November 22, 2012

Choosing a school for your child

Parents are busy drawing up a list of the perfect school for their children.After all,a school moulds a childs overall development.Vidyalaxmi writes

It is that time of the year when parents are busy deciding on the school they would like to have their child studying in.The next academic year is still 6-7 months away,but parents have started drawing up their choice of schools.

Just like a college admission or admission to an MBA course,the little ones and their parents go through the process of filling up application forms,attending interviews and waiting for the final admission list.This is seen by many parents as the important first step for a good education for their child.

I have been studying the curriculum and the teaching methods of various schools in my suburb for eight months now, says Sandeep Bachhe,a technical analyst.

I identified 7-8 schools based on proximity,feedback and the curriculum.Then I ensured I met parents whose children were already studying in these schools,to get a first-hand feedback.Based on the parents'feedback and our expectations,I shortened the list to three schools and picked one from them, says Sandeep.

The fact is,parents want their kids to get the best education possible.Unfortunately,in their eagerness to provide the best education often they consider only the affordability factor before deciding on the school or curriculum.

Sure,it is an important parameter,but there are certain other factors one should look at to make the right choice.

Choice of Curriculum
Gone are the days when a parent had just schools of state board or the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to choose from.Today,there is a wide range of options,including schools following the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and The International Baccalaureate (IB)/ International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curricula.

You may be already clear about your choice of curriculum,but there are a few points you should consider before making your choice.If the parent /parents have a transferable job and the child has to change schools frequently,they should ideally opt for an ICSE or CBSE school.

Parents in a government job that involves transfer to tier-II towns should ideally opt for a CBSE school.If the transfer is restricted to metros or urban areas,parents can opt for ICSE or a CBSE School."The logic is that ICSE schools are still a rare concept in smaller towns of the country,"says KSR Iyer,a counsellor.

"I have a job with prospects of overseas postings.For some reason,if I migrate to some other country,I don't want my child's education to suffer.Hence I have opted for IGSCE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) board,"says Sandeep.

Schools Credentials
There are a number of international schools mushrooming in every corner of cities.If the school or the management of the school has a pedigree and expertise in the field of education,it definitely adds to the school's credentials.But that alone is not enough.

"I was keen on sending my child to a school following the IGSCE curriculum.But,after doing some homework,I realised only a few IGSCE/IB schools in India have the right global recognition,"says Meenakshi Rajan,a citybased software engineer."I learnt that the recognised international schools in every country are listed on the IB website (formerly known as International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO))."

Student-Centric Approach
Today,many schools have recognised that all children are not equally prepared for schooling,especially in the initial years of education.Students may show some learning disorders such as dyslexia,or have stronger visual memory,etc.

Hence,many schools have learning resource centres to give extra coaching to such children to bring them at a par with other students in the class.

"As parents,we think our child will be the best student of the school.But,we may be in for a surprise when our child may actually struggle with the curriculum.Hence,it is better to opt for schools having such resource centres that can mould students,"says a teacher with a popular school in the city.

It is also important for a school to have a healthy teacher-to-child ratio,especially in the lower classes.

"Thanks to the school,I learnt that my daughter is interested in reading and music.We have frequent teacher-parent meetings,which help us understand our child's evolving interests.Now,I can think of formal training in music for my child or,at least,I have an idea what would be her choice of activity in the spare time,"says Abhilasha Joshi,a mother who also runs a beauty salon business.
Times of India | 22nd November 2012 | Education Times

November 6, 2012

Madhya Pradesh government working on school fee regulation Act

INDORE:  Parents' woes concerning arbitrary hike in school fee may soon see a respite.

Taking cue from states including Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh government is working on enacting an Act that would regulate fees in private schools in the state. The school education department is working on it and is in consultation with all concerned departments and people so as to give a final shape to it and later passing the bill in the state assembly. If the act comes into action it would restrict private schools from increasing fees every academic year in an uneven manner.

Speaking to ToI, principal secretary, school education department, Sanjay Kumar Singh said, "Indeed we are working on introducing a fee regulation act to restrict arbitrary fee hike in all private schools. We are in consultation with those concerned to come to a consensus." When asked about the possible dates of introducing the bill in state assembly, he said, "Legislative process takes its time. However, we are working to introduce it as soon as possible."

