TamilNadu | Right To Education in TN: Lesson in window dressing

Chennai: Claim Of 1.36 Lakh Admissions In 2 Yrs Inflated; State Subverts Key Goals Of Education Act

Since its introduction in 2009, the state government in Tamil Nadu has been rather lukewarm in imple menting programmes under Right To Education (RTE). Loopholes in the guidelines have allowed the state to underperform -in admission of poor students, reimbursement to schools, etc.
In his budget speech this year, chief minister O Panneerselvam had claimed that 1.36 lakh admissions were made under RTE in the last two academic years, which amounts to just 11% of the total allocated seats under RTE. But even this figure is inflated and has been reached bending the central RTE guidelines.

State government officials say that the aim of providing free education for all is being achieved through government schools by financially supporting students from poor sections. But a key goal of RTE ­ encouraging private schools in the neighbourhood to take these students ­ has been largely ignored.Considered a major social engineering venture of the UPA government, the act may have already got an honourable burial in the state since observers note that the Narendra Modi regime has been less than enthusiastic about many centrally sponsored schemes including RTE.

RTE Act says that admissions can be made only for students between age 6 and 14. While Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan has separately recorded admissions in kindergarten and class 1, the district information system for education has added them up and listed it under RTE admissions.

Besides, an RTI reply has revealed that students were given admissions into schools that were not within the prescribed one kilometre radius of the child’s house. In some cases, the form 4-A details, filled during the admission by the parent, revealed that children of parents who earned more than Rs10 lakh were admitted under RTE, while only children in the economically weaker section are eligi ble. An analysis by Accountability Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi, pointed out that the RTE numbers include admissions made under the disadvantaged sections (other than forward community) that may not be from the economically weaker sections.

Activists attribute two major reasons for poor admissions in private schools under RTE. Early admissions by private schools leave no space for the 25% RTE reservation.“The state government framed a law stating that private schools, irrespective of the board they are affiliated to should conduct admissions for kindergarten only in May, which is a month before the commencement of the new academic year,“ says K Mahalingam, an executive council member of Federation for Students’ Education Rights.“But schools complete admissions five months in advance leaving no room for kids to be admitted under RTE,“ he said.

Unavailability of reimbursement of fee by the state government has practically killed RTE in private schools. Private Schools Association president R Visalakshi says the reimbursements have not been made since RTE was implemented in Tamil Nadu.“ T h e g ove r n ment must understand that fees are the major source of income for private schools. If we are losing 20%-25% of our income under RTE admissions and continue to do it without being paid the reimbursements, it is not feasible in the long run.“

RT E o f f e r s only free educa tion while other expenses like transport, stationery, and uniform should be borne by the student in a private school. “So only middle class and upper middle class parents who can bear the expenses seek admission in private schools under RTE,“ said Visalakshi.

But education officials defend TN’s record. The department’s principal sec retary D Sabitha said, “Tamil Nadu’s RTE models have been appreciated as one of the best in the country. And, the amount of work done to provide free education speaks for itself.“

Sabitha said that the state has spent nearly Rs 5,000 crores on RTE in the last two years. “14 components like uniforms are provided free for students in government schools under the Act,” she said. When asked about reimbursements, Sabitha said, “The funds for 2013-14 are being processed by the state government, and for 2014-15 the proposals have been sent to the Centre.“

Source: The Times Group

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