If you are a parent and have tried getting your child admitted to any private school in Delhi, let alone a nursery school, you know how harrowing the experience is. Come admission time, principals in some schools transform into gods, mostly inaccessible and invisible, and the security guards at the school gates treat you with some disdain. You would have noticed parents begging at the school gate for a meeting with the school authorities, possibly you have done it too. You swallow the insult in school after school. It’s a matter of the education of your kid; you simply cannot let bruised self-respect come in the way. Perhaps you may have heard of desperate parents touching the feet of principals.
Parents normally apply in many schools, the better ones always on the wish-list. But in most cases they have to settle for least preferred schools because there are no seats available in the good ones. It does not matter whether your kid is intelligent enough, it is the management’s discretion. Those who can pull a few strings manage – you may have done it too - but even that does not always work. There are people with better connections. You don’t feel like blaming them because that is how school admission in many of Delhi’s private schools works. Not finding a decent school for your child is ultimately your failure as a parent. You accept that grudgingly.
Why have things come to such a sorry pass? The AAP government’s argument while scrapping the management quota in nursery schools explained that rather well. It maintained that the practice of management quota was unreasonable, exploitative, wholly non-transparent and prone to misuse. It is an inherently discriminatory mechanism which allowed the authorities to make money by selling seats and thus created an uneven playing field for students seeking admission.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said earlier that the quota had to go because it was the “biggest scandal” going around. According to his government’s directive, henceforth 25 percent of seats would be reserved for students from the Economically Weaker Section category while the rest will be left open to all. Most private schools earmark 20 percent of seats under management quota, but there’s no transparency about it. Kejriwal is known to take the high moral ground on various issues. Here nobody would find fault with him for speaking up for hapless parents. But there are several questions for him too. Maybe he is speaking only half the truth. We shall get there later.
The managements appear justified in arguing that since as promoters they have to invest funds in the schools, they must have autonomy in decision-making, including admissions. The high court in its order on Thursday said as much while putting off hearing on the matter. It also said the government’s order was in conflict with an order of the Lieutenant Governor in 2007, which allowed 20 percent management quota in unaided private educational institutions. The Supreme Court and other higher courts have also defended their position earlier. But if everything is hunky-dory with private schools, why parents have to suffer so much every admission season? Why is there debate in the first place?
Coming back to the AAP government’s position, is it a solution to the nursery school admission problem in any way? It is the failure of the education system in general that so many children have to run after so few schools. If the government schools ensured good quality education, there would be no need for parents to run after private schools. It is one big weakness that private players are cashing in on. They obviously cannot be blamed for that. Has Kejriwal created one school that would serve as a model for other government schools? What has his government done so far to improve the quality of education in government schools? Nothing.
In the end it is the parents and very young students who have to take the brunt. Perhaps the court should get into the activist mode and have a look at the big picture.