NEW DELHI: The mid-day meals provided to students in government or aided schools should be supplemented by breakfast, the new National Education Policy (NEP) has proposed.
The policy which was approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this week has noted that morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for the study of cognitively more demanding subjects and hence recommended expansion of the mid-day meal scheme to include provisions for breakfast in schools.
"Children are unable to learn optimally when they are undernourished or unwell. Hence, the nutrition and health (including mental health) of children will be addressed, through healthy meals and the introduction of well-trained social workers, counsellors, and community involvement into the schooling system," the policy said.
"Furthermore, research shows that the morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for the study of cognitively more demanding subjects and hence these hours may be leveraged by providing a simple but energizing breakfast in addition to mid-day meals," it added.
In locations where hot meals are not possible, a simple but nutritious meal-- groundnuts or chana mixed with jaggery and local fruits may be provided.
"All school children shall undergo regular health check-ups especially for 100 pc immunization in schools and health cards will be issued to monitor the same," the policy said.
The revised policy has proposed that prior to the age of 5 every child will move to a "preparatory class" or "balavatika".
"The learning in the preparatory class shall be based primarily on play-based learning with a focus on developing cognitive, affective, and psychomotor abilities and early literacy and numeracy. The mid-day meal programme shall also be extended to the preparatory Classes in primary schools.
"Health check-ups and growth monitoring that are available in the anganwadi system shall also be made available to preparatory Class students of anganwadi as well as of primary schools," the policy document said.
The National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in Schools, popularly known as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), is an on-going centrally-sponsored scheme which covers all school children studying in Classes 1 to 8 of government, government-aided schools, special training centres including 'Madarsas' supported under 'Samagra Shiksha'.
"As per the provisions of National Food Security Act, 2013, children studying in classes 1 to 8 or within the age group of 6-14 years are entitled to one mid day meal free of charge, every day except on school holidays, in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided schools so as to meet nutritional standards specified in the Act," a senior HRD Ministry official said.
"However, some States and Union Territories provide additional items such as milk, egg and fruits to students from their own resources," the official added.
At least 11.59 crore elementary school students are beneficiaries under the mid-day meal scheme of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, while nearly 26 lakh cook-cum helpers are employed for the same.
The Ministry also advised states during lockdown to provide mid-day meals or food security allowance to students till schools are closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The NEP replaces the 34-year-old National Policy on Education framed in 1986 and is aimed at paving the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems to make India a global knowledge superpower.