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Right to Education fees refund on track: Govt.

Right to Education

10-05-2014

The Times of India

PUNE: State education secretary Ashwini Bhide was in the city on Friday for a review workshop of Pune, Kolhapur and Mumbai divisions. Bhide spoke to TOI on the workshop’s sidelines on a range of issues including reimbursements to schools for Right to Education (RTE) admissions, continuous and comprehensive evaluation of school students and mushrooming of play schools in cities.

Schools have been complaining that they have given admissions under RTE Act from nursery itself, but the reimbursements will be given from Class I.

The RTE Act is binding for children between six and 14 years of age and so the reimbursements will be made only from Class I. If the school’s entry level is nursery, then it will be binding on the school to admit students from that level, as it has been mentioned in the act as well.

Some minority schools have admitted students under 25% reservation quota in 2013 and 2012, but they no longer fall in the RTE ambit as per the Supreme Court. Will schools get reimbursements for these students?

The schools will be reimbursed the fees of these students not just for the current year but all through their primary education, as per the act. We will reimburse the amount as fixed by the state for each student irrespective of what the schools charge. If any school is denying admission, or asking students to pay the fees, our officers will look into the matter.

On rapid mushrooming of play schools in the state

The regulation of pre-primary schools is still under process. The committee has been formed and we are handling that issue step-by-step. Play schools are a modernised version of anganwadis. However, in the past few years, it is true that they have grown in big numbers. We will survey this trend and see how it can be regulated.

On the impact of continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) system introduced in state board schools?

Since the introduction of CCE, there has been a marked improvement in schooling levels in terms of quality of education as students have shown greater interest in learning. Besides, it has also helped in improving the enrolment ratio and reduced the dropout rates in school. Exams and tests alone cannot be a parameter for rating students, overall development has to be tested which is possible through CCE.

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‘Should minorities be deprived of quality education?’

Minority Education, Right to Education

12-05-2014

Zee News

New Delhi: A Supreme Court judgment holding that the RTE Act guaranteeing free education to children from socially and economically-backward sections is not applicable to minority-run institutions is not finding many takers in the legal fraternity who feel it is flawed and would deprive hundreds of thousands of children from vulnerable sections of quality education.

Though a few swear to the minorities the right to administer their institutions without any interference by the state as the law stands today, others feel that no exceptions could be made for implementing rights-based laws like the right to free education. Another view is that the state should not interfere with education at all.

The judgment by a five-judge constitution bench has come in for critical appraisal on the grounds that the rights conferred on minorities under the Constitution’s article 30 (1) to establish and administer their institutions could not be taken recourse to restrict the application of the progressive law that confers the right to education on all children.

Besides this, some legal experts feel that an 11-judge-bench verdict in the 2002 T.M.A. Pai Foundation case needs to be revisited as it was coming in the way of children being admitted to these schools and that article 30(1) could not be read in absolute terms, when even fundamental rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.

In this case, the apex court granted absolute immunity to private, unaided educational institutions, including those of minorities, in admissions, leaving them to decide the manner in which students should be taken in and barred any interference by the state.

Legal experts, however, said that the rights that minorities get under article 30(1) could not be elevated above the fundamental rights, noting there are regions in West Bengal and other eastern and northeastern states where bulk of the schools are run by the minorities.

“If it is an aided minority institution, then there is no reason why the RTE Act should not apply to it,” senior counsel Colin Gonsalves told IANS.

“I think a law of this nature should be applied without exception,” he added.

Describing the judgment as “fundamentally wrong”, Gonsalves said: “The original mistake made by the Supreme Court is in the T.M.A. Pai case where it privatized education. This was a huge mistake and children of India are suffering on account of this decision.

“It is because of T.M.A.Pai judgment that we find the Supreme Court holding today that progressive statutes like the Right to Education Act are not applicable to particular schools. It is fundamentally wrong,” Gonsalves maintained.

