The Right to Education (RTE) Act may have come into effect in April 2010, but admissions to nursery sections continue to be complex and tedious this year too.

The State government's delay in issuing the final guidelines to schools on the implementation of the Act and poor awareness among parents about the Act are the main contributing factors. A good number of schools in the city have completed their nursery admission, some giving the model guidelines issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development a miss.

The Kumars (name changed), residing in Anna Nagar, are tense and disappointed. They have applied to seven schools in and around the area for their four-year-old son. One school did not call them for interaction, while in three schools the boy's name does not figure among the shortlisted candidates after interaction.

“Three other schools called us on Saturday and I only hope my son gets selected,” says Kumar, the child's father.

The well-qualified parents are surprised as schools do not give any reason for rejection of their application.

Screening prohibited

The RTE Act guidelines also ask schools to draw up lots. It says that admission tests and interviews are generally a tool for profiling and eliminating children, and therefore, screening to assess a child's intelligence' should be prohibited.

“In a CBSE school in Anna Nagar, my son was asked to colour a circle. The principal was talking to us and meanwhile the child was asked to complete the task. In another CBSE school, he was asked colours, shapes and rhymes and he did answer well,” says Kumar.

When contacted, the school authorities justified the practice saying that it was to “keep the child engaged” while they talk to the parents. Schools say it is parents who are more curious to show them what their child knows. One school asks parents to write the amount they can pay as “building infrastructure” charges on a blank sheet, say parents.

Maya (name changed)'s three-and-a-half year-old girl, did not get selected in two schools and is pinning her hope on SBOA, using alumni quota.

With some sought-after schools receiving hundreds of applicants, selecting students is a challenge. Proximity to the school, siblings in school and parents being alumni of a school are some of the parameters schools generally follow.

DAV Nursery School, Gopalapuram, received 1,002 applications for LKG admission for the coming academic year and 400 students were taken. Teachers say no individual interviews are conducted and children were grouped into batches of 10 each. Clarity of speech is what they look for in a child, say teachers.

Maharishi Vidya Mandir received 1,100 applications and shortlisted 550 by taking proximity to the school as the criterion. They took candidates living within three to four kilometres' radius from school, and later drew lots with parents as witness. If we ask the child to identify a colour, it is to check if the vision is fine, says S. Namasivayam, senior principal, Maharishi Vidya Mandir.

Other school heads say that as the final RTE Act guidelines of the State are still awaited they are following the same procedure they have been adopting all these years. A question-and-answer session with the parent and child is essential as they want to rule out attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or disability, say principals.

According to experts, private schools follow different processes to select certain candidates, but use certain criteria to restrict admissions. Activists oppose such measures that keep out some children. “No screening, no capitation fee, no interviews are rules by law. We do not have to wait for the final RTE guidelines of the State to remind schools again,” says Henri Tiphagne, special representative, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

“In the proposed rules for the State, we have suggested that no application fee be taken for admission and that candidates be chosen depending on the proximity to the school or by drawing lots.”

K. Devarajan, Director of Matriculation Schools, says if parents bring practices such as screening of children or collection of donation to the Directorate's notice, action will be taken.

Activists say that while the RTE Act has given more teeth to regulations concerning school education, the rules have to be notified by the department to ensure its effective implementation.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012