All Indian children could soon enter the formal education system at the age of three, with the draft National Education Policy projecting an expansion of the Right To Education Act to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1.
The draft policy also wants early childhood education to be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) as part of the school system, rather than the private pre-schools and anganwadis that currently cater to the age group of 3-6. This could result in an upheaval in the Anganwadi system which has been overseen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) for more than four decades.
An inter-ministerial task force will work out a roadmap for the transition by the end of 2019, says the draft policy. The HRD Ministry is in the early stages of assessing the implications. Additional costs will come in the form of teacher recruitment and training, infrastructure and learning materials, as well as nutritional aspects (including the plan to provide breakfast to children), said Ministry officials.
The Ministry does not have accurate data on what percentage of children are neither in pre-schools nor in anganwadis. Given that the WCD Ministry has been in charge of this for over 40 years, it’s not clear if it would be willing to give it up, said one official.