The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002, mandates that 'the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine'. But this right is a still born right, as neither the required notification under section 1(2) of the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 has been published in the Official Gazette by the Central Government, nor the manner in which this right is proposed to be enforced has been clarified through appropriate law as envisaged in the amendment. In this backdrop the National Human Rights Commission has made following recommendations:-
1. In order to achieve some basic uniform standards, the Central Government should enact appropriate legislation at the earliest, as considerable time has already elapsed since the adoption of the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 by the Parliament. However, as free education upon some level is already being provided in almost all the States, the State Governments need not wait for the Central Act in order to take measures for facilitating enforcement of this right.
2. Right to free and compulsory education should encompass all children until they complete elementary education i.e. class VIII instead of only the age criteria.
3. The terms like equitable quality of education, free and compulsory education, norms and standards, need to be defined or elucidated.
4. Adequate focus should be given to crafts and vocational training.
5. Central, State and Local Governments must assume the responsibility of ensuring right to education. Local Government bodies should strive to ensure participation and involvement of parents, local management committees, communities, non-governmental organisations, etc. in this regard.
6. Role and responsibility of each level of government/administration must be clearly defined in ensuring enforcement of the right to education.
7. The Government should make necessary provisions for early childhood care, education and development for the children of the age group of 0 to 6.
8. Minimum standards for all aspects of quality of education, including infrastructure, curriculum, teachers training, education and other pedagogic dimensions must be prescribed in consultation with professional bodies.
9. Universal access to quality education has to be treated as non-negotiable. Provision for free textbooks, uniforms and mid-day meal should be made universal.
10. There is a need to eventually convert short term interventions like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Universal Elementary Education Programme) into formal system of education.
11. The scheme of para-teachers need to be abolished altogether and fully qualified and trained teachers need to be recruited. For this purpose there is need to expand and strengthen the teacher education/training institutions.
12. There is a need for substantial hike in the financial allocation to education. The allocations need to be periodically reviewed and enhanced to meet the requirements. Expenditure on education should not be treated merely as expenditure but as an investment.
13. The educational objectives must be made realistic and achievable. There is a need for a strict time frame for implementation of the right to education.
14. "Education for all" implies that education is extended to all children in conducive environment without discrimination and disparities in gender, socio-economic groups and other vulnerable sections of society are eliminated.
15. While education should follow common norms, it should also to be adapted to local situations. Every child should be taught in the first language/mother tongue at least for the first two years, during which the child should be helped to learn in the prescribed medium of instructions in the State. The Three Language Policy should be strictly implemented.
16. Effective regulatory and evaluation mechanisms should be put in place to ensure implementation and quality assurance in school education system.
17. Private unaided schools should also enrol the children of poorer sections.
18. Continuous assessment should become the norm, both for teachers and children in school including SSA.
19. The existing norm of teacher-pupil ratio of 1:40 in primary schools and 1:35 in upper-primary schools should be maintained throughout. However, as a long term goal, efforts should be made to reach a ratio of 1:20/25.
20. The long term goal of education policy should be towards developing a uniform common school system.
Strength of India is having high percentage of young population: The challenge is with us to transform them into an asset.