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Posh schools deprive poor of 25% quota

Right to Education

03-04-2014

The Times of India

LUCKNOW: Children of underprivileged families find doors closed in most private schools in Lucknow, according to state government figures. No school in the state capital has enrolled students belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in class I, thereby, showing disregard to the Right to Education (RTE) Act which mandates 25% free seats in class I for underprivileged.

The state government report shows zero enrolment of poor students from the neighbourhood in these schools. The poor performance, said education officials, is due to autocratic attitude. An officer not willing to be named said “applications of such students (disadvantaged or EWS) are turned down by school authorities who ask them to seek admission in a government school. These (private) schools work on their whims and fancies and to regulate them is out of bounds for government.”

State government order dated June 20 states, it is ‘mandatory’ for all private unaided schools to reserve 25% free seats for children belonging to weaker and disadvantaged sections. In case of non-compliance, basic education officers (BEOs) are to be held responsible. It also says that once admitted, these children will complete their elementary education (class VIII). The order also says that the state government will reimburse the fees of such students to the cost of Rs 450 or the school’s actual fee (per month), whichever is less.

But admission to private school will be done in two cases. First, when a student fails to secure a seat in government or government-aided school. Second, when there is no government or aided school in 1-kilometer vicinity. An RTE officer said most senior officials did not agree on “EWS students taking admission to any private school” clause while RTE rules were formulated.

Principals, however, slammed the state government for receiving no clear directive on RTE admissions. “Basic education officials are reluctant to get this implemented. On the other hand, state government rules are not clear on funding of underprivileged children in schools,” said a CBSE school principal.

Principal of DPS Eldeco, A K Singh, said “no queries had come in for admissions by underprivileged students.”

Refuting the government report, principal of Seth MR Jaipuria School, Anju Wal, said “no one from the government has ever asked us about the number of admissions. Last year, we took nine such admissions in various classes. Applications are refused only when seats are filled.”

 

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Schools told to make up for poor RTE intake in ’13

Reservation of seats, Right to Education

27-03-2014

The Times of India

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has not even met half its targeted number of admissions in matriculation schools for the 2013-14 academic year under the 25% reservation clause of the Right To Free and Compulsory Education Act.

Matriculation schools across the state admitted only 40% of the 58,619 students from poor and underprivileged backgrounds that the state wanted to admit at the entry level class in private unaided schools.

And, more than one-fourth of the matriculation schools did not admit even one underprivileged student under the clause.

This admission by the government has come in the form of a warning to private unaided schools this year, just before the third year deadline of the RTE Act expires on April 1. A directorate of matriculation schools circular to matriculation schools and chief educational officers in various districts took a strong view of self-financing educational institutions failing to admit students under the Act.

“This record is not acceptable at any level. After the central government enacted the Act and the state government notified it and issued appropriate government orders, we continue to get complaints about schools not admitting students,” the circular said. Schools will have to make up for this in the coming academic year by filling up all 25% seats allocated for underprivileged children in the locality, it said.

Schools have been getting away with not meeting the 25% reservation target by claiming that nobody falling under the category had sought admission. The directorate has said it will not take no for an answer this time and has placed the onus on schools to publicise the availability of seats through local media.

Federation of Associations of Private Schools in Tamil Nadu secretary Elangovan D C said very few students and parents came to schools seeking admission under the clause last year. “The state must first confirm our reimbursements before making these demands on us. The reimbursements for last year’s admissions have still not come.”

Earlier, a senior school education department had said, “We have forwarded schools’ claims for reimbursement to the Centre, but they have not got back to us with the money. It’s going to be hard to convince schools to give admissions to underprivileged students this year if they don’t get last year’s refund.” The official said Tamil Nadu was among the few states that managed to get so many thousands of underprivileged students admitted in the school of their choice.

Schools have been told to calculate 25% of the intake at the entry level class, inform the district committee of the number of seats available for admission of underprivileged children and publish this number on their notice boards by April 2. Applications should be given out from May 3 to 9 and filled-in forms received within the week. Schools are to display admitted candidates’ names by May 14.

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Law in India to Help Kids Learn Closes Schools Instead

Right to Education

12-3-2014

Care2 make a difference

Sangeeta Pillai has a complaint for the regional government: her daughter’s private school was closed, compelling her to enter a government-funded school with classes as large as 100 students, where her daughter is forced to sit on the floor and her work is never checked by the indifferent and often absent teacher. She wants to know why her daughter’s private education was forcibly interrupted to put her into an educational environment that was worse than the one she came from by authorities who claimed this was necessary in order to enforce the Right to Education law. She’s not the only person asking this question across India as thousands of schools are being closed in the name of ensuring equal access to quality education in a safe environment.

