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India - Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceIndia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


India's constitution and its Directive Principles of State Policy form the legal-constitutional foundation of national policy on education. Article 45 of the Directive Principle mandates that "the State shall endeavor 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." Article (i) provides for any citizen having a distinct language or script. Article 46 addresses the special care of the economic and educational interests of the underprivileged sections, particularly the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, making them an obligation of the state. (Scheduled Castes and Tribes are legally established ethnic subgroups—formerly called "untouchables," a term since outlawed—with specific educational and vocational privileges, special representation in parliament, and protection from discrimination, as outlined in the modern Indian constitution.)

The national education policy has evolved through the periodic evaluation of priorities and the subsequent development of plans to achieve those goals. Since the 1950s, India has followed a planned process of social and national development, incrementally implemented in a series of five-year plans. In 1968, in its Resolution on the National Policy on Education, expansion and quality, especially for education for girls, were emphasized. The actual National Policy on Education (NPE) was not formulated until 1986. It was updated in 1992 with a comprehensive policy framework, the Plan of Action, stipulating main responsibilities for organizing, implementing, and financing various proposals. In keeping with the policy objectives, "the targets for the Ninth Five Year Plan have been fixed under three broad parameters—universal access, universal retention, and universal achievement" (Tiwari 2000).

Though education is in the concurrent list of the national constitution, the state governments play an important role in the planning and delivery of education, especially in the primary and secondary sectors. Joshi described to the UNESCO World Conference the particular responsibilities of the national (Union) government:

Under the Constitutional scheme, "education" is in the concurrent list, and the Union Government and States exercise joint responsibilities. As a result, while the role and responsibilities of the States in regard to education remains unaltered, the Union Government accepts a larger responsibility to reinforce the national and integrated character of education, to maintain quality and standards, to study and monitor the educational requirements of the country as a whole in regard to manpower for development, to cater to the needs of research and advanced study, to look after international aspects of education, culture and human resource development, and in general, to promote excellence at the tertiary level of the educational pyramid throughout the country (1998).

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