Relax RTE norms, say budget schools

The Hindu | 14 February 2017
Relax RTE norms, say budget schools

Representatives express inability to meet rules owing to late reimbursement of dues by the State
Private budget schools in Mumbai are demanding relaxation of the Right to Education Act (RTE) norms as late reimbursement of dues by the State are leading to the closure of many schools.
Representatives of the National Independent School Alliance (NISA), which represents about 53,000 private budget schools or schools that charge fees lower than the amount spent by the State on each child, met Principal Secretary (education) Nand Kumar on Monday. Currently, Maharashtra’s spending on each child for a year is ₹28,630. Though the RTE is a Central Act, many provisions come under the Concurrent List, allowing the State to introduce certain changes.
Kulbushan Sharma, president of NISA, says, “Most of the private budget schools cater to the local community and charge low fees to make it affordable for the poor who stay in a particular neighbourhood. Ideally, the State is supposed to provide education to all. But in reality, the private budget schools share the State’s burden without getting their due.” Mr. Sharma says, “The RTE Act is ideal, but harsh. It is leading to closure of such schools across the country since it leads to additonal burden. If such small schools are wiped out, then it will add to the burden on other schools.”
Bharat Malik, chief of the Maharashtra chapter of NISA, which represents about 385 schools in the State belonging to the Private Unaided School Management Association and the Independent English School Association, said, “While the State insists that schools admit 25% of economically backward students, it fails to reimburse the fees on time, adding to the burden of such schools. It is equally unfair to not allow such schools to fill up vacant seats with open category students, in case they are unable to find poor students.”
NISA has demanded that the State provide vouchers that could be reimbursed only by schools to the students. Mr. Malik said, “The State could also link the fee with Aadhaar numbers and the direct benefit transfer system. The voucher system could allow students to enroll themselves in schools of their choice and demand facilities equal to the fee-paying students. Schools should not be expected to chase government departments for money. Currently, some schools tend to discriminate against students who fail to pay fees as they tend to be viewed as a burden. But, if students pay vouchers upfront, then students could also breathe free without feeling humiliated in class.”
NISA has also been demanding that the Central government make a uniform central curriculum that could be followed in different languages across States. The organisation also accused the the Central Board of Secondary Education of being “elitist” by framing rules without taking in consideration the ground reality. Avinash Chandra of NISA says, “Small schools face more competition and meet the aspirations of the common people, who can’t afford elite education. So putting up provisions like keeping teacher’s salary at ₹45,000 per month is elitist. It is impractical to charge fees of ₹1,000 per child from a class of 40 students.”
They have also demanded that the government withdraw its no-detention policy as it has affected quality of education. Mr. Nand Kumar said, “We discussed policy decisions on how things could work better. Regarding reimbursements not reaching on time, it is the subject of the finance department.”
This news was published by The Hindu