Passed in 2009, RTE mandates that students be provided with an education through elementary school, in facilities that provide running water and toilets for girls and boys alike, along with playgrounds. In theory, the legislation was supposed to address the growing educational gap in India, which was also contributing to massive income inequalities. By ensuring that all children could go to school, the act could improve literacy, provide access to more opportunities and build a better world for Indian children.

But something has gone tragically wrong with the way the Right to Education is enforced, as it’s leading to the forced closure of thousands of small private schools across India. These schools offer education for under two dollars a month, in most cases, a price which puts them in reach of at least some impoverished laborers and members of the lower classes. However, they can’t upgrade their facilities to meet RTE standards without raising their fees dramatically, and this would put them out of reach for many of their students.

Consequently, officials are closing them, arguing that they don’t provide running water and basic amenities, and calling their performance into question as well. Yet, parents are fighting back, and so are statistics. Evidence suggests that education in such schools can actually be of quite high quality, with students performing better in math, and receiving more attentive education than they receive in crowded government schools with minimal teacher accountability. The situation is creating a tension between parents, students and officials who are attempting to provide Indian children with the best educational options, but are caught between the RTE and a hard place.

The issue is particularly troubling in light of a recent UNESCO report indicating that it will take 70 years to achieve full parity when it comes to global access to early childhood education. In a nation that is already struggling to meet the educational needs of its youth, the thought of closing schools and forcing children into environments where they may not get the education they need and deserve is troubling. Is the RTE a case of a well-intentioned law that may not be so beneficial when put into practice? India may find out, possibly at the cost of this generation of children.

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Five years after RTE, private schools still to be reimbursed

Private schools, Right to Education

07-03-2014

The Hindustan Times

In clear violation of provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, private unaided schools in the union territory continue to await reimbursement for admissions done under the Act for the past three years.

Even as private schools were reimbursed to the tune of ` 825 per child and ` 860 per child for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic sessions respectively, the education department is yet to reimburse them for 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The department’s liability has further increased by the fact that the process of admissions for the next academic session is already over and schools are set to begin their new session in April.

The RTE Act mandates private schools that enrol 25% of its students from economically weaker sections and underprivileged communities will be reimbursed for admission to entry-level classes by the education department in accordance with the prevailing reimbursement rate.

While there was confusion over the amount to be reimbursed, the matter was settled last year after the Punjab & Haryana High Court ruled that the reimbursement must be made for only 10% of the students belonging to the above mentioned categories as schools are bound to admit the rest of the 15% candidates free of cost under the UT administration’s subsidised land allotment policy.

“How can the administration expect private schools to implement the RTE provisions in their true spirit when the education department is not ready to reimburse schools on time?” asked Chandigarh Independent School Association president HS Mamik.

According to him, though most schools in the city implement the provisions in their admission process the department continues to ignore its obligations.

“If the current academic session is taken into account, the reimbursement is now due for the three years but the department seems to be in no hurry to reimburse us. It appears to flouting the rules much more than the private schools,” he said.

Stating that private schools get no external funding and may therefore need the funds, DAV School, Sector 15 principal Rakesh Sachdeva said the department must reimburse the schools on time.

Meanwhile, the reimbursement file has been stuck at the UT finance department for the last five months after the education department sent it the file last September for its approval of the per child reimbursement rate for 2012-13.

“We are however hopeful of its approval at the earliest,” said a senior education department official.
However with the election model code of conduct now in place, insiders in the department believe the matter is likely to get delayed further.

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Online system to monitor RTE Act

Implementation, Right to Education

27-02-2014

The Hindu

Kerala: Minister for Social Welfare M.K. Muneer on Wednesday inaugurated ‘Nireekshana’, a system to monitor implementation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, established by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

The Minister called for efforts by the Commission to handle issues relating to children from marginalised families and school dropouts and also to check child marriages. Since child marriages also tended to affect the right to education of the children concerned, the Commission should bring that too under the ambit of its monitoring system, Dr. Muneer said.

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Why choice matters?

Right to Education, Vouchers

03-03-2014

The Financial Express

Held towards the end of January, the National School Choice Week saw a series of events and activities across the US held by parents, teachers, educationists and other individuals who are active supporters of choice in education. The public celebration of school choice was an attempt to bring to the fore the need for increased parental involvement in choosing schools for their children and the options that are available to them, something that is currently lacking in the Indian context.

