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Updated: April 19, 2012 02:50 IST

Storming the elitist schools!

R. Ravikanth Reddy
Comment (21)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
FIRST STEPS: The school system has suffered a lot with the artificial walls
created and the ‘haves and have-nots’ segregated for long. File photo: Mohammed Yousuf
The Hindu
FIRST STEPS: The school system has suffered a lot with the artificial walls created and the ‘haves and have-nots’ segregated for long. File photo: Mohammed Yousuf

Supreme Court judgment has opened the door of opportunities for the poor

The elitist and private schools are all set to be stormed by the needy, neglected and deserving despite the economic barriers. The Supreme Court upholding the RTE Act with regard to reserving 25 per cent of seats in private schools for the economically poor local students will change the very concept of school, if implemented sincerely and monitored strictly without searching for the loopholes.

The landmark judgement has not only opened gateways of opportunities and equality for the poor, but also exposed the closed mindset of the middle-class and the elitist schools that have seriously opposed it earlier on a few frivolous grounds and economic reasons. The ‘merit' and ‘culture' aspects concealed behind their economic and elitist arguments have few takers.

Radical changes

The change everyone yearns for in the society may actually start with these radical changes in the classrooms. The sense of privilege among the urban rich children will now be challenged by those from poor backgrounds sharing the same classroom. Since the integration starts in the first class when the kids are still not prejudiced and their minds open, the ‘culture' argument perhaps becomes null and void.

Fear of some schools that mixing up students from diverse backgrounds and places may not gel is also unfounded, feel many academics. The government residential schools, which were sought-after till the 90s, are classic examples of how students from both urban and rural with extreme economic disparities can co-exist and still excel. These schools produced not only academically acclaimed students but also those with social consciousness.

School system has suffered a lot with the artificial walls created and the ‘haves and have-nots' segregated for long, more so in the semi-urban and urban areas. It has a telling effect on the mindsets of students who pass out from the divisive school system but invariably encounter the ‘poor' at the college and university level. The misunderstandings that often lead to unnecessary confrontations in colleges and universities are perhaps a reflection of the exclusive policies adopted at the school system.

“Inclusiveness at the school, which the RTE Act permits and finally endorsed by the Supreme Court will go a long way in plugging that crucial gap,” argues P. Madhusudhan Reddy, general secretary, Government Junior Lecturers Association (GJLA).

But not all teachers see positive signs of the judgement. Noted academic and MLC from Teachers constituency, Chukka Ramaiah says the judgement has fixed more responsibility on the government. “It just cannot thrust the responsibility on private schools and forget its job. It has to concentrate on improving government schools to provide equally quality education to the remaining.” He raises a few pertinent points. Who will decide on the beneficiaries? How will it deal with issues like school dress, books and other study material which the poor children cannot afford in those schools despite getting admission? The only solution, he feels is creating a common school system at the primary education level.

How will schools that collect Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000 per child admit poor students with the average calculated fee of Rs. 6,000 to be reimbursed by the government? “Corporate schools will invariably look for the loopholes unless the government is strict,” says N. Narayana, president of United Teachers Federation (UTF). “Government should come out with a mechanism to ensure those violating the law are taken to task promptly.”

Former president of State Teachers Union (STU), Narender Reddy asks what happens to the rest of the students who may not get into private schools under the RTE Act. Is the Government serious about their education?” Common school system is the only option, he argues.

How well is the Government prepared?

The Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM), which is entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the RTE Act, has already done some preliminary survey on the implications of the Act. In the 23,000-odd recognised private schools in the State about 6.5 lakh children are enrolled in the first class. With the Supreme Court's clarity on the 25 per cent reservation about 1.57 lakh seats have to be given to the poorer sections.

Going by the average fee calculations the government has to reimburse Rs. 90 crore in the first year. It will increase every year as the classes increase along with number of students. “These aspects are being studied. A committee has been constituted to workout the modalities on how best the Act can be implemented,” says R.V. Chandravadan, Director, Rajiv Vidya Mission.

The biggest hurdle in the Act's implementation is the quality. An internal study of the RVM reflected that nearly 60 per cent schools are not RTE compliant. These schools neither have trained teachers nor playgrounds in tune with the RTE Act. What is the use of sending poor children to such schools? The whole purpose is defeated. “We have to look out for some means. Grading the schools may be the first step in that direction,” Mr. Chandravadan says.

