Every locality in Bengaluru now has multiple preschools, regarded as a boon by working parents. But how many such exist in the city?
Though the Department of School Education and Literacy is the sanctioning authority, it has no data on the number of schools and students — a clear indication of lax monitoring of these centres.
The lack of separate rules and regulations and a consistent monitoring system have led to the mushrooming of private preschools or Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) centres, which don’t come under the Right to Education Act (RTE)-2009.
How many in Karnataka
It is estimated that there are around 40,000 privately run preschools in the State. Among these, about 20,000 preschools, permitted by the Department of School Education and Literacy, are managed by various private educational institutions. The rest are stand-alone establishments not attached to schools.
The department specifies guidelines while giving permission. One of them is that a preschool should have a minimum area of 2,000 sq. ft. of demarcated play space and separate toilets for boys and girls. But, there is no mechanism to check if these rules are being followed.
Will NEP change the scenario?
Will the situation change with Karnataka getting set to implement National Education Policy-2020 (NEP-2020) in primary education? The policy promises universal access at all levels of learning from pre-primary school to Class XII. It promises quality early childhood care and schooling from the age of three.
The existing 10+2 school curriculum structure will be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curriculum structure corresponding to ages 3 to 8, 8 to 11, 11 to 14, and 14 to 18, respectively. This new system will include 12 years of schooling with three years of anganwadi or pre-primary education.
The government of Karnataka has set up a task force headed by a former IAS officer to implement NEP in primary education. It has selected 20,000 anganwadis across the State to implement NEP in early childhood care education.
However, privately run preschools (variously called Montessori, kindergarten, day schools etc.), some by individuals and some by franchisees, are likely to get little attention at the moment under NEP.
The task force is currently focused on framing a curriculum for anganwadis, which come under the Directorate of Woman and Child Development Department in the Integrated Child Development Service Scheme (ICDS) programme.
In such a context, activists and educationists say that the State government should bring pre-primary education on the whole under the fold of the Education Department and ensure monitoring under NEP.
To be consistent with NEP, the government should also amend the RTE Act and bring 3 to 18 years under its fold rather than 6 to 14 years. However, there is no thinking in the government on either of these fronts at the moment.
Curriculum cannot be imposed
Speaking to The Hindu, Madan Gopal, Chairman of the NEP Task Force, admitted that their focus is not on private preschools. “In the first phase, we are implementing NEP in 20,000 anganwadis, taking it as one unit as the foundational stage.
As far as private preschools are concerned, nothing can be imposed on them. After the release of State curriculum work, they will also be asked to follow. But it cannot be imposed on them; it will be an option,” he said.
Niranajanaradhya V.P., a developmental educationist, said there are multiple manners of preschool education with little attempt at uniformity or monitoring.
“For early childhood education, there are pre-primary classes, like LKG and UKG, in private schools. There are also State-run anganwadis, besides multiple independent franchisee pre-primary schools. There is no uniformity in the preprimary education system,” he said. He also pointed out the lack of people trained in Nursery Teacher Training.
Some charge very high fee
Shashikumar D., General Secretary for Associated Managements of Schools in Karnataka, pointed out that some high-end preschools charge between ₹75,000 to ₹1 lakh, and there is no monitoring of this.
“The department is only a permission-giving authority and has no mandate to monitor them. So there is no accountability. We have submitted a memorandum to the government to form some regulation in this regard, but there is no progress,” he said.