What is school choice? It means that parents (and thereby students) have more choices in the number and variety of schooling options. It means not just having many private schools but schools catering to a spectrum of expectations the parents might have from the education system. In fact, students are the primary stakeholders in education—and as with any other service, it makes sense that the consumer is able to choose a service provider best suited to meet her needs and expectations.

In India, parental choice in education is limited, especially for our poorest citizens. Education is directly funded by the government and, as such, schools are accountable to the government and not the parents for their performance. Based on the yearly Annual Status of Education Report 2013 findings, performance of schools in terms of student learning outcomes has been steadily declining across both public and private schools, though the rate of decline in public schools is steeper.

Bringing the element of choice and competition into education has the important consequence of making schools accountable to parents, and leads to a more efficient schooling system, where poor performing schools are weeded out due to lack of patronage. Unfortunately, the cost of running a school in compliance with current regulations decreases the scope of innovation and competition, such as lack of autonomy in curriculum, teacher-hiring criteria, etc.

Another finding of ASER 2013 was an increase in private participation in education, as well as in enrolment in private schools for both rural and urban areas. The increase in enrolment in private schools from 2012 to 2013 has been very small (from 28.3% to 29%); however, since 2006, this increase has been steady. This shows that poor parents are voting with their feet, moving away from free government education towards fee-charging private schooling.

Currently, the RTE Act requires private schools to fulfil a number of conditions in order to receive government recognition. These conditions are primarily focused on inputs to education, such as pupil-teacher ratio, classroom size, drinking water and toilet facilities, etc. A study by Centre for Civil Society’s research team has demonstrated that for budget private schools, meeting these norms would require close to a four-fold hike in fees.

These low-fee schools function at almost one-third the cost of government schools (with equal or better learning outcomes), according to a study by education expert Prof Karthik Muralidharan from the University of California in San Diego. For now, they are the only alternative for poor parents who do not want public schooling for their children. Unfortunately, these private schools are being put out of parents’ reach either due to increase in fees, or through closure due to non-compliance with new norms. We need a system that enables and facilitates choice for parents, rather than restricting it.

How do we bring about choice in education? There are a number of models that have been adopted across the world to achieve this. The most common instrument is school vouchers, something we at CCS strongly advocate, whereby parents receive vouchers from the government, which they can take to empanelled schools, who will receive fees from the government for that particular student. This is a simple, effective way of increasing choice in education, while also promoting efficient use of public funds and preventing misuse by parents and schools.

Other models include conditional cash transfers and different variants of public-private partnerships such as Charter Schools in the US, Modern Schools proposed by the ministry of human resource development, the four-category PPP model proposed by the Mumbai Municipality and the Foundation Assisted Schools model in the Punjab province of Pakistan.

The entry of private aided schools is also a step up in terms of providing choice to consumers but the problem remains that since such schools are receiving money from the government, their accountability does not shift completely to the parents.

What we have right now under the RTE in the form of 25% reservation is another means of enhancing parental choice. Under this provision, parents from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are able to seek admittance of their children into private schools for seats reserved for them under the 25% quota. Schools then receive reimbursement of fees for these students from the government. The implementation of this provision has not yet been as effective as one would hope, given the complications arising with regard to conditions for selection and admittance of students, but it is still a marked improvement in terms of providing parents with alternatives to public schools (state-specific information on implementation of RTE 25% provision can be found at www.righttoeducation.in).

What we need is a system that puts the student at the centre of education, ensuring that they are learning and equipping themselves to be successful individuals in the future. The only way to create such a system is by making it accountable to the consumers who are partaking of the service. We must dilute the scope of state intervention in education and promote autonomy and choice for parents. Maybe it is time to have our very own ‘School Choice Week’.

 

The author is president, Centre for Civil Society

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Cause for concern: Politicians, educationists, ministers pledge to improve education

Right to Education

03-03-2014

The Express Tribune

KARACHI: The shocking findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2013 had ultimately prompted the Sindh Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro to cry out in alarm: “Let some heads be chopped but we must save Sindh’s education system.”

On Saturday, he was speaking at a seminar organised by the Sindh education department at the Regent Plaza to devise a strategy for a way out of the current education crisis in the province.

