With the State government amending the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) rules, which prioritises government over private schools from the coming academic year, the Department of Public Instruction has received only 17,310 applications so far. This is a 92.7% drop from the 2018-19 academic year, which saw 2.38 lakh applications for seats under the RTE reservation quota.
At the same time, the number of seats under RTE quota has also reduced drastically.
Parents say they have not applied this year as private schools have been kept out of the ambit of the quota. Most neighbourhoods have government or aided schools in their vicinity. According to the recent amendment, a child can be admitted to a private school under the quota only if there are no government or aided schools in the locality.
This year, there are 17,784 RTE quota seats in aided and unaided schools, which is a reduction of 88% from last year’s 1.52 lakh seats, of which 68,202 were for LKG alone.
“What is the use of filing applications under the RTE quota for government schools? We can just walk into government schools and get our child admitted. But we want private schools as the medium of instruction is English,” said Satish A, an auto driver whose daughter is studying in class 1.
Another disadvantage, according to parents — many from lower-socio economic backgrounds — is the lack of access to pre-primary education should they enrol their children in government schools, which do not offer this facility unlike their private counterparts.
“In our locality, there is a government school and it offers education from class 1. The anganwadis do not have a proper curriculum. So if I want my child to have access to pre-primary education, I have to admit him to a private school,” said Surekha S, a home-maker, whose son is four-and-a-half years old.
Department officials said admissions were being done in accordance with the latest amendment. After seeing the poor response, it has extended the last date of filing applications to April 25. The amendment was also challenged in the High Court and the adjudication is pending.
Schools can’t tell RTE quota students to discontinue
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has issued a circular stating that no school can ask a child studying under the RTE quota to discontinue classes until he or she completes elementary education. This comes in the wake of complaints from parents that private schools are asking their children to take a transfer certificate to another school.
Though the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 clearly mandates that students under the RTE quota can complete class VIII, many parents had complained that managements were removing children from the rolls as they had not scored well in tests conducted by the school.
The RTE task force, a non-governmental organisation, too had received several complaints from parents stating that they were left in the lurch as some schools had asked them to take a transfer certificate.
Nagasimha G Rao, convener of the RTE task force, pointed out that Section 16 of the Act states that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled till completion of elementary education. “Despite rules being very clear, schools are trying to manipulate the system and escape from providing 25% reservation,” he said.
Rao added that several groups of parents were being mobilised to ensure that students admitted under the quota have access to education till class ten.
“The Act stipulates education till class eight. This has raised anxiety among many parents as they are unsure of where their children who complete class eight under the quota this year will go for the 2020-2021 academic year,” he said.