Karnataka: Education Department plans to tweak RTE admission criteria

In a move that is likely to have an adverse impact on admission of children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in private schools, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education plans to change the criteria for admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act for the 2018-19 academic year.

Shalini Rajneesh, Principal Secretary of the department, has proposed that students applying for RTE quota seats should first be admitted to government or aided schools in the neighbourhood. If there is no government or aided school in the vicinity, only then should they be allotted seats in private schools.

In her proposal made on January 6, she said the move would help the State government save crores of rupees, and address the problem of dwindling student strength in government schools. According to the prevailing practice, ‘neighbourhood’ is a revenue village in rural area, a ward in city corporation limits, and the entire jurisdiction in cases of urban local bodies.

Department sources said the idea was mooted along the lines of the Kerala model. However, many officials said this would be a severe blow to RTE quota in Karnataka. “Every ward in Bengaluru has a government and an aided school. If this rule comes into force, the chances of a child getting admission under RTE quota in a private school is ruled out,” an official said.

The sources said these changes could be implemented only after the State Cabinet approves them.

When contacted, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Tanveer Sait said he was yet to look into the proposal. “Ensuring that students get admission under the RTE quota in private schools is the commitment of the government. We will ensure that the interests of parents and students are protected,” he said.

Parents, private schools criticise move

The proposal by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education to tweak the RTE admission criteria has been criticised by parents, parents’ associations as well as private school managements who feel that the move would “dilute” the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

They said the government should not make changes without consulting all stakeholders. Parents who want their children to study in schools where the medium of instruction is English have raised concerns that this may not be possible if the proposal is implemented.

An auto driver, whose daughter is studying in class three in a private school under the RTE quota and who plans to enrol his son in the 2018–19 academic year, said, “Even though there are government and aided schools in my neighbourhood, I still prefer to admit my child in a private school because the school offers English as the medium of instruction in primary classes.”

Noting that the existing system benefited lakhs of students, B.N. Yogananda, general secretary of the RTE Students and Parents Association, said groups would work towards ensuring that it continues.

“If the new proposal of the department is implemented, the concept of social justice and social inclusion will have no meaning in the education sector,” he said.

Some experts, however, are in favour of the move and feel that it would give a boost to government schools. V.P. Niranjan Aradhya, fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, said it would fulfil the primary obligation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The aim of the Act is to ensure that the onus of educating children between the ages of 6 to 14 falls on the State government.

“People, however, are concerned about the quality of education in government schools and there is a need for the State government to address the issue by fulfilling the norms and standards specified in the Act,” he said.

Source: The Hindu

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