The Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL) has, over the last fortnight, been cracking down on managements running “central syllabus” schools with no requisite affiliation while giving the impression to parents that they are accredited to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations. DSEL has served notices to more than 700 such schools, over 600 in Bengaluru alone. However, people in the know say this has been going on for years and reflects the government’s failure to regulate the ecosystem.
Most of these schools, while they have an affiliation to only the State board, say they are teaching either ICSE or CBSE syllabus, violating the norms of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
Huge demand for Central Board schools
With statistics showing that students who study the central syllabus have an edge in professional course entrance examinations, there has been a huge demand for schools teaching the central syllabus. This has led to many educational institutions making false claims that they are affiliated to either of the central boards and, in turn, charge a fee severalfold more than what State syllabus schools generally charge.
In the past few weeks, parents of children studying in one such school protested, as the school claiming to be affiliated to CBSE and teaching that syllabus till now suddenly distributed State syllabus textbooks. The protests soon spread to several branches of the school chain in the city and led to an FIR against one of them in Nagarbhavi.
The school, in a statement, said that while nine of their branches already had CBSE affiliation, others were “in the process” of getting it. This process generally takes 3-4 years, which they claim was further delayed due to the pandemic. These protests opened a can of worms.
Public exams exposed it all
The phenomenon of schools claiming central board affiliation is not new. It has been happening right under the nose of DSEL for many years. But what set the cat among the pigeons was the department’s recent decision to hold a public examination for Classes V and VIII.
Since there are no public exams till Class X in central syllabus schools, educational institutions have ample time to get affiliated to a central board long after they have set up the school. Till then, many schools remain affiliated to the State board while teaching the Central syllabus.
However, with the introduction of public exams for Classes V and VIII from this academic year in State-affiliated schools, they were forced to teach students State syllabus textbooks, alerting parents to what they were unaware of.
Check for irregularities
Meanwhile, DSEL had formed a three-member committee led by the Block Education Officer (BEO) in each taluk to survey schools to check for irregularities. Post survey, DSEL issued notices to over 700 schools across the State alleging that while they had affiliation to the State board, they were falsely claiming affiliation to a central board and teaching that syllabus.
However, a section of private school managements said the survey was an “offensive” launched by the department against them in response to allegations of corruption they had levelled against them a few months ago.
How the system works
Neither the CBSE nor the CISCE provides affiliation to a newly opened school. They must first obtain a State board affiliation for Classes I to V and run the school for five years, following which they can take a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the State government to get an affiliation for a central board.
After applying, the central board issues a provisional certificate only to indicate that the said school is “under consideration” for affiliation. Then, based on inspection reports, the board provides a permanent affiliation. The process takes around five years. If the board denies the affiliation, it will continue to function as a State board school.
However, without following this procedure and waiting for an affiliation, many schools are taking in students claiming to have already been affiliated to either of the central boards. If parents seek any clarification, these schools usually show the provisional certificate issued by the concerned central board or the NOC issued by the State government.
Some have also cited mention of their school as a central board-affiliated one on the Government of India’s Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) portal, which is only a self-declaration.
Right now, the pressure on students studying in these schools is a matter of significant concern, especially in Classes V and VIII this year. These students, who were being taught NCERT textbooks, are now given State syllabus textbooks to prepare for public exams, putting them under immense stress and confusion. Neither the school managements nor DSEL has yet to devise any plan on how these children will cope with it.
Lax enforcement and corruption
Though DSEL has powers to withdraw the NOC issued to a school and impose a hefty penalty for violation of rules, there has not been any such action.
Shashikumar D., General Secretary for Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka (KAMS), said that despite their repeated appeals, there had been no action against schools that falsely claim and run central syllabus. Alleging wide-scale collusion between school managements and officials, he said BEO reports on school inspections should not be trusted blindly, and DSEL has to make them public to allow scrutiny and call for objections, he added.
Minister promises transparency
However, Minister for the Department of School Education and Literacy, B.C. Nagesh assured stringent action against errant schools as per law. “We are holding public exams for Classes V and VIII to prevent such irregularities. We are also planning to launch a separate portal to disclose all the unauthorised and fraudulent schools’ names and their addresses,” he said.