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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Private schools will have to reserve 25 % seats for poor

Private schools will have to do their bit to operationalise the Fundamental Right to Education (RTE).

As per a new legislation — being prepared by the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to operationalise the six-year-old Fundamental Right — private schools will have to reserve a quarter of their seats at the entry level for children from disadvantaged sections in the neighbourhood.

The government will reimburse these schools on the basis of what it spends for a student. However, schools that have received some kind of concession from the government — such as land free-of-cost or at concessional rates — will not be entitled to this reimbursement.

Though a similar proposal had met with stiff resistance when it was first mooted by the National Democratic Alliance, the government has clarified that reserving a quarter of the seats in a private school for disadvantaged students from the neighbourhood is a goal that it seeks to achieve in 10 years.

In the first year of operationalisation, all that the government will insist upon is that 25 per cent of the students admitted at the entry level — nursery, for instance — should be from the disadvantaged sections. “We are not saying that 25 per cent of the entire school should be from the disadvantaged sections in the neighbourhood in the first year of operationalisation itself. That might create a situation when a class could have just a couple of such students, resulting in their being bullied,” said an official.

Instead, what the government would like to do is have the entry-level class in each school reserve at least 25 per cent of its intake for the disadvantaged students. “This way there will be enough of such children in a class to be a group. And, by introducing this at the entry level, the assimilation will begin at an early stage itself; paving the way for a truly democratic and heterogeneous classroom.” In fact, it is being projected as the first step towards introduction of the long-elusive goal of having a common school system.

This is, in effect, the third attempt to introduce such reservation in private schools through the RTE. While the maiden effort by the Murli Manohar Joshi dispensation stirred a controversy, the second attempt to resurrect it by this government through another legislation was shelved as the entire proposal to operationalise the Fundamental Right was found to be too expensive.

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