Letter sent by some schools was intended to mobilise parents against implementation of certain clauses of the Act

The Director of School Education will seek a report from school managements that have sent a letter seeking to mobilise parents against the implementation of certain clauses of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act.

Sources in the School Education Department said the managements would be asked to explain the context and rationale of the letter.

Parents of students in schools such as Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao Matriculation Higher Secondary School and Sankara Senior Secondary School confirmed receipt of the letter, which was similarly worded.

Sources in some city schools hinted at the possibility of managements of certain “top schools” having got together to mobilise parents' support on the issue.

The letter, which reads like a campaign against a particular clause pertaining to the reservation of at least 25 per cent of the strength for children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood, has caused concern regarding the readiness of private schools in ensuring effective implementation of the Act.

“If it is a school affiliated to the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), it will not come under our direct control. We will refer the circular to the chairman of the CBSE,” a senior official of the School Education Department said. In case of Matriculation Schools that come under the purview of the Education Department, the State government will take action.

The letter states: “Under this [RTE Act], the local District Education Officials can appoint 25 per cent of the children in our school. The Act says that they will have to choose from very poor families, near the school. The school will have no choice in selecting the child, and cannot refuse admission for any reason, however valid…the school cannot charge any fees for these children.”

Terming the rules “very damaging to the class and the entire school”, the letter goes on to make an argument for quality, saying: “Your child's quality of education will suffer seriously as the teachers will have a very difficult time managing and educating a few children, who are not qualified for the particular class, or who are very difficult to manage.”

The letter also raises questions pertaining to other aspects of the Act, including the class curriculum, academic programmes and the medium of instruction to be followed.

It also says that the clause would have financial implications for the parents. “The government reimbursement will only be as per the government determined local school cost, which means most of the costs of educating them will have to be borne by other parents, including you.”

“We all have to protest and fight against this, and need your support,” says the letter, asking for parents' support for the school's appeal to the Central and State governments, seeking amendments to “unreasonable and damaging sections” of the Act.

“Internal exercise”

When contacted, Ms. Subala Ananthanarayanan, Principal, Sankara School, said the management recently circulated a letter among parents, highlighting the salient features of the RTE Act. “We mentioned certain clauses such as the one that talks about reserving 25 per cent of the seats for children from economically underprivileged backgrounds, and the one on a ‘no detention policy',” she said.

As part of an internal exercise, parents' feedback was sought in response to these clauses. “While the clause on admitting children from underprivileged sections may have financial implications for the parents, the management believes it a laudable clause.”

Promoting all students, including those who underperform and those who have issues with regard to discipline may have implications on quality. “This clause is applicable to all the students of our school, not just those from underprivileged sections. These are just initial discussions with the parents to get a feel of what they think,” she said.

Shalini Pillay, principal of Lady Andal, said the letter was sent out to the parents as per the decision of the management. The letter was signed by C.Prema Kumar, correspondent of the school.

A.Narayanan, father of a student going to the school, says he is planning to file a defamation suit on behalf of the voiceless children from poor economic backgrounds. “We strongly condemn such circulars that demean poorer sections.”

A parent of a student going to Sankara School said he had signed the letter and returned it, expressing his support. “I send my child to the school for the quality of education it offers. By admitting such students in my child's class, the quality will certainly come down,” said the parent who did not wish to be named.

Terming such attitudes “very unfortunate”, a senior official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development said that the clause on such a reservation was based on the belief that a diverse classroom would enrich the learning experience.

“In the first year of the implementation of the Act, the reservation needs to be implemented only in class I. If there are about 40 students in a class, 10 of them have to come from economically weaker sections. It will take eight years' time before the reservation is implemented across classes I to VIII,” she said.

According to an official in the Bureau of Elementary Education, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, it was the State government's responsibility to resolve the issue. “The State government should speak to parents and address their anxieties,” he said.

(With inputs from Liffy Thomas and Lavanya M.)

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