M A I N   N E W S

Turf war between two ministries over preschool children
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
Another turf war is on in the government - with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) actively considering a proposal to include 4 to 6-year-olds under the ambit of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) reminding them that preschool education was part of their mandate.

The WCD Ministry said that 4 to 6-year-olds were covered under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) that offers preschool non-formal education as one of the six services which include supplementary nutrition, immunisation, health checkups and referrals to improve child nutrition.

The HRD Ministry on its part has taken the proposal to cover 4 to 6-year-olds under right to education (RTE) to the highest policy making body on education - the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), which in turn set up two committees to consider the coverage of 4 to 6-year-olds on the one hand and 14 to 16-year-olds on the other. RTE, at present, covers 6 to 14-year-olds.

“The sense is to extend the Act to cover the definition of the child - 0 to 18 years, as per the UN Convention on Child Rights,” a member of the CABE committee said.

The committee recently met to discuss the issue of lowering the entry age under RTE from six to four years. The idea was earlier mooted by the National Advisory Council headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. NAC had argued that preschool education should be part of RTE to avoid disadvantage to children who enter the system at six years in Class I.

But the WCD Ministry has said in the CABE committee that RTE Act provides formal education whereas ICDS, which was universal much before the RTE came in two years ago, covers the globally accepted concept of “Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)” that includes mother and child nutrition and child stimulation.

“We have told them that the concept of integrated child care is non-negotiable. At present, according to the Rules of Allocation of Business of Ministries, we handle early childhood care under ICDS through anganwaris.

“The lines of business are clear - the HRD Ministry must make RTE work and we must implement ICDS. Moreover, anyone wanting to provide early childhood education covering 4 to 6-year-olds must also provide maternal, child care and nutrition and other components which the ECCE includes,” top WCD Ministry sources told The Tribune.

Earlier during inter-ministerial consultations in the Planning Commission on restructuring of ICDS (which the PM wants), it was decided that preschool non-formal education would continue in ICDS.

Meanwhile, HRD Ministry officials said deliberations were on to cover 4 to 6-year-olds under the RTE Act and if the proposal comes through, it would entail pre-primary classes in primary schools.





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