Nursery admissions: Poor govt schools, not a reason to turn kids away

Correction:  We wrote Planning Commission instead of  Kothari Commission in the tenth paragraph. The error is regretted.

With nursery admission season underway in Delhi, every day one reads about how one private school or another is flouting the Right to Education Act by refusing to admit children from the Economically Weaker Sections or EWS.

The Right to Education Act, 2009, lays down that 25 percent of the seats in private schools have to be reserved for children from EWS.

The president of the Delhi State Public Schools Management Association, which claims to represent over 4000 private schools in the Capital, has, however, refused to comply with RTE’s reservation quota calling it ‘vote-bank politics’. (Read Govt vs schools: The fight for Delhi’s right to education).

Jain argues that the government should put its own schools in order before it imposes quotas for the underprivileged in private schools.

While there is no denying that there is an urgent need to transform the government schools into functional institutions, does it justify private schools refusing to admit children from underprivileged backgrounds in their schools?

Father T V Kannunkal, former chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and member of the Ashok Ganguly committee on nursery admissions in Delhi, says that while bad conditions in government schools is an issue, it does not absolve private schools of their responsibility. Also, children learn better when a classroom is mixed than when its homogeneous, he says.

 Nursery admissions: Poor govt schools, not a reason to turn kids away

The Right to Education Act, 2009, lays down that 25 percent of the seats in private schools have to be reserved for children from EWS. Reuters

But Father T V Kannunkal believes that the responsibility of RTE lies squarely with the government and not private schools. “It is due to the neglect of the government schools that private schools are growing at such a fast pace. This is no thanks to the government. The government is, in a sense, creating the private school system due to the sheer inertia in the government system. That is why there is a basic validity in the argument,” says Father Kannunkal.

The problem with the EWS, he says, is size of the quota. “25 percent is quite a substantial quota. How does the school finance it? It does not make financial sense. The problem is not of mixing, it has to do with financing.”

But then private schools have been promised reimbursement by the government for the loss. “The government is not compensating the private schools adequately. And even the compensation comes with conditions,” says Father Kannunkal.

But financial cost notwithstanding, Father Kannunkal maintained that private schools cannot say they have no responsibility. “No, we have a responsibility.”

Rejecting the ‘government schools should fix their schools before imposing quotas on private school’ argument, educationist Mina Swaminathan said there can be no conditions to obeying a law that has been passed by the government.

The issue of the dysfunctional state of government schools is a separate issue, she said.

“The private schools are supposed to admit students in their neighbourhood. That was the Planning Commission’s Kothari Commission's recommendation in 1969. And schools that are doing it, get grants from the government. Why don’t they take the grants. Why do they, instead, want to fleece parents and run private schools? Only because all they are interested in is money money, money. They don’t want to admit poor children who can’t pay the fees. And that is why the government has now made this rule,” said Swaminathan.

Rajan Arora, founder of schooladmissions.in, an interactive website for parents, also disagrees that the state of education in government schools is an argument against quotas in private schools.

“Everybody should be given the right to a quality education. I don’t think a child that is born in a poor family should be deprived of a quality education because the government schools are not functional.”

Many private schools, says Arora, who were given land from the government on the promise that they will provide education to underprivileged kids. “They have to fulfill that promise.”

Arora, who gets a lot of queries from parents from EWS on his website, says that even now there is not enough awareness about the RTE.

His appeal to private schools who are resisting the implementation of the reserved seats for under-privilege children, Arora said, was that now that it is a law, everyone should follow it.

“For a better India, we need to take the bitter pill. It will take some time to adjust to, but the good results will pave way for future reforms.”

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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2012 17:56:21 IST