The recent order passed by the Madras High Court stating even nursery schools must have recognition has evoked mixed reactions.
While a section of nursery schools have welcomed the order by contending that it would bring about a set of uniform standards as too many play schools and pre-schools had mushroomed in recent years without any standards at all, others say a heavy handed approach to this section would stifle the creativity needed to deal with children.
There is some confusion as so whether the order also covers play schools and crèches also where children just gather without any education sessions.
Senior officials in the department said that while no orders have been received subsequent to this High Court order, the general practice had been to make recognition mandatory for any institution where children gather in large numbers. The official added that at present, they are instructing any such school applying for recognition to conform to all the norms mandated under RTE Act.
Welcoming the ruling, Pratima Vania, who is running a play school in the city for the last 23 years, says it is high time there are some set of basic standards for pre-schools which were now operating with little oversight.
She, however, adds that the regulation must not focus solely on infrastructure and safety but on quality of teaching too and ensure trained teachers are working in these pre-schools.
Further, with so many different sets of teaching methodology, she wonders if the regulations will make all of them uniform or set standards for each of them.
If the norms are too rigid, Ms. Vania says it will cramp the ability of teachers to mould children in an age when all their senses will be very sharp and keen to learn new things.
Further, any regulatory authority for this sector must be made of specialists and be a separate entity and not part of any existing department.
Archana Dange, Head of Operations (Tamil Nadu) for EuroKids, which runs around 60 play schools in the State, says this ruling is a positive step which will remove the air of ambiguity that had hung over pre-schools for all these years.
This will bring in clarity to the sector while also bringing in minimum quality requirements for the benefit of students and parents. While the implications of the ruling are yet to be figured out, she says the norms must focus on space, healthy, hygiene, and safety.
She says, nearly 95 per cent of those working in the pre-school sector were women and many of the nursery schools were small ones with only a few employees.
These schools do not have the capacity to follow a huge regulatory process.
As such, Ms. Dange appealed to the State Government to set up a single-window system for granting recognition to pre-schools.
While N. Gopalkrishnan, Correspondent of Campus Play Schools, is of the opinion that play schools might not be covered under the court ruling, he says if regulation are to come, it must be more of a ‘feather-touch’ for this sector.
The norms must confine themselves to the infrastructure and other areas and not become too obtrusive, he adds.
Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association General secretary G. Krishnaraj told The Hindu that that pre-schools must not be equated to larger schools when the rules for recognition are formulated.
If the present norms imposed for larger schools were to be extended to the play schools, many will close down and a large number of students will lose out.
The land requirements must be determined on the basis of number of students. Further, the rules must not leave scope for differing interpretations.
He urged the Government to constitute a committee comprising all the stake holders to work out the rules on recognition for play schools.
They must be given a period of one or two years to comply with the rules and it must not be enforced immediately, he said.