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Can we afford to shut unrecognised schools?

Unrecognized Schools

The Right to Education Bill, 2009 passed in Parliament in August, 2009 and came into force from April 1, 2010 calls for the closure of all unrecognised schools which fail to meet recognition criteria within the stipulated period of three years from the date of commencement of this Act. The Act has laid down elaborate physical norms and standards for recognition which pertains to number of teachers, provision of toilets, playground, kitchen etc.,minimum number of working days in an academic year, minimum number of working hours per week for the teacher, availability of teaching learning equipment and library. The main thrust of the Act is on ensuring physical infrastructure in schools and not at all on improving learning outcomes, which is the prime concern these days.

Given that the Act stresses only on physical infrastructure for obtaining recognition, once in force it will have implications for states like Punjab where physical infrastructure is already the best and where unrecognised schools have emerged on massive scale due to the failure of the government schools to deliver education of good quality.

Punjab has been quite successful in delivering quantitatively. The National University of Educational Planning and Administration has consistently ranked it among the top three states in the Educational Infrastructure Index. Similarly, the seventh all-India educational survey of NCERT placed the state to top providers of educational infrastructure with 94% of the rural habitations covered by a primary school within a distance of one km, and 91% having upper primary school in the radius of 3 km.

But as far as quality is concerned, situation is deplorable and it marred by poor governance. This poor quality has forced the parents to look for alternatives and generated a market response in the form of proliferation of unrecognised schools. The parents who can afford to pay higher fees move to the unrecognized schools, which are perceived to be the providers of more market-oriented education since they teach in English. It’s mainly the marginalised left in government schools. For example, in Punjab, 55% of the students in government schools are from scheduled castes.

Unrecognised schools are over 85% of the total private schools. The private schools have not emerged in Punjab as much as in other states such as Kearla and account for just 5% of the total elementary schools.

Given the magnitude of unrecognised schools in Punjab both in terms of number of schools and percentage of students, raises an important question i.e. “Can we afford to shut unrecognised schools”? Closing them can really be disastrous given the already poor educational outcomes of the state. The Act says the students of unrecognised schools will be accommodated in government schools, but we cannot put at stake the future of students who shifted to private schools due to poor quality. The government still wants to close down these schools then it should improve the education quality of its own schools first.

The unrecognised schools have no problem in going for the recognition. However, they lack resources to meet the elaborate recognition criteria. But, if the government still wants them to seek recognition then why not the government fund these schools. Just because a child is enrolled in unrecognised school should he/she be treated differently? Are these children not the responsibility of government? Why his/her right to government’s per capita spending is being conditioned to enrolment in recognised school. The ultimate concern of the government should be to ensure that students learn irrespective of from where.

Annu, The Financial Express, 6 April 2010

1 Comment

One Response to “Can we afford to shut unrecognised schools?”

  1. Rajinder Katoch
    20 April 2010 at 21:21

    See in earlier days, the rich use to build dharamshalas, temples, water reservoir, piyaoo(cold water taps) to serve the society. A common man even in those never had the ability to spend on all theabove necessities. But, a rich use to think like Mr. Birla.

    But, in today scenario the greed to earn more has also forced aided schools like DAV, Anand Foundation and other to press parents for more money. The source whcih gives aid to unaided schools ask the management to take more money from parents. Till last year, fee of convent and missionary schools were less than hindu trust based schools and since parents highlighted that this year their fee is more than the hindu trust based school. This shows that inside there is similar greed working which they compensate and transfer. The private schools are one.

    We must keep an option of transfering the management of unaided private schools who are given school land at a throw away prices.

    I propose if a management is indulged in profiteering then it should be replaced.

    regards,

    Rajinder Katoch

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