Education is the basic requirement for success of democracy and progress of country. Universalization of primary education is a provision to provide free educational opportunities to all children of the society irrespective of caste, creed and sex.
Article 45 of the Indian Constitution directed that “The state shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from – the commencement of this constitution for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.”
Since independence many steps have been taken and different commissions and committees have given suggestions to achieve universalization of Primary Education. But it is still far from the hope and the national target.
Compulsory provision of Universal Primary Education is an extremely modern concept. No solid efforts were made till the beginning of the 20th century. The earliest attempt during British Rule for enforcing compulsory primary education was undertaken by William Adam in 1838.
In 1852, Captain Wingate, the Revenue Survey Commissioner in Bombay proposed to impart compulsory education to the children of agriculturists after realizing a less of 5 per cent for it. Later on a similar proposal was also followed in Gujurat.
A strong consciousness for the need of compulsory Primary Education in India was effected by enactment of the Compulsory Education Act in 1870 in England. A number of Indian leaders began to stress the need for primary education. In 1906 a Committee was appointed in Bombay Province and it arrived at a conclusion that Compulsory Education was not proper and people were not prepared for it.
The great son of India Gopal Krishni Gokhale was the ablest advocate of compulsory primary education. He moved a Resolution in 1910 in the Central Legislature and again introduced a non- official Bill in 1919. The Bill had wide and popular support, but it was defeated.
Vithal Bhai Patel being inspired by Gokhale’s efforts brought a bill in the Provincial Legislature of Bombay and it became Bomaby Primary Education Act. 1918. India Act of 1919 (Mont-Fort Reforms) introduced diarchy and Education became a Transferred subject under control of a Minister responsible to the Legislature.
With Provincial Autonomy in 1937 Congress Ministries were formed in six out of eleven provinces-. These Governments expanded compulsory primary education in their provinces. Primary Schools were established in Schoolless village/habitations, which had no facilities to send their children to nearby schools at an easy walking distance of one mile (now 1km.). Still, prior to Independence Primary Education received insufficient attention and inadequate public funds.
With the advent of complete independence in 1947, the advocate of Universal Primary Education had to speak to their Indian administrators and officers. The education of the school going children of the country now became the responsibility of the people.
In 1950 the provision of Universal Primary Education was incorporated in the Article 45 of the Constitution of India. “The state shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.”
The provision of Universalization of Primary education was scheduled to be achieved by 1960. But a view of the immense difficulties such as lack of adequate resources, tremendous increases in population, resistance to the education of girls, large number of children of the of the backward classes in very low literacy regions, general poverty of the people, apathy of illiterate Parents etc. it was not possible to make adequate progress and as such, the constitutional Directive has remained unfulfilled.
And so, the universalization of primary education remains a national problem. The problem from the surface over a period of more than 3 decades and with planned schemes under six Five Year Plans looks modest but it really poses to be formidable.
An insistent demand was made that Government should fix an early deadline for its fulfilment and should prepare a concrete programme of action for the purpose. Government decided to achieve the goal of universalization of all children on a time-bound programme as recommended by the Conference of State Education Ministers in 1977.
Accordingly, a Working Group on Universalization of Elementary Education was set up by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Planning Commission to prepare a time-bound programme during the medium term plan (1978-83). The gist of the recommendations of the Working Group is as follows:
(i) “90 per cent of coverage of school-going children under the age-group 6-14 before the end of medium term plan (1978- 83) may be kept as national target to be achieved with an investment of Rs.900 crores in the plan.
(ii) More stress and attention would be paid to the problem of the weaker sections such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Landless Labourers and girls, providing special incentives such as midday meals, free uniform etc. wherever necessary.
(iii) A massive programme of non-formal education should be provided to ensure that students who are unable to make use of the facilities of formal education and also who drop out of the formal system have again access to education. The approach behind the proposal being that every child in the age-group 6-14 will continue to learn on a full-time basis, if possible, and on a part-time basis, if necessary.”
Even in the eighties, there is a loud cry for Universalization of Elementary Education all over India. This big aspect of education in India has found a place as point 16 in the Prime Minister’s New Revised 20 point Programme.
In the middle of the Sixth Five Year Plan, the Central Government had directed all the State Governments and Administrations of Union Territories to have prospective planning with bold and solid steps to control hundred per cent children in the age-group 6-11 and 50 per cent enrolment of the 11-14 age-group children by 1990. This may be achieved in the existing formal Primary Schools and non- formal centre and in such institutions yet to be newly opened and by shift system in the existing formal schools, wherever possible.
At the direction of the Central Government, an enrolment drive has been launched 11 over the country from the Teachers’ Day (5.9.82) to the Children’s day (14.11.82). All this speak the gravity of the problem of Universalization of Elementary Education in the Country.
Despite serious attempts the primary education was not universalized. So the national government wanted to launch a massive campaign to universalize it before 1995 which has been assured in the NPE, 1986. Later on achievement of VEE through Education for All (EFA) by 2000 AD has been fixed.