There are a few administrative hurdles too. While the RVM is the implementing authority the regulatory powers lie with the School Education Department. The Minister for School Education, S. Sailajanath says that the Government will look into all these issues and the officials are studying the modalities. “The government will soon come out with the guidelines on implementing the Act sincerely,” he says. “None should doubt our sincerity since it was our Government's gift to the children of this nation.”

The State government is studying the guidelines of Madhya Pradesh Government that implemented the RTE Act first in the country. As per their guidelines admission process under RTE would be monitored by specially appointed officers. The schools can divide the admitted children into multiple classes but they should comprise 25 per cent of total strength.

As per guidelines of Madhya Pradesh applications for the eligible children would be available at the respective schools and also the district and mandal level education offices. Children from the school's neighbourhood would be preferred first for admission and if seats are vacant then children from the extended neighbourhood could be considered for admission. All admissions would be based on random selection.

1. Can any one tell me if there is any time limit for the implementation of the RTE act. 2. In case children from the SC, ST and economically weak backgrounds are already studying in the private schools, but they are being forced to discontinue on account of fees being increased every year, is there any recourse for them to seek support from the state/central government. 3. District Education Officers, according to the AP state government have been powers to derecognise private schools that do not provide basic information on SC, ST etc. students. I have drawn blank from the office of DEO in RR district about help if any can be extended to students from the SC, ST etc category. 4. Can some one help.

from:  Dr ML Bhatia
Posted on: Jun 17, 2012 at 15:13 IST

I have always said this, and I repeat it here. Whether it is RTE or reservations, diginity for all is important. The Goverment has failed miserably in 60 years to provide basic educational facilities to the poor. Instead of thrusting students from economically and educationally weak backgrounds into elite schools/universities, the Goverment should had opened institutions like KV and IIT meant ONLY for the underpriviledged, offered astronmically high salaries for the teachers in these schools, and then see the results. We would have had a totally different social change. Instead of this, the Goverments over the years has played only vote bank/caste politics, and has damaged educational aspirations of at least 2 generations of poor and underpriveledged Indians.

from:  T N Kumar
Posted on: Apr 21, 2012 at 08:30 IST

@Raman Manian
I agree with you, and would like to add that any "scholarship" awarded to the poor students should cover not just tuition fees and other school expenses like buying books, but should go beyond that and enable the poor students to have a life on a par with the *average* student of the concerned schools. Without this additional support, the poor students will continue to suffer the handicap of poverty, and extreme discrimination and extreme humiliation.

from:  T S Raman
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 14:26 IST

There are quotas and reservations even to the IITs. As one of their professors pointed out
to me, those getting in with lower marks still have to work harder to meet the minimum
criteria to graduate.

At the primary school level, it will be the parents of the quoata students that will have to
work harder to make sure their children fit in. They will need to come up with the extra
money and more importantly, with the support for their children, who will feel like they dont
belong. Young children may not be prejudiced, but they are brutally honest.

from:  Subhash R
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012 at 07:17 IST

There are two aspects to RTE act. One is good and one is bad. It is essential that all of us are aware about both. The breaking of social barriers is definitely good. On other hand, the act also represents a hidden tax hike. Schools are bound to pass on the extra expense to other students. We are already paying for the maintenance of government schools through our tax money - and it is not working at present. Now we have to pay extra to schools as government has conveniently passed the buck to private enterprise.

from:  Anwar
Posted on: Apr 19, 2012 at 20:50 IST

This is a very complex issue but reservations will not address it in
the long run. I see this as yet another attempt by the government to
pass on its responsibility to the private sector, and to get a short
term populist fix to a really large complex problem.

As a person who has interviewed hundreds of science and engineering
graduates over the last 10 years in the attempt to get really smart
graduates to do a skilled job, I can truly say that we have a long
way to go in improving our entire education system, right from the
primary level to the very top. What our education systemm currently
teaches is 'learning by rote'. What we need to get is students primed
from the primary level to think independently, think out-of-the box
and to have the talent to innovate - our government needs to invest,
not pass it on to private for-profit organisations. We do not even
have a unified syllabus for the country, so what is the measure?

from:  Viji Fernandes
Posted on: Apr 19, 2012 at 18:17 IST

In the above article it is mentioned that "Since the integration starts in the first class when the kids are still not prejudiced and their minds open, the ‘culture' argument perhaps becomes null and void."

