July 25, 2010

July 23, 2010

School buses double up as marriage coaches

Some managements running maxi cabs and luxury tourist cabs for transporting students
Special camps being organised to ensure safe transportation of students, maintenance of buses

Hyderabad: Several school and college managements have now found a new way to make quick money by operating their buses to private functions on the sly.

Two buses of Ascentia Global School, Madhapur and Nizam Institute of Engineering, Gachibowli were seized by the Transport Department last week for operating their buses for marriage parties, according to Secunderabad Regional Transport Officer V. Sundar. The managements were levied a penalty of Rs. 2,000 each. Educational institution buses are given subsidies in terms of road tax and they are not supposed to operate buses for private functions even during holidays.

But it was found that many institutions were violating the Motor Vehicles Act and operating their buses as contract carriages, he said. This apart, many managements in violation of MV Act had purchased maxi cabs and luxury tourist cabs to operate them as school buses.

As per the Act, a school bus should have safety grills outside the windows, provision for first aid box, an attendant to help students board and alight buses, etc., but such provisions lack in maxi cabs.

The objective behind purchasing maxi cabs is to use them for their personal use during holidays and beyond school hours since using a school or college bus would not be feasible. Last week, a maxi cab belonging to St. Andrew's School was seized for operating it as a school bus, said Mr. Sundar. A special drive was launched last week and already 14 school buses belonging to Narayana School, Pallavi Model School, Delhi Public School, Grahambell School and others were seized for different violations, including employing drivers lacking valid driving licenses.

Over Rs. 3 lakh was recovered as penalties from the managements, he informed.
“Special camps are being conducted in schools on maintenance of school buses and safe transportation of students. Two such camps were conducted at Delhi Public School and Meridian School on Saturday,” said Joint Transport Commissioner B. Venkateswarlu.

July 20, 2010

G D Goenka school throws out postman's son

NEW DELHI: Most government employees celebrated the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission. But for Satya Pal, a postman at R K Puram in south Delhi, the joy of a hike in his salary came with a bitter aftertaste. His 14-year-old son, who had been studying for four years at G D Goenka Public School, Vasant Kunj, was thrown out of the school on July 12. The reason: School authorities said since Pal's annual salary had gone beyond Rs 1 lakh, his son was no longer eligible to study for free under the government's EWS scheme. The school demanded that he pay Rs 23,000 per quarter if he wanted his son to continue in the institution.

"I was really happy when my son got admission in class IV in such a big school. But now the school wanted me to pay such high fees if I wanted him to keep studying there. Even though my salary has gone up, I am still a postman and earn just around Rs 15,000 per month," says Pal. The poor postman is now in a fix. "My son is in class VIII. Where do I take him in the middle of the session now?" he asks. According to Pal, his son, Vinit Kumar, was called to the principal's office on July 12 during recess. Says Vinit, "I was made to wait for more than two hours. Then someone asked me to get my bag and sent me home with a school staffer."

The school officials insist they are only following Delhi government rules which allow only students whose parents' annual income is less than Rs 1 lakh to be covered in the EWS category. "We allowed the boy to continue studying for free in the school for two years after the Sixth Pay Commission was introduced. But he cannot be placed in the EWS category any longer as we have to be accountable to the government," says Naresh Kumar, director, public relations, G D Goenka Public School. He adds, "The father could not furnish an appropriate income certificate nor could he pay the fees. The boy's EWS seat could have gone to someone else who is more needy."

Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who runs a civil rights group called Social Jurist and from whom Satya Pal is seeking legal guidance says the school's action is brutal and insensitive. "The child was admitted in the school as per rules for the EWS category. So he should have been allowed to continue. It's brutal to throw out a child from school just because his father is better off now. It's probably time the government thought about bringing some change in the rules, especially when the right to education has to be implemented," he says.

However, the government has clarified it has no plans to enable children like Pal's to continue their studies under EWS. Says state education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, "If the postman's income is much more than the prescribed limit for EWS category, he will have to pay the school fees. People work and grow financially. That is why we ask for income certificates of parents every year to keep track." He adds, "The EWS policy is only for those parents who really cannot afford their child's education in any school. Besides, the RTE norms are still being worked out and haven't been implemented yet."

Pal's current annual income is Rs 1.89 lakh (around Rs 15,000 a month). In 2006, he had submitted a certificate declaring that he earned Rs 6,955 monthly.

School admission only through draw of lots

HYDERABAD: From the next academic year, it's luck and not merit that would get your child admission in reputed private schools in the state. The state government has decided that a draw of lots will replace screening tests in private schools as Right to Education Act (RTA) banishes these admission tests.

According to officials from the department of secondary education, the schools which do not admit students on the basis of a draw of lots, will be fined Rs 25,000 in the first instance and Rs 50,000 in the second. "The draw of lots will have to be done before the district magistrate. No school will be allowed to conduct admissions without using the random sampling or lottery system," said Dr D Sambashiva Rao, principal secretary, secondary education, adding that the system is already in place in other states. According to the new rules, admitting students without lottery system would be punishable under 13 (2b) of the RTE act.