“I do not want to be remembered as the minister in whose time this report came and he did nothing,” said Khuhro as the audience optimistically believed it to be a new beginning. “If primary education is gone, the foundation is gone. We cannot leave 75 per cent of our youth either to rot, succumb to crimes and drugs or commit suicide.”

Explaining the background and reason behind the seminar, Khuhro said that the report had served as an eye-opener for almost everybody who was concerned about education. “I will go to each and every village across the province, the way I had campaigned against the Kala Bagh dam, so that my people will know about the gravity of the situation,” vowed the education minister.

“I am sorry,” said the Sindh chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, who was presiding over the event. “Though we have been in the government for the last six years and attempted to do our best, I concede that we could not meet the expectations of the people of Sindh.”

The chief minister, however, assured the education minister that whatever commitments had been made by the government in the Sindh Assembly regarding free and compulsory education, will be fulfilled. “We will provide no excuse to the children and their parents to not avail a good education.”

Meanwhile, subsequent to the provincial launch of the survey report on February 11, a group of former vice-chancellors at the provincial universities had gathered under the platform of Sindh Education Improvement Plan (SEIP). The team had met the education minister and secretary on February 13 to table practical proposals for improvement.

Led by former Sindh University vice chancellor, Prof Mazharul Haq Siddiqui, the SEIP proposed that the education department should nominate taluka and district monitoring committees to randomly visit 10 schools each week. The committees would report to the education secretary on his monitoring database system for appreciation or action. Each committee would comprise seven members, including a well-reputed retired educationist, a lawyer, a human rights activist, an officer of the education department, one of the students’ parents, a media person and an officer of grade 17 from administration.

Accepting the proposal, Khuhro said that he will not hesitate to take disciplinary action as per rules, particularly against the officers whose duty was to inspect schools and take action or report if any teacher was absent and also at the same time help train those teachers who are willing to work but cannot teach properly. “From now on, no recommendation [sifarish] will be accepted. I will immediately suspend the officer who will approach for the same,” said Khuhro.

The chief minister, education minister, government officials, eminent educationists as well as civil society members formally made an oath as the hall echoed with their voices with the following words: “I take oath on my Holy book that from this moment onwards, I shall do everything to help improve the education system in Sindh and Pakistan. If I am an education department officer, I must do my duty as defined. If I am a politician, I shall not in any way try to exert influence in educational matters. If I am a civil society or media member, my role will be positive and helpful and if I am a teacher, I take double oath to teach in the best possible manner.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2014.

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Rajasthan govt. introduces optional board exam for Class VIII

Right to Education

19-Feb-2014

Times of India

BHARATPUR: The Vasundhara Raje government on Tuesday announced the formation of an education board for Class VIII, also introducing the option of exams for Class VIII students in government schools. The constitution of the board was one among the several other decisions taken by the government during a marathon seven-hour cabinet meeting in Bharatpur.

Talking about the board for Class VIII, minister Rajendra Rathore said following the implementation of RTE (Right to Education), no exams are being held for students up to Class VIII.”However, this has brought down the standard of education. We have proposed to hold optional exams. The decision would be taken by students or their parents,” Rathore added.

The proposals cleared by the cabinet include re-appointment of retired specialised doctors on a pay minus pension plan and running of primary health centres (PHC) on a PPP mode.

“In order to address the acute shortage of specialists across the state, retired government doctors would be re-appointed. The government has also decided to run PHCs on a public-private partnership mode on the lines of Gujarat,” said Rathore.

The state government for the over-all development of villages with a population of less than 5,000, has launched SHREE (sanitation, health, rural connectivity, education and electricity) project. “It will be a pilot project in Bharatpur division and would be extended to other divisions later,” he said. Rathore also announced the formation of the cow breeding department, which was a promise made in the manifesto by the BJP.

Tuesday was the last day of Team Raje’s “government at your door-step” campaign in Bharatpur division. During the past 11 days of the campaign, ministers, including Raje, travelled in four districts — Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli and Sawai Madhopur –holding public meetings and conducting inspections to resolve the grivenances of the local people.

The campaign ended with the government making a number of announcements for the four districts. The ministers on Tuesday cleared the proposal for a medical college in Bharatpur, which would be set up at an expense of Rs 189 crore. Several restoration and beautification projects for water bodies, including Sujan Ganga canal and other heritage structures have also been announced.

The government also announced the construction of a ring road around Sawai Madhopur, apart from other road connectivity projects along with drinking water project for the area. Rathore said provisions would be made for the implementation of all decisions in the forthcoming state budget. “Finances would be arranged accordingly and all decisions would be executed,” he said. The principal secretaries would visit the districts within a week to prepare an action taken report while cabinet ministers would visit after a month to monitor the work done.

