Education is the basic requirement of every civilized society. The right to education has been recognized as a basic human right in several international conventions, covenants, and treaties. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has a right to education". UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights guarantee the right to education generally, that is, for all people. International Covenant on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), Convention on Rights of Child (1989), International Convention on Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their families (1990), Convention on Rights of persons with disabilities (2006) are treaties/conventions which guarantees right to education and applies to specific groups like women, children, disabled, refugees, migrant workers, etc. Education is also recognized by ILO conventions and humanitarian laws[i]. India is a signatory of all these treaties, covenants, declarations, and conventions.
The Constitution of India provides educational opportunities for women and children (Article 15(3)). By the first Constitutional Amendment in 1951, State is allowed to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward categories (Article 15(4)). Article 30 of the Indian Constitution provides for rights of the minorities to set up educational institutions in the country. Article 39(f) provides that the State shall ensure that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and the condition of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and material and moral abandonment. The States shall make effective provision to education (Article 41).
Hon'ble Supreme Court in Unni Krishnan, J.P v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1993)1 SCC 645, had recognized the fundamental right of every child for free and compulsory elementary education up to the age of 14 years[ii]. In the year 2002 by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Article 21A was inserted which states 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 the State may by law determine". By the same Constitutional Amendment in 2002, additions were made to Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 45) and Fundamental Duties of Citizens (Article 51A (k)). Article 45 provides for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years by the State. There also lies a fundamental duty upon the parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years (Article 51A (k)).
RIGHT OF CHILDREN TO (FREE & COMPULSORY) EDUCATION ACT, 2009[iii]
Indian Parliament in the year 2009 passed the Right of Children to (Free & Compulsory) Education Act, 2009 in pursuance of Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. The key highlights of the Act are:
Ø To ensure free and compulsory education for every child within the age group of 6-14.
Ø Special admission provision for those children who have not been admitted to or who have not completed elementary education (bridge schools)
Ø Appropriate Authority or local authorities were given responsibilities to establish schools within the limits of the neighbourhood.
Ø No capitation fee or screening procedure for admission. Receiving any capitation fee would lead to punishment & fine.
Ø Age proof of children seeking admission in a particular class is based on a birth certificate.
Ø No child shall be denied admission
Ø Prohibition of holding back and expulsion.
Ø Prohibition of physical or mental harassment to children.
Ø No school shall be established without obtaining a certificate of recognition.
Ø Ensure a reasonable pupil-teacher ratio in every school.
For better social inclusion every unaided school is under an obligation to admit 25 percent of students from weaker sections of the society in the neighbourhood. The State shall reimburse these schools for expenditure on these students.
EDUCATION POLICIES IN INDEPENDENT INDIA[iv]
National Policy on Education 1968
In response to the recommendations of the Kothari Commission, the National Educational Policy of 1968 was adopted. The key highlights of the Policy are:
Ø Extending the prospects of education among all sections of the society
Ø Compulsory education of children within the age group of 6-14
Ø Regional languages were encouraged especially for use in secondary education
Ø English to be used for the medium of instructions in schools and Hindi was recognized as a national language.
Ø Promoted the development of Sanskrit as a symbol of cultural heritage.
Ø 6 percent of national income to be used in the educational sector.
This Education Policy was criticized for the promotion of three language formula yet can be regarded as significant for paving the way towards educational development.
Draft National Policy on Education, 1979
The key highlights of Draft National Policy on Education, 1979 are:
Ø Development of the educational system to enhance academic skills
Ø Focus on moral and ethical education among students
Ø National integration through education.
Ø Reducing the gap between the educated class and the masses.
Ø Educational institutes and communities should work together.
National Educational Policy, 1986
The key highlights of National Educational Policy, 1986 are:
Ø Focus on imparting education among all sections of the society, particularly scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, women who were deprived of education.
Ø Fellowships for poor
Ø Introduction of adult education
Ø Recruitment of teachers from oppressed groups.
Ø Establishment of rural schools, colleges, and universities.
Ø Setting up of open universities.
Ø Introduction of Information Technology in Education.
National Policy on Education, 1992
The key highlights of the policy are:
Ø Strengthening of national integration.
Ø Enhancement of quality education.
Ø Developing moral values among students and bringing education closer to life.
National Educational Policy, 2020
The key highlights of the policy are:
Ø Repealing of 10+2 structure and replacing it with 5+3+3+4 which means 3 years of preschool/Anganwadi and Grade 1-2 (Foundational stage), Grade 3-5(Preparatory stage), Grade 6-8(Middle stage), Grade 9-12 (Secondary stage).
Ø The medium of Instruction till grade 5 will be mandatorily in the mother tongue.
Ø In the middle stage, the learning would mainly focus on experimentation rather than theoretical knowledge.
Ø In the secondary stage, students will be allowed to choose subjects according to their area of interest.
Ø Report cards would not only include grade but also the skills of the child will be assessed.
Ø By 2030 every teacher should undergo 4 years of integrated B.Ed.
Ø There is an option of multiple entry and exits for students. If a student leaves college and decides to join a college in the future his credits will be stored in the academic bank of credit.
Ø The Bachelor's degree course would be of 4 years. If the student completes the first year he would be served with a certificate. If he completes 2nd year he would be served with a diploma and for the completion of 3rd year, he will be provided with a degree. No time of student will be wasted.
Ø 100 top universities will be allowed to set up their campuses in the country.
Ø Establishment of the National Research Foundation to encourage research in every discipline.
Ø Establishment of Gender Inclusion funds to ensure that no child of gender is left behind from getting an education.
Ø Special attention to be given for the education of children with disabilities.
Ø Technical, healthcare, legal, and agriculture institutes must aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
It took over twenty-eight long years for the adoption of new education policy. With the changing society, change in the educational policy was an immense necessity. The deteriorating quality of education present in the country is a serious concern. Therefore, the adoption of the National Education Policy, 2020 is a symbol of hope towards the betterment of the Nation's Educational system.
Disclaimer: Kindly note that the views and opinions expressed are of the author, and not Law Colloquy.
Shukla, V.N, Constitution of India, 12th Edition, Eastern Book Company,2013.