Daily Hot Topic
Topic : Should Education be in the Concurrent List?
GS-2 Mains  : Education



  • Recent paper leaks and protests have reignited the debate on whether to bring Education back to the State List of the Indian Constitution.

Historical Background

  • British Rule (1935): Government of India Act established a federal structure, dividing legislative subjects between Center and Provinces (States).
    • Education was initially under the Provincial List.
  • Post-Independence: Education remained in the State List.
  • 1976 (42nd Amendment): Education moved to the Concurrent List due to the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee. This enabled all-India policies.
  • 1978 (44th Amendment): The attempt to bring Education back to the State List failed to pass in Rajya Sabha.

Distribution of Powers

  • Seventh Schedule: Defines the division of powers between Center and States (Union List, State List, Concurrent List).
    • Union List: Subjects for Central government legislation (Defense, Foreign Affairs, Currency).
    • State List: Subjects for State government legislation (Police, Public Health, Agriculture).
    • Concurrent List: Subjects for both Central and State government legislation (Criminal Law, Marriage, Bankruptcy).
    • In case of conflict, Union Law prevails.

Key Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 15: Prohibits discrimination in education based on religion, race, caste, sex, or birthplace.
  • Article 21A: Right to Education as a Fundamental Right (free and compulsory education for ages 6-14).

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)

  • Article 41: Promote equal opportunities for education.
  • Article 45: Provide free and compulsory education for all children up to age 14.
  • Article 46: Promote educational interests of disadvantaged groups.

Fundamental Duties

  • Article 51A(j): Strive for excellence in education.

Language and Education

  • Article 350A: Right to mother-tongue instruction at primary level.
  • Article 29: Cultural and educational rights of minorities (establish and administer educational institutions).

Autonomy of Educational Institutions

  • Article 30: Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
  • Article 32: Right to move Supreme Court for enforcement of educational rights.

Role of the State

  • Article 41: Ensure right to work, education, and public assistance.
  • Article 44: Promote a uniform civil code (might impact education-related personal laws).

Arguments for Concurrent List

  • Uniform Education Policy across the country.
  • Improved educational standards and quality through centralized policies.
  • Stronger collaboration between Central and State governments for better outcomes.

Arguments Against Concurrent List

  • India’s diversity makes a “one size fits all” approach impractical.
  • Centralization may not necessarily address corruption or lack of professionalism.
  • Dual authority can lead to conflicts between Central and State laws.
  • Managing concurrent subjects requires complex coordination and can create confusion.
  • Balancing uniformity (important in some areas) with diverse cultural and regional contexts is challenging.

International Practices

  • United States: Decentralized system with states setting standards, mandating tests, and supervising higher education. Federal government focuses on financial aid and national issues.
  • Canada: Education entirely managed by provinces, each with its own policies.
  • Germany: Legislative powers for education vested in the states (landers).
  • South Africa: Dual national departments (schools and higher education) with provincial departments for implementation and local issues.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • Balance centralization and decentralization. Uniform policies should consider regional variations. A hybrid approach might be suitable.
  • Address key challenges like access, equity, quality, teacher training, dropout rates, and skill development.
  • National Education Policy (2020) focuses on holistic development, multilingualism, flexible curriculum, technology integration, and professional education.
  • Thoughtful consideration is needed to find the right balance between national coherence and local flexibility for India’s unique context.

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