Senior counsel Ravindra Shrivastava said that “the judgment goes by the constitution because of constitutional provisions.”

“Personally speaking, with regard to the proliferation of commercial education institutes and their impact, I think that the RTE Act should apply across all institutions irrespective of the nature of their ownership,” Shrivastava told IANS, agreeing that on “certain aspects, the T.M.A. Pai judgment needs to be revisited”.

Senior counsel C.A. Sundaram, however, said he did not believe that there should be any interference with education and “the principle laid down in T.M.A. Pai case respecting the autonomy of unaided private institutions should continue to be respected”.

Sundram said that once the RTE Act has been upheld, its being applicable to private institutions is a natural corollary.

However, senior counsel Jaspal Singh was of the view that granting protection to minority institutions was a laudable objective and should not be interfered with in the name of enforcing the right to education.

“The laudable object of the constitutional provision is to protect the minorities and provide avenues of education to them. This is a special provision under which minorities are opening institutions, they are open to all. Nearly 80 percent students in Sikh institutions are from other communities,” he noted.

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Should Minority Schools be Exempted from the Right to Education (RTE) Act Norms?

Minority Education, Right to Education

Karmanye

The Supreme Court has, in a recent verdict, by a majority of 2:1, upheld the validity of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, most significantly the clause mandating 25% reservation for economically weaker children, but exempted unaided minority institutions (the term ‘minority’ has been used in both the linguistic and religious contexts and it applies in the context of respective states) from the same. The judgment has been widely criticized on this account by several scholars of the law such as Prof. Krishnaswamy and this is indeed an interesting issue of constitutional law wherein three categories of fundamental rights (not other constitutional rights) are juxtaposed with each other.

In this blog, I argue that the critique of the judgment is well founded and there is no convincing justification to exempt minority schools from the 25% reservation regulation.

The exemption granted to minority institutions is on the basis of Article 30 of the Indian constitution, which is stated hereunder –

“Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.—(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

(1A) In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, referred to in clause (1), the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause.

(2) The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.”

Now, none of the clauses have anything to do with the matter at hand i.e. exemption from RTE, except that as regards clause 2, it may be argued that not only does the exemption not discriminate against minority schools, but on the other hand, it discriminates in their favour. This is so, because the right of non-minority private entities “to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business” under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution has been held in this very judgment to be reasonably restricted in the light of Article 21A of the constitution inserted by way of the 86th Amendment, upholding the right to education for all in the age group of six to fourteen years. Then why should minorities get the privilege? Their right to “establish and administer educational institutions” under Article 30(1), one may argue, is basically no different from that of other private individuals who wish to take up establishing and administering educational institutions as the occupation of their choice under Article 19(1)(g); so, where is the difference? To my mind, the difference can arise only if Article 30(1) is read with Article 29(1) (both Articles 29 and 30 of the constitution fall under the head of Cultural and Educational Rights), which states –

“Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”

The title of Article 29 is ‘Protection of interests of minorities’ and so, the right of minority communities, linguistic or religious, to establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30(1) is in the light of allowing them to take steps to help them preserve their language and/or culture. But, does the imposition of the 25% quota take away their right to do so (considering the assumption, right or wrong, that the RTE Act is not to be treated as violative of other non-minority school managements’ right to run their institutions)? Not in any way I can think of, for they are still free to teach their language and/or religion. If minority colleges like St. Stephen’s College can have a Christian quota as also quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs (though I am dead against caste-based reservations or even income-based reservations at the college level, since I believe that compromising on merit isn’t a good idea, though I am fine with minority colleges granting a quota to students of their community so long as the students availing of their quota are mandatorily taught their language and/or religion in that college once they join), then minority schools (P12 institutions) can also have a fixed quota for students of their particular community and a separate 25% quota for the poor.

The obvious implication of this judgment was bound to be the opening of a floodgate for claims to minority status, which is indeed happening.

