No clarity on RTE implementation

No rules notified in states even as private schools challenge 25% quota for poor

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | March 30, 2010



While the human resource development ministry has set April 01,2010 as the day when the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) 2009 will begin to be “implemented”, there is little clarity on what the proposed implementation will mean in schools in various states.

“We can not say if all the states will be able to implement the Act from 1st April,” says Vikram Sahay, director of department of school education under the central HRD ministry, who’s in charge of RTE matters.

Most states have yet to notify rules for RTE on the lines of model rules circulated by the Centre last February. Schools say they have no clear directives and guidelines from state governments.

“Almost every provision of the Act says, “as prescribed”. But when there are no rules to follow how will the states implement the Act,” wonders Ashok Agarwal, a Delhi high court lawyer and a champion of educational rights of the underprivileged.

The Centre, however, says that majority of the provisions in the Act do not require framing of rules.

The Act is aimed at guaranteeing school education rights of all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. It also requires all state-funded, private aided and unaided, and special schools in the country to reserve 25 per cent of seats for economically weaker sections EWS.

The EWS quota, however, has been resented by private schools, especially those that do not rely on any government aid.

On March 22, the Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response on a petition filed by Unaided Private Schools, a body of CBSE private unaided schools in Rajasthan, challenging the EWS quota requirement as applied to them. The Centre is yet to file its response.

Delhi's federation of public schools, a group of nearly 300 private unaided schools, is also planning to challenge the EWS quota.

“If the government really wants to implement this Act, they should do it in their own schools. Why it is forcing the reservation on us?” says R.P Malik, chairman of Delhi’s federation of public schools.

S.L Jain, member of National Progressive School Conference (NPSC), another organization with about 110 private schools in the city, has the same view. “The unaided schools should be kept away from the preview of the Act.”

Activists have their own reservations about the EWS quota.

“Government says it will pay for the education of EWS children in private schools, which will often mean paying more per child than the per child expenditure in government schools. Does that mean that private schools are better than the government schools? If yes, then why should we leave the rest 75 percent students,” says Madhav Chavan, one of the founders of Pratham, an NGO working in the area of elementary education.

Then there is the question of what should be the appropriate compensation, paid through public funds, for EWS quota in private schools.

Chavan believes that the EWS provision is largely influenced by the Delhi scenario, where schools, which acquired land from the government at highly subsidised rates, were required to reserve 25 per cent seats for economically weaker sections. That quota was later reduced to 15 percent under pressure from the affected schools. It has been a long struggle for the NGOs to compel the schools to adhere to the EWS quota.

Chavan also notes that all private schools are not elite, air conditioned ones; there are a large number of humbler private schools.

Some private schools have already completed their admission process for this year.

“The admission process for the coming session is already over. We don't have any seat left. It will be too heavy on us to be asked to comply with reservation now,” says Onika Mehrotra, Principal of Kalka Public School in Delhi.

Sahay of HRD ministry, however, says that if the private schools are done with their admissions, they won’t be compelled to reserve seats this year. "We can not ask them to increase the number of seats.”

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