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Issue No.: 550 | April 2013
 

The Right to Education Act (10)

Suresh Sharma
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People, who make laws behind closed doors, don’t know the ground realities. These schools are a social necessity

All schools have to obtain recognition from the Government by 31 March 2013. The schools have to submit details of the strength and qualifications of staff, the number of class rooms, pay structure, blackboards, laboratories and playgrounds. There are seventeen conditions that are required to be met. The school or the society responsible for it must have their own building or rented accommodation for 30 years. Their fate hangs with the Deputy Director Public Education. In Ahmedabad, only 450 schools out of 1045 have applied for recognition. Recognized schools have to obtain recognition again. 

Some of the provisions are difficult to interpret. For example, the Act states that school should not be run for profit to any individual, group or association and it should conform to the values enshrined in the constitution. A large number of schools are managed by religious societies. Can these schools be allowed to function?  In USA, some individuals succeeded in removing the morning prayers in the schools. Similar litigation can occur in India too. 50,000 private schools in Bihar had protested against the rules for recognition. 

Closing down schools

A bureaucratic approach is not desirable. In Bihar, a school must have two acres of land. In Karnataka, 66 schools have not received approval due to lack of infra-structure. Is the Government ready to start their own schools to take the load of these schools? Many Government schools do not meet the criteria of infrastructure. A school building in Dahisar with 200 students has been declared dangerous by the Fire Department. The Inspector of Schools has told the schools in the neighbourhood not to admit children from this school so that the teachers do not lose their jobs. The Management Committee is unable to carry out the repairs as the fees are low and some parents do not pay even that. The parents are of the view that the Management Committee wants to make money so they want to close down the school.
 
In the name of quality education, the schools cannot be shut down without making alternative arrangements. Jain, president of the Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association commented that if the three-year RTE deadline which expires in March 2013 is not extended, 1593 unrecognized schools in Delhi (as per a Municipal Corporation of Delhi survey quoted in a 2012 education report) will have to be closed down or face a one-time fine of Rs 1 lac and Rs 10,000 for every additional day. As per the MCD survey, 1.64 lac children study in these unrecognized schools. People, who make laws behind closed doors, don’t know the ground realities. These schools are a social necessity. 

The State Governments have to notify the rules under the Act. The Gujarat Government has taken a more pragmatic view. The rules have been framed by a committee under the former Chief Secretary, Mr.  Sudhir Mankad. They have given importance to the parents and the children and not to the public sector providers of education. The RTE Act and the rules by most of the State Governments focus on the inputs and not on the results. The Gujarat Rules focus on learning results and provide weighted average on four measures:-




Weightage
1Students learning outcomes using standard tests30%      30%
2Students learning outcome compared to last performance.
        This will ensure that schools just do not show good results by not admitting weak students
     40%
3Inputs including facilities and teachers qualifications        15%
4Non-academic outcomes like sports and personality development
       Feedback from parents is to be used for this measure
       15%

Teacher/student ratio is defined in a more practical way. In case, the class room is smaller than 300 square feet, the school need not be derecognized and should be allowed to function on a different teacher/student ratio. The acceptable ratio is [area in square feet minus 60] divided by 8. This allows the school to function in a more efficient way with limited infrastructure. 

The RTE Act stipulates closing down of schools without recognition. Gujarat schools allow the State to take over the school or transfer it to a third party.                

Brig. SURESH C. SHARMA (Retd.) is adviser to the telecom industry, 
freelance writer, and member of the 
Advisory Board of Freedom First. Email: brigscs@gmail.com
 
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