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Gujarat HC Declares Sending 3-Year-Olds to Preschool by Parents as Unlawful!

In a recent ruling, the Gujarat High Court has delivered a decisive statement, asserting that parents who compel children under the age of three to attend preschool are engaging in an "illegal act." This judgment comes as part of the court's dismissal of a series of pleas challenging the Gujarat state government's decision to establish six years as the minimum age for admission to Class 1 in the academic year 2023-24. These pleas were filed by a group of parents whose children did not meet the age requirement specified in the government's notification dated January 31, 2020, regarding Class 1 admissions for the academic year 2023-24.

Violation of Right to Education Rules

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice N V Anjaria highlighted that the petitioners, who sought leniency in this matter, are, in fact, in violation of the Right to Education Rules, 2012, as per the Right to Education Act, 2009. Citing Rule 8 of the RTE Rules, 2012, which outlines the admission procedure for preschools, the court emphasized that no preschool should admit a child who has not reached the age of three as of June 1 of the academic year.

Early Childhood Education Crucial

Furthermore, the court elucidated that three years of 'early childhood care and education' in a preschool plays a pivotal role in preparing a child for formal school admission to 1st standard. This regulation serves as a foundational aspect of ensuring a child's readiness for primary education.

Contentions of the Parents

The counsel representing the petitioners argued before the court that they were contesting the designation of June 1 as the cut-off date for the current academic year. They contended that this decision would deprive approximately nine lakh children in the state of their right to education during the current academic session. The parents sought the court's intervention to accommodate children who completed three years in preschool but had not yet turned six years old by June 1, 2023, for the current academic year by granting them an exemption. They maintained that denial of admission would infringe upon their right to education, as recognized by Article 21A of the Constitution and the Right to Education Act, 2009.

Court's Interpretation

However, the court firmly upheld its stance, emphasizing that a child, as per Section 2(c) of the RTE Act, 2009, becomes eligible for admission to a neighborhood school at the age of six. The court emphasized that the right to free and compulsory education, as granted by Article 21A and Section 3 of the RTE Act, 2009, commences only after the age of six.

A Child's Right to Education

The court further clarified its position by examining various sections of the RTE Act, 2009, including sections 2(c), 3, 4, 14, and 15, which collectively underscore that no child above the age of six can be denied education in a formal school. This interpretation aligns with the National Education Policy, 2020, which recognizes the necessity of 'early childhood care and education' for children under six years of age.

Critical Early Development

The court underscored the significance of early childhood education by referencing the National Education Policy, 2020, which emphasizes that more than 85 percent of a child's cumulative brain development occurs before the age of six. This highlights the critical importance of providing appropriate care and stimulation to ensure healthy brain development and overall growth during these formative years.

In summary, the Gujarat High Court's ruling unequivocally asserts that sending children below the age of three to preschool constitutes an illegal act and underscores the importance of adhering to age-specific admission regulations to ensure a child's proper development and education.

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