Post-independence, Article 45 of the newly framed Constitution stated that the State shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution, free and compulsory education to all children until they complete the age of 14 years.
In the millennium year (2000) leaders of 189 nation states including India, signed the United Nations sponsored Millennium Declaration, which set out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to inter alia ensure that all children around the world are in primary school by the year 2015.
In adherence with this declaration, the central government announced its Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (Education For All) program and tabled the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 which was passed with unanimous acclamation by Parliament. The constitutional amendment included in the chapter under fundamental rights added a new Article 21-A which mandates free and compulsory education of all children in the age group six-14 “in such manner as the State may by law determine”.
Need of the Act
Contemporary India ‘s education statistics make dismal – indeed shocking – reading. Of the estimated 200 million children who enroll annually in the nation’s 900,000 primary schools, 53 percent drop out before they make it into secondary education (class VIII). Of the remainder only 10 million enter institutions of tertiary education, of whom some 3 million graduate annually.
It is hardly surprising considering that 20 percent of government primary schools are multi-grade teaching institutions; another one-fifth don’t have a proper building; 58 percent can’t provide safe drinking water, and 70 percent lack toilet and sanitation facilities. Moreover corporal punishment is rife in India ‘s crowded classrooms, which boast the world’s highest teacher-pupil ratio – 1:63.
The combined annual outlay of central state governments for education in India has never crossed the mark of 4 percent of GDP. Compare it with the global average spending of 5 percent of GDP per annum and 6-7 percent in the developed nations of the western world.
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