In my opinion, the judgment amounts to a miscarriage of justice and has dangerous implications with respect to interpreting constitutional law in the future. It may be in conformity with the vested interests of certain political parties to appease religious minorities (or even the majority Hindu community in other contexts), but our judiciary should be above this and should not read too much into constitutional safeguards for the minorities so as to divest them from statutory responsibilities for the larger national cause, in which the economically deprived of their communities have as much to gain. 25% reservation for economically weaker children practically makes for the largest venture in the world wherein quality education of private schools can be extended to the poor as well, with the Government bearing the financial burden, and as I see it, there’s no reason why unaided minority schools, such as unaided convent schools, many of which are highly renowned, should not be a part of this huge social phenomenon that can help transform the face of this country.

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Improving upon RTE

Right to Education

Parth Shah

Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta in Mint dissect the motivations and impact of RTE and suggest that “dramatically more educational spending by Delhi is not fiscally possible, and repealing RTE is not politically feasible. Therefore, we must now push for as many exemptions as possible within the RTE, while getting more budget schools recognized for reimbursements.”

Repealing RTE is politically impossible but amending it could become politically appealing. We should focus on the type of amendments that we would want to see in the RTE, build a consensus and push for political acceptance.

Along with saving budget performing schools (BPS) and getting them recognised for reimbursement, we should work to get 25% implemented well across the country. If this implementation is full of loopholes, extortion and bribery, the BPS would not benefit much.

This blog was originally posted on Spontaneous Order.

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“They Say We’re dirty” Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized

Implementation, Right to Education

Human Rights Watch

April 2014

Abstract: The teacher always made us sit in a corner of the room, and would throw keys at us [when she was angry]. We only got food if anything was left after other children were served…. [G]radually [we] stopped going to school. — Shyam, 14, Dalit boy from Uttar Pradesh now working at a brick kiln, April 2013

In 2009, India enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which provides for free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 based on principles of equity and non-discrimination. For a country that six decades ago at independence had staggering poverty and illiteracy levels, this was an overdue but ambitious step to meet its domestic and internationally recognized obligations to its children. It also testified to
India’s increasing confidence as an emerging economy with one of the youngest and largest work forces in the world.

However, four years after it came into force, the Right to Education Act is yet to be properly implemented.

The complete report can be accessed here.

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Only 4% EWS parents aware of reservation under RTE Act: Study

Implementation, Right to Education

26-04-2014

The Indian Express

Only four per cent of parents from economically weaker sections (EWS) are aware about the availability of 25 per cent seats under EWS category in the capital’s private schools, under the RTE Act, a study has shown.

The study also found that only half of these four per cent parents have managed to navigate through bureaucratic and psychological barriers to apply.

The report was released at a Delhi state-wide conference on the Right to Education Act by Indus Action — an NGO working exclusively towards implementation of Section 12(1)(C) clause of the RTE Act — with support from Central Square Foundation.

“The Right to Education has opened up many opportunities for children from economically weaker sections. Yet, despite the best efforts to spread awareness, eligible families seem to have little knowledge about the policy. Section 12(1)(c) of RTE Act has the potential to put roughly 10 million children across India on a different path in the next five years, making it the single largest opportunity seat scheme in the world. But we need a better state-wide implementation plan for that to happen,” Tarun Cherukuri, founder, Indus Action, said.

The report details on-ground implementation of the mandatory 25 per cent reservation for EWS children and those who are socially disadvantaged. It is based on responses from 350-odd families in South, Southeast, Southwest, North, Northeast and Central Delhi.

Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates that private unaided schools reserve 25 per cent of their seats in entry-level classes for EWS students and those from disadvantaged groups.

Even though awareness levels are low, the report states that eligible families were adequately equipped to apply.

“94.8 per cent people had at least one of the birth proof certificates. 96.85 per cent people had at least one of the accepted documents for address proof. And 82.8 per cent people had at least one of the accepted documents for proof of income,” the report states.

