‘Govt. should conduct admissions in single window system’
Of the numerous provisions in the landmark Right of Children To Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), a few would have aroused as much attention as the one mandating all private unaided schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats to “children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups.”
The student’s fee is to be reimbursed by the State as part of a public-private partnership plan to ensure no child between 6 and 14 years is left without education.
However, this provision continues to raise questions among both parents who feel schools are not abiding by the clause in letter and spirit and private schools which feel it is not needed in Tamil Nadu, a State that boasts of a strong network of Government schools.
R. Manimohan, chairman of Students Welfare Association of Parents (SWAP), says the modalities for implementing the clause is yet to be clear despite the Act having come into force way back in April 2010.
No rules have been framed on how the students from the school’s locality must be selected and who must be given preference in admissions. Parents are hapless against the managements of private schools who, he allege, employed numerous reasons to circumvent this clause.
“The only solution is that the State Government should conduct the admissions in single window system similar to engineering college admissions,” says Mr. Manimohan.
However, Tamil Nadu Private Schools Association president R. Visalakshi says the income criteria fixed under the Act is too high.
“If the Government wants private schools to admit children living below poverty line (BPL) category, we (private schools) are ready to accommodate. However, this limit is too high and is only encouraging frivolous applications.”
Further, the modalities of how the Government will reimburse the private schools are still unclear. The contentious clause should not be enforced till the ambiguities are removed, she says.
K. Kathirmathiyon of Coimbatore Consumer Cause says co-opting schools is vital for the Act to succeed and as such, the fees being reimbursed must be reasonable.
“As on date, many are not aware of this reservation and as such, it needs wide publicity. The eligibility criteria and the method of approaching the schools/authorities must also be made known to the public. A mechanism acceptable to all sides has to be found out,” he adds.
Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association contends that while schools are willing, many are unable to fill beyond 10 per cent due to paucity of applicants.
General secretary G. Krishnaraj says the improvements in infrastructure of the Government schools combined with the numerous freebies and the implementation of ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ (Unitary System of Education, which means both the Government and private schools have the same syllabus) are the reasons for this lack of adequate applicants.
“To a question on the Government schools raised in the Assembly, the School Education Minister had replied that their strength had increased to 20 lakh students in the current academic year from 18 lakh in the preceding year.”