India", but these Rules have not elaborated on the minimum requirements applicable.

Further, The Andhra Pradesh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules 2010 define ECE, as "Early Childhood Care Centres established by Sarva Siksha Abiyan in the premises of primary schools or elsewhere to provide pre-school education to the children in the age group of 3-5 years" without elaborating on ECE services or providing for minimum requirements for ECE services. These Rules are silent on the quality of education and care to be provided by Pre-primary schools and Anganwadis.

There should be a reference to quality of education in the Rules. Education for children under six must mean quality education and care to prepare them for elementary school and anything less than that should not be called education. Therefore, it is worth considering that whether the Rules established by all States should follow the Kerala model and prescribe for minimum standards applicable for Pre-primary education with an emphasis on the Anganwadi structure.

6.10 Institutional care for children under six has been provided through the provisions of crèche facilities and day care. Crèches are important means for ensuring care to children while parents are at work or are unable to care for them due to illness or otherwise. Crèches are meant to ensure protection of children under an able care-provider and provide adequate age-appropriate recreational facilities. In Finland, after the enactment of the Act on Children's Day Care of 1973, the obligation to organise day care for children under school age rests with the local authorities. The local authorities may provide day care either in day care centres or in the form of family day care.

Since 1990, parents have enjoyed an unconditional right to day care for children under three years of age either in municipal day care or by receiving child home care allowance in order to care for their children at home. Since August 1997, it has been possible for families to receive private child-care allowance for providing their children with private care.64 The introduction of statutory right to childcare provides equal opportunity for all young children to be in an institutional system of care by the state.

64 Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in Finland, Background Report prepared for the OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy, May, 2000



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