Yet, families chose not to apply, with the exception of four per cent families who did — high fees being a major concern discouraging them from applying to private schools.

The report notes that families did not approach government officials for information, relying instead on help from other families ( 29 per cent) and employers (28 per cent).

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In India’s Schools, Discrimination Drives Dropouts

Implementation, Right to Education

22-04-2014

The Wall Street Journal

RAMPUR, India—At the government school in this north Indian village, 8-year-old Dilip Banwasi is being taught his place.

His third-grade teacher makes him sweep the classroom floor and sit in the back row.

When it is time for lunch, Dilip—a member of a low social class referred to as “rat catchers”—is among the last few to be served. At recess, his classmates warn, “Don’t play with us,” Dilip says.

Dilip’s experience reflects a significant obstacle to improving social mobility in India: discrimination in schools. Roughly half of all Indian public-school students drop out before eighth grade, and most of the dropouts are from lower caste, Muslim or tribal communities, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.

The report, which looked at four Indian states, places the blame, in part, on discrimination in the public education system.

Discrimination against tribal, Muslim and lower-caste communities in India is commonplace, but it can be particularly damaging in schools, activists say, because of the importance of education to finding better jobs and breaking away from traditional social and economic restraints.

Students who drop out often end up working in the field, joining the roughly 13 million Indian children, most of whom are minorities, engaged in child labor.

In Dilip’s neighborhood, his is the first generation to attend school. The adults work in brick kilns or are employed as servants in the homes of the upper-caste villagers.

Despite his enthusiasm for his studies—he wears his school uniform, khaki shirt and trousers, even on weekends—Dilip’s attendance is thinning.

In March, he skipped a week of school. So far this month he has attended only half of his classes because, he says, he doesn’t enjoy being mocked.

Dilip’s teacher praises his intelligence, up to a point. “He’s bright, but bright only amongst the Musahars,” says Dilip’s teacher, Ramakant Sharma, referring to his community of Dalits, a social class previously referred to as “untouchables.”

Mr. Sharma said, “Discrimination doesn’t happen anymore, at least not in this school.” He added that “it is our duty, as teachers, to educate irrespective of caste and religion.”

Teachers often address poorer students using derogatory terms, according to the Human Rights Watch report, and order them to perform unpleasant chores, like cleaning toilets.

“Teachers are products of a society that discriminates against marginalized communities, and they bring these attitudes into the classroom,” says Jayshree Bajoria, the report’s author.

The report examines access to education in India four years after the country implemented a large-scale education overhaul, the Right to Education Act, guaranteeing free schooling to children ages 6 to 14. Though nearly all students are now enrolled in school, activists say widespread prejudice, and lack of teacher accountability, has made it difficult to keep them there.

A 2012 study, commissioned by the government’s flagship program for elementary education, reached a similar conclusion after studying schools in six states.

An education official at the Ministry of Human Resource Development declined to comment on the Human Rights Watch report and defended the Right to Education act saying its success is that “students who are traditionally out of the education system are now part of it.”

Near Dilip’s school, at the main public school for girls, several students say they rarely interact with children of lower castes.

One girl, Paishwani Singh, says she knew that one of her classmates was Dalit, but doesn’t believe that the girl has any friends. “I have never seen her in class,” she says.

The Right to Education Act included a three-year deadline for states to meet its targets, among them ensuring schools have enough teachers and adequate infrastructure, like toilets and access to drinking water. Most states failed to meet that goal.

Ms. Bajoria of Human Rights Watch says the law should include provisions for teacher training and monitoring, and that there should be clearly defined penalties for teachers who treat students unequally.

Educating teachers about what constitutes discrimination is important because sometimes the prejudice is unintentional, she says.

The law should also specify when a student qualifies as a “dropout,” activists say, a definition that can vary by state. In Dilip’s school, for instance, teachers say there is no mechanism in place to determine a dropout case.