While the state government said that the system would give all students equal opportunity to take admission in schools, the management representatives of schools said that the decision infringes on the schools' authority to choose their students. They added that it would also deny seats to students who are genuinely interested in taking admission. "If admissions are done by a draw of lots, many conventions, like giving admission to siblings in the same school, would have to change. Parents will be more worried than ever during admission time if the rule is implemented," a management representative said. The management representatives are planning to ask the state government to devise some other method to conduct admissions in the coming academic year.

Meanwhile, parents from the city said that merit should be the criteria for admission into private schools. "There are parents who might want their children to study in specific schools. If admissions are done through a draw of lots they might be denied this opportunity. Besides parents are also worried that they will have to get their children admitted in neighbourhood schools as per the Act," a parent said.

Until recently, for admission into primary classes, students were being screened by oral examination and in upper primary and high school classes admissions were being done through written tests. Parents, however, said that admissions to the 25 per cent reserved seats under RTE Act should be done through the lottery method.

Meanwhile, trying to put the parents' doubts to rest, officials from secondary education department said the system is meant to put an end to donation and capitation fee in the state.

July 17, 2010

New norms for schools on fee hikes

MUMBAI: After the uproar over the Bansal committee report last year, the state government has come out with a less controversial government resolution (GR) governing school fee hikes and banning capitation fees.

It will now be mandatory for all schools to have a website and display details of their expenditure, revenue and fees. The school budget must be put up on the website as well as on the school notice board.

The GR lays out a formula to determine fees: Tally the number of sections (primary, secondary, higher secondary) and the terms at school and divide this figure by the number of children in school to arrive at an average figure for the school fees per child.

Although schools are allowed to make a reasonable surplus, the amount has not been specified. But before any hike (only once in 3 years), schools must consult the PTA over the matter and the fee-hike proposals must be made six months before the academic year begins.

July 12, 2010

Parents association plans protest against school fee hike

ALLAHABAD: With schools reopened, parents and guardians under the banner of Abhiwawak Ekta Samiti are planning to re-start the agitation to protest against fee hike in schools of the city.

Covenor of the Samiti, Vijay Kumar Gupta said from July 24, the Samiti would organise boycott of classes in the city to make the people aware about their demands and elicit support for the movement. Besides, the samiti will put up posters and banners on the issue.

Gupta said the issue has remained unresolved owing to the fact that the state government has failed to introduce any regulations on fee hike. The samiti will also put up hoardings at prominent crossings in the city to highlight the failure of the state government in providing relief to parents and guardians, he added.

Besides, a delegation of the Abhiwawak Ekta Samiti will meet the district authorities and urge them to ask the schools to reduce the cost of admission forms and the fine charged for late fees.

Gupta expressed disappointment at the fact that the assurance given by the school authorities regarding permitting parents to buy books from outside has not been implemented.

Every State has different policies on school education, says Kapil Sibal : Union government is keen only on prescribing minimum standards for school education

CHENNAI: The State government may fix a ceiling on the fees collected by private schools and it is up to those aggrieved to take it up with the respective authority, Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said on Sunday.

Responding to a question at the first Kuruvila Jacob memorial oration on the Tamil Nadu government's decision to regulate private school fees, Mr. Sibal said every State had different policies on school education and the Union government did not interfere in these aspects.

He cited the example of the Delhi government order which stated that private school teachers be paid government salaries. “If you have issues with these orders, you can fight them out in the courts,” he said. The Union government was keen only on prescribing minimum standards for school education, Mr. Sibal said. The concept of a core curriculum was being introduced in science subjects to ensure these standards were met, the Minister said. He dismissed suggestions that there was an attempt to impose a “common curriculum” ignoring regional differences. Each board of education would be free to frame its own syllabus based on the core curriculum, he added.

Speaking on the debate on ensuring quality education while expanding access, Mr. Sibal said a critical mass of college graduates was required to create national wealth. The current Gross Enrolment Rate of 12.4 per cent had to be increased to 30 per cent by 2020 and for this hundreds of universities and thousands of colleges had to be started with private sector participation, he said.

While autonomy was required for the success of this venture, it was also important to ensure quality. He had mooted the idea of State governments forming a teacher trainer cadre drawn from college teachers, Mr. Sibal said. He had also exhorted university Vice-Chancellors to train the principals of schools in the university catchment areas on leadership, he added. “Some States have been known to employ just Class X pass students to teach in schools. We want more people like Kuruvila Jacob who returned from Leeds University and dedicated himself to teaching,” the Minister said.

Earlier, S. Viji, convener of the core committee of the Kuruvila Jacob Initiative, presented a slideshow of the achievements of the former headmaster of the Madras Christian College High School. N. Murali, senior managing director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd., presented the vote of thanks. The oration was attended by alumni of the school, including P. Chidambaram, Union Home Minister, and M.S. Ananth, director, IIT-Madras.