The HRD ministry is not averse to including pre-school education under the watershed Right To Education (RTE) Act but says it will study its implications before making a decision.
The National Advisory Council had asked the HRD ministry to examine bringing pre-school education under the ambit of RTE Act saying that in absence of any regulatory mechanism the children enrolled in pre-school remain neglected.
The NAC wanted the children in the age group of four and five years should also be covered under the law as it is the poor children, who are deprived of pre-school education.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked the HRD ministry to study the NAC recommendations and said a decision would be taken in August.
A Planning Commission working group on elementary education for the 12th five year plan is examining the suggestion. “Most members are of the view that pre-school education should be part of NAC,” said a senior plan panel official, adding that the commission was working on its possible financial implications.
The HRD ministry has decided that the sub-group of the Central Advisory Board of Education to examining the possibility of extending the law to cover secondary education up to class 10 will be asked to look into the inclusion of pre-school learning.
The possible change in law can have both administrative and financial implications. Welfare of children below the age of six year is domain of the Women and Child Development ministry, which runs Integrated Child Development Scheme. And, the ministry does not have expertise on educational issues.
Unlike elementary education, only a few state governments have pre-schools. Providing infrastructure for pre-schools would be huge, a plan panel official said. It will mean adding four crore children into the formal education system and construction of additional 10 lakh classrooms.
The ministry has also said that madarsas does not come under the definition of schools under the RTE Act and therefore, the provisions of the law are not applicable to these religious schools.
The ministry had already issued a guideline in November 2010 saying that madarsas are protected under section 29 and 30 of the Constitution and RTE law does not come in the way of continuance of such institutions or the rights of children in such institutions.