Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years
The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
Article 36, Draft Constitution of India 1948
Every citizen is entitled to free primary education and 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.
Article 45, Constitution of India 1950
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.
Draft Article 36 (Article 45) was taken up for debate on 23 November 1948 in the Constituent Assembly. It provided for free and compulsory education for children under the age of fourteen.
An Assembly member wanted to bring the phrasing of Draft Article 36 in line with other Directive Principles of State Policy. While most provisions began with a ‘State shall strive to…’ type phrasing, Draft Article 36 began with ‘Every citizen is entitled to…’ – which read more like a legally enforceable fundamental right rather than a Directive Principle.
There was a proposal to replace ‘education’ with ‘primary education’, arguing that the State should confine the scope of its duties to only primary education.
One member expressed skepticism about Draft Article 36 and referred to it (along with other provisions of the Directive Principles) as ‘pious hopes and pious wishes’. This type of criticism often came up when other Articles of the Directive Principles were debated.
It was agreed that the language of the Draft Article should be brought in line with other Directive Principles. It was also clarified that ‘education’ was intentionally used as it was linked to Draft Article 18 that barred children below 14 from being employed. The object behind this Draft Article was to keep children below 14 occupied in some educational institution – for primary or any other type of education.
The Draft Article was adopted with the single amendment.
In 2002, the Directive Principle was converted into a fundamental right through the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, which also amended the Article to its current form.