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Home > Media Room > SCC in News

Experts mull school options for poor

Akhila Singh, Tribune, 17 December 2009

Educationists from different parts of the country have gathered in the Capital to participate in the National Conference of School Choice Campaign to discuss the challenges in the implementation of the recently passed Right to Education Act.

Talking about ‘Private Schools and the Poor’, the educationists focused on Section 12 of Right to Education that guarantees 25 per cent of seats in government aided, private unaided and special schools for children from the weaker sections.

“The role of private fee-charging schools has not been appreciated as much by academics and policy makers. However, these schools increasingly cater to a substantial fraction of the primary school going population in this country,” said Karthik Muralidharan, assistant professor of economics in the University of California.

Providing unique figures related to private schools in India, Muralidharan said 28 per cent of the population of rural India has access to fee-charging private primary schools in the same village and 16.4 per cent of children aged six to 14 in rural India attend these private schools.

“Private school salaries in rural India are less than one-fifth the salary of regular public school teachers,” he said, adding that this was the reason for the private schools in being able to hire more teachers and have better teacher to student ratio.

On an average, private schools had inferior infrastructure and their teachers hadn’t gone through proper trainings. But in spite of this, the speakers believed, the performance of the private school teachers was superior.

“These are the factors that explain why people from poor backgrounds are willing to pay fees for their children in private schools,” he said.

The speakers talked about additional responsibilities the state and central governments had to take up while the act was implemented. “The Act clearly states that the obligation of guaranteeing free and compulsory education lies on the government and not on the child,” said Amit Kaushik, who has been closely associated with the formulation of Right to Education Bill.

He said every child of the age of six to 14 has to ensure free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.

They concluded that the Right to Education Act has shown promise for the poor by ensuring their representation in the private schools.

Read the story in Tribune



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