Pune | Ambiguity over reimbursement hampering RTE implementation

PUNE: Ensuring timely reimbursement of fees to schools, clarity on who must bear expenses of students’ uniforms and stationery, more help centres to fill application forms, provision for choice of school in order of preference and enabling child-tracking to gauge progress of students are some of the suggestions made by researchers of the RTE Resource Centre at the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) for smoother implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act in Maharashtra.

The report is an outcome of an interaction with various stakeholders of the RTE Act. Researcher Nishank Varshney has said in the report that the most crucial issue hindering smooth implementation of the RTE Act is the reimbursement to be provided to the private unaided schools by the government. Varshney said, “The 25% reservation through RTE had given a window of hope to people from underprivileged background to get quality education for free. However, implementation hurdles are dampening these hopes.”

The report lists 16 important obstacles in implementing the act. Varshney said, “The 25 % reservation rule of the RTE Act is a complex social policy, based on reciprocal arrangements between the government, school and parents. The experience of the past two to three years have revealed some ambiguities in the act, with the state government constantly being drawn to court for either the lax implementation or incorrect interpretation of the act.”

For instance, Varshney said the legislation is unclear on the legal obligation of reimbursement at the pre-primary level and the consequences if the number of students from the economically weaker section (EWS) admitted to a school is greater than the minimum 25% mandated by the act. He said, “For instance, the Maharashtra government refuses to reimburse schools at the pre-primary level, while the Madhya Pradesh government provides for reimbursement of all EWS children.”

The researchers have identified and tried to clarify issues based on the centre’s primary study and discussions with important stakeholders.

The confusion surrounding the RTE admissions has also faced criticism from education activists. John Kurrien, member of city-based forum Action for the Rights of the Child (ARC), said, “The entire online process of admitting and selecting students under the 25% reservation provision has been vitiated by ad hoc decisions and policies which have not been adequately reflected upon and discussed. The decision to allow private schools to make pre-primary admissions voluntary reflects this approach a lack of application of mind to the issue at hand. In addition to it being an illegal and pedagogically unsound decision, there will be further confusion and problems unless this decision is immediately withdrawn.”

ARC is, however, appreciative of the online registration and selection system introduced by the state government, which has been a great help to parents and schools.

Source: The Times of India

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