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Right to Education admission dates announced

Access to education, Right to Education

23-Feb-2014

Times of India

BHOPAL: After a delay of more than a month, admission dates for the reserved category under the Right to Education (RTE) Act were announced on Friday. Last year, admission forms were distributed from Jan 16.

Schools concerned and district education office will provide RTE forms. While the last date of forms is March 6, the admissions for 25% reserved category to be conducted through lottery system will be held in private-unaided schools on March 11. The seats will be reserved for Class I in respective schools.

The delay is being attributed to bureaucratic reshuffle at the state secretariat. The RTE file was forwarded to secretariat from Rajya Shiksha Kendra, from where final dates were decided and the admission process commenced.

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25% Reservation: A perception study on its implementation and impact

Reservation of seats, Right to Education

Sana Kazi

With the enactment of the Right to Education Act (specifically Clause 12 i.e. the reservation of 25% of the entry-level seats in all private unaided schools for government-sponsored Economically Weaker Section (EWS) students and students from disadvantaged communities) the Indian Government has finally acknowledged the role of the private sector in providing Education for All.  Though the Act itself has been severely criticized on its lack of clarity and design; this clause in particular has brought about severe reactions from Indian society at large, especially from an ideological context.

At one end of the spectrum there are several people who have reacted positively to the idea behind this clause and are supportive of the fact that through the Act, the government has finally recognized and acknowledged the private sector’s role in the provision of quality education. What is most telling of this is the fact that the poorest in India choose these private schools over free government schools and are willing to spend substantial money on educating their children in these schools. Of all the enrolled children living below the poverty line, 14.8% of 5-10 year olds, 13.8% of 11-14 year olds and 7% of 15-17 year olds attended private school (Gandhi, G.  2007) and their parents spend between 6-11% of their income on education in these private schools (ASER, 2010). These numbers are a powerful testament to those policy makers who continue to believe that the private sector has no role in education.

However several segments of society strongly oppose the idea behind this clause, as they believe that by including a provision for government sponsored school places in private schools the government is shirking its constitutional obligation towards providing education and is instead transferring its responsibility to the private sector.

To understand the grievances and difficulties faced by the various stakeholders and; the social, economic and educational impact of the clause, the Centre for Civil Society conducted a perception study to understand its implementation and impact in four districts of Delhi. The study used in-depth interviews with parents, schools and government officials and focus group discussions with community groups to understand whether the clause is in fact achieving its objective of social justice.

The study reveals that in all of the 4 districts, awareness levels among EWS parents were generally low. Of the 162 EWS parents that were eligible to apply under Clause 12, over 56% did not apply as they were either unaware of this provision or were aware but did not know what the application procedure involved despite the presence of a number of private schools within a 2-5 km radius. However, those that were unaware but eligible were keen to learn more about the RTE and the admission process so that they could enroll their children in private schools. Of the parents that were aware, both fee-paying parents and EWS parents were fairly concerned about integration issues between their children. The perception of fee-paying parents was that the government-sponsored children would feel out of place and that they would not be able to cope with the studies. However, no child reported exclusion issues during the course of this study.

The biggest concern for schools was the lack of clarity about the reimbursement amount and schedule. While slightly higher budget schools (minimum monthly fee is Rs. 1000) were concerned that the reimbursement amount was too low, low budget schools (minimum monthly fee is less than Rs. 500) were satisfied with the reimbursement amount but were more anxious about the regularity of the reimbursement.

Most government officials were fairly satisfied with the implementation of this clause since it was the first year of implementation. However; they did feel that the targeting and sourcing of beneficiaries needed to be more streamlined. Moreover they felt that some amount of publicity was needed so that the beneficiaries were aware of the scheme and that none of the seats reserved under this provision remained vacant.

While the Act is a step in the right direction; there is an absence of clear policy guidelines and support structure from the government. However in its current form, this clause is facing opposition from schools because of the lack of clarity about the reimbursement procedure and from fee-paying parents because of the perceived integration issues. Several changes need to be made in terms of increasing awareness levels, streamlining the selection and admission process and clearly defining reimbursement amounts, calculation methods and timelinesIf implemented correctly, Clause 12 of the RTE Act can help create access to quality education and more importantly, provide marginalized children with the ability to choose their own schools.

This blog was originally published on Spontaneous Order.

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