Early Scope

Centre Planning To Merge Thousands of Anganwadis with Schools to Save Cost

New Delhi: Union Ministry of Human Resource Development is in talks with the Women and Child Development Ministry to merge thousands of anganwadis with schools across the country on the lines of Rajasthan government’s move.

“The Rajasthan model of integrated anganwadis and government schools is ideal for assuring transition of children from care centers to schools as this model acquaints children with the school environment at an early age. We are in talks to implement it across the country,” a senior HRD ministry official told News18.

Rajasthan government has merged 11,000 anganwadis with schools in the past two years.

When asked, Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani said, “We have provided the guidelines of the respective departments that are part of this integration model to the Central government. This will give them a broad idea of our initiative.”

He added, “In the first stage, we integrated anganwadis and schools which were within 500 meters radius. Then, in the areas where schools and anganwadis were located at distant location, a separate room was allocated for anganwadi work within school premises. We have also introduced pre-primary syllabus in the care centers.”

Under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme, 20,000 anganwadis will get pre-primary education. The syllabus has been prepared under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), government’s program for providing food, pre-school education, and primary healthcare to children under six years of age. The centers will have academic mentors and ensure that after completing 6 years of age a child joins Class 1.

Speaking about the benefit of this move Devnani said, “There are three big benefits of merging these two entities – it will help in improving school enrolment as children will be introduced to school environment from an early age. The principal of the school will also monitor anganwadi functioning. And it will improve learning levels.”

Joint secretary of Rajasthan’s education department Sanjay Kumar Sharma said, “With this program, the children will not join private schools but will enrol in government schools. Also with monitoring of anganwadis, welfare of child and mother be taken care of, this will make sure that care centers open regularly, with school principal monitoring it.”

Experts and activists, however, are sceptical of the move. Anganwadi and school education require different skill sets, said Dr Amit Sengupta, national convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan. “The track record of governments has been such that they cut cost on social welfare programs. Danger can be that they use merging of schools and anganwadis as an excuse for reducing expenditure on welfare scheme. The government should, on the other hand, think of expanding investment in education and health sectors,” he said.

Anil Sadgopal, former faculty at Central Institute of Education, who was part of the Acharya Ramamurti Committee to review New Education Policy, said, “Narsimha Rao government introduced the midday meal idea, and all we hear is it helps in increasing enrolment. Now, the plan of integration is also intended to increase enrolment. Both ideas are democratic. But why they didn’t work?”

“Because children of poor people go to these care centers. If you see our school system, it is multi-layered, each layer is for the different segment of society. We have a very discriminatory school system that is rooted in inequality,” he added.

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