My question is how will the students who are studying in 5th or above standard who have developed a certain mindset will react towards underpriviledged students?. and if their behaviour is bullish,will it not have impact the mind of students studying in 1st standard (both poor and rich)??

from:  Ameya Jamgade
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 17:05 IST

Once the RTE is successfully implemented, this principle can be extended to basic amenities like food-clothing-shelter. All private restaurants and hotels that cater only for rich people can then take 25% of poor and needy at the cost reimbursed by Government. Also on housing front now there is a huge disparity as one can see slums and poor dwellings only next to a posh apartment complex. Government can enforce 25% of such posh apartments reserved for poor and needy as well. These should be implemented such that this motivates the disadvantaged sections of society and secures their contribution to the nation building.

from:  Naru
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 16:22 IST

The idea to bring salvage to the less fortunate is a venerable move by the Superemos. An unfortunate result of this could be dirty caste-based politics, which may lead to the path of reservations again. The weaker section of the society should be strengthened but not at the expense of morals. If your beloved were lying on the Operation table, who would you like them to be treated by, a doctor who has secured 90% or the one who has 45%. The interpretation of social status and assuming someone is "RICH ENOUGH TO PAY" based on his 'RELEGION & CLASS' is the mistake made in those cases. Few slum dwellers in Dharavi make millions without paying their taxes and stealing electricity, a fact shown on many international news channels. These along with the local leaders and DADAs will have their influence to get in the alloted 25%. Politics based on caste & class is an irreversible plot for fervid detonation in naive minds. STOP to consider or IGNORE as ever.

from:  rohan
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 16:04 IST

Indeed, the remarkable progress made in most Western nations goes back to the
provision of free universal education upto university level, free healthcare and social welfare. Private schools are going to try hard to find and exploit loopholes. The cost of uniforms, books etc. is a big showstopper. One more thing to remember is that schools may resort to soft weapons such as harassment of underprivileged students by instructing teachers to taunt them, punish them, marginalize them and eventually grade them more harshly so that they automatically drop out. The schools will them simply claim that these students fail to make the cut.
What we need to do is raise the standards at government schools to the point that private schools become redundant, something like the IIT experiment launched for higher education in the 60s - well funded, well run government schools charging no fees and accepting children from all strata of society!

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 14:42 IST

History is repeating itself in this great democracy. We have a policy that looks great on paper, adopted by legislature as law, approved by judiciary. But an array of issues arise as soon as it is given to EXECUTIVE for implementation. Why does this happens to every policy in our country. The implementation issues shall be identified as part of the policy formation. Once identified a comprehensive research shall be done to provide appropriate solutions to respective issues. If challenges can not be addressed under current law then additional legislation shall be brought in support of the primary legislation. It is the duty of the policy proposer to do these study before hand and then proceed.In this particular case the current activity that is carried out by RVM and other agencies shall have been done at inception stage itself. And how honorable legislature passes an act, without considering how the act will be implemented?

from:  Milan
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 14:28 IST

I'm all at praise for the RTE, but for the caveat that it applies only
to non-minority institutions. Unfortunately, most of the private institutions (most of the so-called good ones) are owned by minority institutions,as the laws penalize majority institutions anyway. I say this after looking into some of the towns and cities in India. Hence, some may see this as an attempt to favor minorities and a veiled minority vote-bank politics, which has become a bane of India. The so-called rich elites would buy their admissions in these private minority institutions, which would in due course make education be monopolized by certain communities, which is good neither for India nor for the poor. Hence, if the Govt. is really (which doubt) towards freeing education to all, it should be by removing those clauses pertaining to communities. In any case, education is not just books it is the mental development and maturity of children. So, where comes
the community?

from:  Bharat
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 14:18 IST

WHO will help these kind of childrens,most of the politicians are watching porn ,they have no time to see like this ,god will help these children.

from:  YOUSAF ABDULLA
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 13:57 IST

Hi, From my 'closed mindset of the middle-class' I still feel I am the class who is loosing with this RTE. My father was poor, working in coal mines educated me by saving every penny in a corner average school run under trees and asbestos sheets. Now I am middle class and still can't reach some schools. Now, this so called Poor will come and sit in the great schools where I can't put my children after earning for my hardwork and laugh at my children and my hardwork. Isn't it discrimination? Or you call me selfish? I still do not understand how this RTE procedure, but fundamentally it is discriminative and flawed. For my kid who is joing Nursery in coming June, I had to pay 37,000 as fee. If 25% of his class is attending at Rs.6000.00..who has to bear the rest..Isn't it me..closed mindset middle-class man.

from:  Pavankumar
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 13:36 IST

