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Report No. 165

5.4 Recommendations of the Committee of State Education Ministers on implications of the proposal to make elementary education a fundamental right.-

The Chief Ministers' Conference held on 4th to 5th July, 1990 adopted a resolution to Universalise Primary Education by 2000 A.D. A Committee chaired by Mr. Muni 'Ram Saikia, Union Minister of State for HRD (Education) was constituted on 29th August, 1996 with the Education Ministers of 13 States and senior officials of the Central Government as its members to consider the legal, academic, administrative and financial implications. The Committee submitted its report on 15th January, 1997.

The report says that the number of primary schools have gone up to 5,90,421 and the number of upper primary schools to 1,71,216 in 1995-96 as against 2,10,000 and 13,000 in 1950-51 respectively. Gross enrolment ratio at primary level has increased from 42.6 in 1950-51 to 104.5 in 1995-96 with a large proportion of increase' being in rural and semi-urban areas. According to the 5th All India Educational Survey, 94.6% of the rural habitations have a primary school within one kilometre and 85.4% have an upper primary school with a distance of three kilometres.

The committee observes that the task of universalisation of elementary education (UEE) is far from being complete because there are severe gender, regional, sectional and caste disparities in UEE. Only two-thirds of the children complete primary schooling and only half complete upper primary schooling. A significant proportion of those who join school drop out before completing their studies due to socio-economic and cultural factors as also due to lack of adequate infrastructure, shortage of teachers, non-availability of teaching, learning materials and text books, a curriculum which is not fully related to local needs and low levels of learning.

5.4.1. After considering various pros and cons, the said committee made the recommendations which are summarised as follows:

(i) The Constitution of India should be amended to make the right to free elementary education upto 14 years of age a Fundamental Right. Simultaneously, an explicit provision should be made in the Constitution to make it a Fundamental Duty of every citizen who is a parent to provide opportunities for elementary education to all children upto 14 years of age. Consequential amendments to the Directive Principles of State Policy as enunciated in Article 45 of the Constitution should also be -made.

(ii) In a diverse federal polity such as ours and with the States being the main providers of elementary education, there is no need to enact a Central Legislation making elementary education compulsory. States should either amend their existing legislation or enact fresh legislation to give effect to the proposed Constitutional amendments on the lines of the action taken in regard to implementation of 73rd arid 74th Constitutional amendments. The Central Government should issue guidelines providing a broad framework for enactment of fresh legislation on compulsory elementary education. The guidelines should be finalised in consultation with State/UT Governments.

(iii) State legislation should provide for the following:-

(a) provision of permissive compulsion to enable State Governments and local bodies to enforce the law selectively in a phased manner;

(b) grounds for exemption from compulsory school attendance;

(c) imposition of punishment on defaulting parents-quantum of minimum and maximum punishment should be specified;

(d) establishment of primary schools within a distance of 1-1.5 kilometers from rural habitations provided that there is a population of 250 in the catchment areas;

(e) establishment of upper primary schools within a distance of 3 kilometres from rural habitations provided that there is a population of 500 in the catchment areas;

State Governments should be entitled to relax the norms in (d) and (e) above in the case of hill, desert, tribal and inaccessible areas so as to ensure that the proposed schools are viable.

(f) responsibilities which may be delegated to Gram Panchayats and Village Education Committee (VECs) for achieving Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) in their jurisdiction;

(g) provision for engaging honorary attendance officers; and

(h) vesting of powers to impose penalties and grant exemptions in the Panchayat Raj Institutions/Village Education Committees (PRIs/ VECs).

(iv) A State-wise approach in regard to free education. should be -adopted in keeping with the local situation. However, in order to ensure uniformity, free elementary education may include exemption from tuition fee; provision of essential stationery to all children in primary classes. In addition, the Mid-day Meals Programme may be continued. State Governments may provide other incentives such as free school uniforms, cash incentives, scholarships, etc. in accordance with their economic capacity and priorities.

(v) The administrative machinery for supervision, inspection, monitoring and evaluation of elementary education should be augmented and strengthened at the Secretariat, Directorate, District and Block levels.

(vi) The academic implications of the proposal which include provision of recurrent teacher training and quality textbooks besides introduction of Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL) should be given due attention.

(vii) Minimum infrastructure and teachers as envisaged under Operation Blackboard should be provided in all primary and upper primary schools preferably during the 9th Five Year Plan. However, such provision of facilities may not be made a statutory obligation for the present. The norms prescribed under OB would not be applicable to alternative schooling and non-formal education programme.

(viii) As in the past, the primary responsibility to promote elementary education should remain with the State Governments, who should consider measures which will enable local bodies in urban and rural areas to raise revenues for improvement of facilities in schools. They should consider the proposal to levy an "educational cess" in this regard. The Central Government should meet additional requirements keeping in view the past trend of resource transfers and the need to augment resources to implement the proposal. The Central and State Governments should allocate 50% of budgetary allocations for education to elementary education and ensure that the funds so allocated are not re-appropriated or diverted to any other sector. They should also streamline the existing system of flow of funds to Elementary Education Programmes.

(ix) The Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance should evolve an appropriate formula in consultation with the State Governments concerned to share additional finances required to implement the proposal. The formula so evolved should provide for transfer of more resources to educationally backward States/Districts/Blocks. Estimates of additional funds required to implement the proposal should be carefully examined in consultation with experts who may also identify the possible sources of financing the additional requirements. The additional expenditure to implement the proposal should be phased out, preferably over a period of 5 years, coinciding with the Ninth Five Year Plan.

(x) States should provide adequate space and opportunity to deserving private schools to spread elementary education in remote and inaccessible rural areas. They should also consider suitable regulatory provisions to ensure that. The tendency of commercialisation of education is effectively curbed.

(xi) In regard to medium of instruction at primary level, States should continue the existing policy of providing primary education in the regional language and where regional language is other than the mother tongue, in the mother tongue.

(xii) In order to give meaning and effect to the proposal, special efforts should be made to build public opinion in favour of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) by social mobilisation and involvement of local communities on a much larger scale. To achieve this, a National Elementary Education Mission (NEEM) should be effectively operationalised in IXth Plan; Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) should be provided larger assistance and support in their efforts to promote Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE); and Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) should be given greater responsibility in planning, management and implementation of programmes of elementary education.

5.5.1. The Saikia Committee observes that the requirement of additional funds in five years coinciding with the 9th Plan to achieve the national goal of UEE, would be approximately Rs. 40,000 crores. As per the Annexure IV of the proposed 9th Plan, under the Head Education, for realising primary/elementary education including mid-day meal scheme, the proposed outlay for the 9th Plan is Rs. 31,594 crore (comprising of Centre's share of Rs. 12,644 crore and State and UTs share of Rs. 18,950 crore). However, the required outlay is of Rs. 48,950 crore (comprising of Centre's share of Rs. 30,000 crore and State and UT's share of Rs. 18,950 crore). Thus a gap of Rs. 17,356 crore is still being projected in the 9th Plan.

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