A day ahead of April 1, 2010, the historically significant date on which the much-debated Right To Education (RTE) Act will come into effect, private schools are evincing interest in the modalities in reserving 25 per cent of their seats to students from economically weaker sections.
The Act, which assures free and compulsory education to children in the age group 6 to 14 years, also seeks to ensure better quality education in government schools. While the State government, through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and its own effort, is addressing certain qualitative aspects, private schools seem to be awaiting a clear set of guidelines.
According to N. Vijayan, General Secretary, Federation of Matriculation Schools' Associations in Tamil Nadu, many private schools have begun receiving queries from families of lower income groups in the neighbourhood.
“A few years ago, the State School Education Department had mooted a voucher system. That might be suitable for the implementation of the RTE. We certainly welcome the move to include students from weaker sections,” he says.
As per the voucher system mooted earlier, an underprivileged child seeking admission in a private school in the neighbourhood can approach the School Education Department, obtain a voucher for the amount charged as school fees by the private school, and have it redeemed in the school at the time of admission.
Schools under the purview of the State Board are yet to receive any formal communication on the matter. Other Boards of education are also awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
According to sources in the Central Board of Secondary Education, no specific communication has been sent out to affiliated schools.
A senior official says that the MHRD may get in touch with the schools through the Board or directly, soon after the Act comes into effect.
G. Neelakantan, principal, Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior Secondary School, says that 31 per cent of the school's students are first-generation learners.
“But we have to see how many of them are from lower income group as per the specifications of the Act. Once we get the directives from the Ministry, we can work on the modalities.”