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 36, Draft Constitution of India 1950
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.
Draft Article 36 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 (DPSP). 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 DPSP.
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 scepticism about Draft Article 36 and referred to (along with other provisions of the DPSPs) as ‘pious hopes and pious wishes’. This type of criticism often came up when other Articles of the DPSPs were debated.
It was agreed that the language of the Draft Article should be brought in line with other Directive Principles. On the question of ‘primary education’ vs ‘education’, it was clarified that ‘education’ was intentionally used as it was linked to Article 18 that barred children below 14 from being employed; The object behind Draft Article 34 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 amendment.
[In 2002, Draft Article as adopted by the Constituent Assembly was substituted by the 86th amendment with:
Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
45. The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.". ]