Dear sir, I do not know whether this comment of mine also will be published or not. But I would like to express my point of view. As I expressed several times, instead of boasting on how the government should do its duty, please make a start to implement the RTE act in true faith and show to the society that we care for the poor people first. As the writer wrote that the "Since the integration starts in the first class when the kids are still not prejudiced and their minds open, the 'culture' argument perhaps becomes null and void."and also "Fear of some schools that mixing up students from diverse backgrounds and places may not gel is also unfounded, feel many academics. The government residential schools, which were sought-after till the 90s, are classic examples of how students from both urban and rural with extreme economic disparities can co-exist and still excel.". with this quote from the writer itself it is obvious that everything is possible if will is there to implement.

from:  C.ELUMALAI
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 13:20 IST

Singapore has the shortest Constitution in the World., yet it is a perfect place.,because LAWS are IMPLEMENTED.India has the one of the largest Constitutions in the world... with its 352 articles... and yet... it is not a place where there is rule of Law., because Laws are made., but NOT implemented.
Socially Inclusive Education : How is it possible, when Pvt. School Managements have DECIDED not to admit children from the Country's 2nd largest community : The Indian Muslims !!Admitting a muslim ward is considered "evil" influence., as if he/she will spoil the class (one dirty fish will spoil the pond) ! THAT is the mindset.
An answer to the feeble Argument of Merit : What Merit do you seek / look for., in a 3.5 year old ?>

from:  Balanga Khan
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 12:55 IST

Instead of asking Private elite schools to admit poor children, Govt. can do a few other things. 1) Improve the existing Govt. Schools by providing good building, labs and other facilities. 2) Appointing qualified and good and dedicated teachers, paying them good salary to retain them. 3) Spreading awareness among poor parents about importance of education and convince them to send their children to schools. 4) Requesting some prominent industries to adopt some ordinary Govt. Schools and make them better. Govt. can give some tax rebate etc. to motivate such industries. 5) Requesting elite schools management to help the ordinary Govt. School management to make them become a better school. 6) Requesting many non-profit religious organizations which have huge money to do the above. 7) Taking the help of retired academic competent teaching staff [who have the willingness to help honorarily] to give their valuable suggestions to improve Govt. Schools.

from:  Malathi
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 12:24 IST

The Hindu earlier carried an article mentioning the views of Prakash Karat. Mr Karat rightly observed that all the money embezzled in the 2G spectrum scam could have gone towards educating the poor. The needy of the country deserve a public education system tailored especially to their needs, which allows them study with dignity in the local languages they are used to.
They should not be humiliated by being put into an alien environment in which they will feel inadequate and unwanted. The Government should provide the poor with an excellent school system that allows them to retain their dignity.

from:  Venkatesh
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 12:23 IST

The problem of educating all the nation's children, and that too in a socially inclusive setting, is so mindbogglingly complex that it is unlikely that the Govt can ever come up with any set of proposals that will make a meaningful difference. It is widely believed that the best way to find solutions to complex problems is a trial-and-error method, where you test out various solutions, quickly learn from mistakes and select those solutions that work. That's how science works, for example. This the Govt
is incapable of doing because, with elections always just around the corner, it cannot ever admit to a "trial-and-error" approach. If the Govt itself is incapable of "evolving" good solutions, why not tap into the vibrancy of the private sector? Why not invite bright young entrepreneurs to this sector and leave it to them to find feasible business models for education, with the Govt playing the role of watch-dog and regulator? Why is no one willing to explore this line of argument?

from:  Raamganesh
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 11:47 IST

The goals of the RTE can be achieved if the government devotes
adequate resources to the schools it already runs and provides more places for children by opening more schools. This latter step has been long over due.In stead of spending hundreds of crores supporting priivate schools which do not really have adequate staff, labs,libraries and playgrounds, the government should make necessary though initially heavy investments in opening and running more government schools. Sufficient number of teachers should also be trained to teach the envisaged number of pupils. Private schools which are admittedly run for profit, cannot be expected to take these steps.It is the government's responsibility to achieve the goals envisaged by the RTE and lay the foundations for the success of the nation.

from:  lakshman
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 10:29 IST

Why can't the government provide scholarships to the poor students who
meet the grade in the elitist private schools? The supreme court should
have directed the government to do so not just reserve the seats to poor
students. Now this will create another avenue for rent seeking by the
various interest groups. The activism of the Supreme Court is misguided.

from:  Raman Manian
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 10:08 IST
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