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New India School denies admission to 20 kids, Director of education hints de-recognition

Implementation, Right to Education

22-04-2014

DNA

Pune: In first-of-its-kind case of Right to Education (RTE) Act violation this year, New India School in Kothrud denied admission to some students who applied through the online process. The director of education (primary) has hinted de-recognition of the school.

On Monday afternoon, as many as 20 parents whose children were refused admission by school authorities met Director Education (Primary Section) Mahavir Mane and submitted their complaints.

In the complaint, the parents said that after their children got admissions through the online process. Thereafter they went and submitted the necessary documents and received acknowledgment receipts from the school authorities.

One of the parents said in the complaint that after submission of the forms, they were told that they will be receiving calls from the school. However, no calls were made to the parents.

Another parent said that when they reached the school to seek explanation, the school refused them admission, which prompted them to approach the director’s office.

Mane said that they have sent a team to the school and instructed them to investigate the case. “We have also issued them a show cause notice and if the reply of the school is not satisfactory, we will cancel the approval of the school,” he said. He added that the school is thinking of going to the court but they will file caveat in the court.

Speaking about the RTE admissions, he said that the second round of the admissions will start from April 25.

When contacted Sunita Bhagwat, director of the school, she was not available for comments

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Lessons in Learning: An Analysis of Outcomes in India’s Implementation of the Right to Education Act

Right to Education

Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs

Authors: Ayokunle Abogan, Ayaz Achakzai, Vera Bersudskaya, Sebastian Chaskel, Megan Corrarino, Emily Garin, Betsy Hoody, Chris Johnson, and Sangita Vyas under the supervision of Professor Jeffrey Hammer

February 2013

Abstract: India’s Right to Education Act (RTE), passed in 2009, declared public primary education a human right for all Indian children aged 6-14.  It established standards for school infrastructure, learning materials, teacher qualifications, and student admission; instituted private school quotas for children from disadvantaged groups; and created School Management Committees (SMCs).  Financing for RTE flows through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which pools resources from central and state governments to fund public and primary schools.

Using multiple datasets, this report analyzes how RTE’s requirements have impacted both intermediate outcomes such as attendance of students and educators and school infrastructure, as well as the ultimate goal of student learning.  It also evaluates the efficacy of current accountability mechanisms.

The full report can be accessed here.

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Online admissions for RTE seats likely to start on April 7

Right to Education

04-04-2014

DNA

The online admissions for the 25 per cent seats reserved under the Right to Education Act, 2009 are finally expected to start in the city on April 7. The final schedule will be ready in a day, assured BMC authorities.

Initially, admissions were to begin on April 5 and were expected to go on till May 24. However, with the staff busy with elections, the date is likely to be pushed ahead.

“We will provide applicants over 20 days—from April 7 to April 30—to ensure that their parents have enough time to procure income certificate. With the staff busy with elections, parents may not be able to get the required documents ready in time,” said additional municipal commissioner Mohan Adtani.

Earlier, parents were to have only 12 days for submitting the application.

It is the first time that the civic body is conducting admissions for seats reserved under the quota. For the online process, 309 schools have registered with the BMC. Of these, 27 are from boards other than the state board.

“Each applicant can select three schools in their neighbourhood within a radius of three kilometers,” said a senior BMC official.

Admissions will be awarded on the basis of a lottery, which will be conducted after documents have been verified. Parents will thus have approximately four days to secure admission. They will be notified about the two lists through an SMS, which will be sent to their mobile number. Lists will also be put up in school premises.

“The announcements will be made through two lists. If there are students left out even after the end of the two rounds, applicants can seek admission through the online process,” said the official. Schools will have to inform the civic body about the number of vacant seats at the end of every round of admission.

BMC will set up 26 help desks across the city to assist parents during the application process. The help desks will be located at schools and ward offices. “The help desks will be manned by BMC officials, centre-in-charge and headmasters. They will be open from 10am to 5.30pm every day from April 5, and will be in place for a month,” said the official.

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