The draft National Education Policy has once again started discussions in the country that what should be the right age to begin schooling. According to the proposal of the draft National Education Policy 2019, early childhood education should be overseen and regulated by the Human Resource Development Ministry as part of the school system. If this proposal is accepted, Indian kids will soon enter the formal education system at the age of three.
The draft National Education Policy proposes to expand the Right to Education Act to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1. The private pre-schools and Anganwadis cater to the 3-to-6 years age group currently. As per draft policy, an inter-ministerial task force will work out a roadmap for the transition by the end of 2019.
On the other hand, a recent study conducted by Stanford University has said that parents who waited to enroll their kids in kindergarten by age 6 (and not 5) had better performing kids. The kids had better test scores and better self-control by the time they reached 7 and 11 years. Psychologists also see self-control as an executive function. They feel it is in the initial years when kids start to possess this quality. Kids with a strong level of executive function are able to manage their time better and focus even with distractions.
The Human Resource Development Ministry is in the early stages of assessing the implications of such a move. Additional costs will come in the form of teacher recruitment and training, infrastructure and learning materials, as well as nutritional aspects (including the proposal to provide breakfast to young children). If the government implements it, the Anganwadi system will be boosted which has been overseen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) for more than four decades. The Ministry does not yet have accurate data on what percentage of children are neither in pre-schools nor the Anganwadi system. Given that the WCD Ministry has been in charge of this for over 40 years, it’s not clear if they would be willing to give it up.
The draft Policy praises the contribution of Anganwadis for improving health and nutrition, but notes that their record in education is not so strong. According to the draft policy, while providing some essential cognitive stimulation, play, and day care, most Anganwadis have remained relatively light on the educational aspects of ECCE [or Early Childhood Care and Education]. Anganwadis are currently quite deficient in supplies and infrastructure for education. They have more children in the 2-4 year age range and fewer in the educationally critical 4-6 year age range. They also have few teachers trained in or specially dedicated to early childhood education.
The draft Policy says that private pre-schools often consist of formal teaching and rote memorisation with limited play-based learning. A 2017 study by the Ambedkar University showed that “a significant proportion of children in India who completed pre-primary education, public or private, did not have the needed school readiness competencies when they joined primary school.
The draft Policy suggests a new integrated curricular framework for 3 to 8-year olds with a flexible system based on play, activity and discovery, and beginning exposure to three languages from age 3 onwards. This framework would be implemented by training and strengthening Anganwadi capabilities and linking them to a local primary school, co-locating Anganwadis and pre-schools with primary schools, or building stand-alone pre-schools also linked to a local primary school.
As per the draft Policy, all aspects of early childhood education must come under the Human Resource Development Ministry, just as health services in Anganwadis lie with the Health Ministry. A joint task force from Health, HRD and WCD will draft “a detailed plan outlining the operational and financial implications of the integration of early childhood education with the school education system”.
Many schools in India start accepting kids who are just 2.5 years old. In spite of many researches and established facts that kids should not be overburdened in the name of education, people feel crazy to get admitted their kids at the age of 2-3 years. As per the rules framed by CBSE, to secure admissions into class 1, the minimum age requirement is 5 years and the maximum age is 7 years.
According to the government circular, the weight of schoolbags for students of classes I and II should not exceed 1.5 kg, while those of students of class III to V should weigh between 2 kg to 3 kg. Schoolbags of students of classes VI and VII should not be more than 4 kg, while the weight of schoolbags of classes VIII and IX students should not be above 4.5 kg. The schoolbag of a class X student should not weigh above 5 kg.
The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has directed all states and Union Territories (UTs) to regulate the weight of school bags, as children remain crushed by the heavy bags they carry. Most bags weighed double the limit prescribed by the government. Many small kids were seen carrying even 10-kg bags. Children of classes III and IV were the worst suffers.
The idea behind the government circular is to ensure good health and physical growth of growing children who are often seen complaining about back and shoulder pain. According to doctors, 68 per cent of the children in the age group of 7-13 face risks of a backache and hunchback because of heavy schoolbags. These problems may lead to early spondylitis and severe neck and back pain. It may also cause serious spinal damage and irreversible back problems. It also affects the mental growth of children as they feel tired all the time.
Main Features of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009
- Free and compulsory education to all children of India in the 6 to 14 age group.
- No child shall be held back, expelled or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
- If a child above 6 years of age has not been admitted in any school or could not complete his or her elementary education, then he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age. However, if a case may be where a child is directly admitted in the class appropriate to his or her age, then, in order to be at par with others, he or she shall have a right to receive special training within such time limits as may be prescribed. Provided further that a child so admitted to elementary education shall be entitled to free education till the completion of elementary education even after 14 years.
- Proof of age for admission: For the purpose of admission to elementary education, the age of a child shall be determined on the basis of the birth certificate issued in accordance with the Provisions of Birth. Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1856, or on the basis of such other document as may be prescribed.No child shall be denied admission in a school for lack of age proof
- A child who completes elementary education shall be awarded a certificate.
- Call need to be taken for a fixed student–teacher ratio.
- Twenty-five per cent reservation for economically disadvantaged communities in admission to Class I in all private schools is to be done.
- Improvement in the quality of education is important.
- School teachers will need adequate professional degree within five years or else will lose job.
- School infrastructure (where there is a problem) need to be improved in every 3 years, else recognition will be cancelled.
- Financial burden will be shared between the state and the central government.