Actress Sonam Kapoor celebrates Christmas with anganwadi children in Mumbai. File picture
New Delhi, Sept. 15: The Planning Commission has proposed that children undergo a year’s pre-schooling at government schools before they are admitted to Class I.
If the proposal is accepted, it would virtually make education a right for children between the age of five and 14, rather than six and 14 as laid down by the Right to Education Act, education experts said.
Pre-schooling is now a facet only of private schools in India. Nearly two crore Indian children directly enrol in Class I in government schools every year after attaining the age of six. This after spending about a year or two at anganwadi centres, which provide nutrition and health care but no formal education.
“Our proposal is to have a year of formal compulsory schooling for five-year-old children. Every elementary school will start one more pre-school class. This will make the children ready to start actual schooling,” Planning Commission member Narendra Jadhav told The Telegraph.
After completing anganwadi, a child will enrol in the pre-primary class. The curriculum and teaching methods are yet to be finalised.
Jadhav said nearly 40 per cent children drop out after Class V, the main reason being they are not comfortable in school. “If they get a year’s orientation before Class I, it will help check the dropout rate,” he said.
The proposal will go to the cabinet and the National Development Council.
“If the proposal is accepted, a child may spend one year in anganwadi and one year at pre-school. At the age of six, he or she will be admitted to Class I,” said R. Govinda, vice-chancellor of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration.
Vinod Raina, member of the Central Advisory Board of Education, the apex advisory body on education, welcomed the decision but cautioned that implementation would be a challenge.
“I welcome the idea. But the Integrated Child Development Scheme, under which the anganwadi centres are run, is now managed by the women and child development ministry. If pre-schooling is to be started, the question is who would implement it and whether health and nutrition would still be part of it,” Raina said.
The 11th Plan document had provided for pre-school for children between the age of 4 and 6. But it remained a non-starter because of lack of clarity on whether the human resource development ministry or the women and child development ministry would implement it.
While the allocation for education was around Rs 2.5 lakh crore in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-2012), the projected allocation for the 12th Plan period (2012-17) is Rs 4.7 lakh crore.
“The (projected) allocation has been increased to provide for the additional costs of implementing the right to education,” Raina said.
On higher education, the focus is on increasing seats in the existing institutions by one crore. The gross enrolment ratio — the percentage of those enrolled in higher education among people aged 18 to 23 — is projected to rise from 17 per cent now to 25 per cent by 2017.
“The focus is on increasing capacity at state universities and colleges,” Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen said.