Recently, Rajasthan state assembly has given approval to Rajasthan schools' regulation of collection of fee bill, which lays out punishment of three years imprisonment and Rs 50,000 fine for not following the rules and hiking fees in arbitrary manner. Tamil Nadu too has constituted a committee which will decide particular amount of fees to be charged by any private school.

Meanwhile, parents have welcomed the government's proposal to check fee hike. "If the government is planning to come out with new regulations before the commencement of the next academic year, many parents will be relieved," said Nilesh Churchill, a parent. According to parents, several city schools have already hiked their fee structure by 10 per cent to 50 per cent in the academic year. "If a new legislation is put in place, there will be some amount of fear among private schools and unjustified fee-hike might stop," said Churchill.

Meanwhile, private school managements said that implementing fee regulation is a difficult task. "We have been called for a meeting related to the act but there are several points in the documents that will make it difficult to implement the Act in all schools. If government comes with concrete parameters only then can it come into effect. Moreover, the union ministry has proposed to bring schools under 15% income tax slab. Once, schools come under the slab, then it will be recognized as a company and regulating fees cannot be forced," said a school principal wishing anonymity.

September 20, 2012

Private schools must also teach the poor for free: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has taken an important step towards universal education by ruling that children from weaker and disadvantaged sections have a right to quality education free of cost in all government and private-run schools.

This ruling could force private schools, mandated to admit students aged between 6 and 14 from weaker and disadvantaged groups free of cost under Article 21A of the Constitution guaranteeing right to education, to dismantle the separate sections they had created in every class for the poor and disadvantaged children.

"Provisions of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker section is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds, said a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and F M I Kalifullah.

Writing the judgment for the bench in a case relating to qualification of teachers, Justice Chauhan said, "The educational institutions must function to the best advantage of the citizens. Opportunity to acquire education cannot be confined to the richer section of the society. The policy framework behind education in India is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provisions of inclusive elementary education to all."

The bench's judgment made more meaningful the Supreme Court's ruling in State of Tamil Nadu vs K Shyam Sunder last year, when it had said, "The right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education but should be extended to have quality education without any discrimination on economic, social and cultural background."

Justices Chauhan and Kalifullah said democracy depended for its very life on a high standard of general, vocational and professional education. "Dissemination of learning with search for new knowledge with discipline all round must be maintained at all costs," the bench said.

To maintain high standards of education and make it available to all without discrimination on grounds of economic, social or cultural background, a large number of trained teachers were required to impart quality elementary and basic education, the court said.

Declining to dilute standards set by expert bodies for eligibility of candidates to become teachers, the bench said, "The legislature in its wisdom, after consultation with the expert body, fixes the eligibility for a particular discipline taught in a school. Thus, the eligibility so fixed requires very strict compliance and any appointment in contravention thereof must be held to be void."

September 5, 2012

Panel wants 64 schools to refund excess fee

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) Sixty-four private city schools have illegally collected higher fee from students since September 2008, a committee has informed the Delhi High Court while recommending a refund of the money with 9 percent per annum interest.

The 600-page interim report of Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee, which randomly examined the accounts of 200 schools, was opened by a special bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Siddharth Mridul Friday.

The committee was constituted about a year ago to submit a report on the determination of fees in the unaided schools in Delhi.

Its first interim report was based on an examination of 200 unaided private schools out of a total 1,172 institutions.

In the case of 13 schools, the committee found that either no records were maintained or the accounts were fudged. It recommended strict action against these schools.

"The committee recommends that the schools be directed to refund the increased monthly fee from September 2008 till the date of actual refund along with the interest at the rate of 9 percent per annum," the report said.

It also raised questions on the working of the department of education as it did not act in accordance with the law in inspecting the schools.

"The regulatory mechanism envisaged by the law has been thrown to the winds by the directorate of education. Schools are enjoying total and unbridled freedom in acting in the manner they like," the report said.

"Right from the stage of granting recognition, the lack of supervisory control of the directorate is writ large. Hardly any inspections are done and even if they are, they are conducted in a most perfunctory manner," the report said.

The bench July 20 directed the committee to submit a report on the fee hike in unaided private schools in Delhi. After the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission, the schools increased the fees citing additional financial burden due to increased salaries of teachers.

The court gave directions for setting up a committee to audit the accounts of each of the schools to ascertain if the fee hike by them was required.

The committee also said that there were 143 schools which increased the fee without implementing the Sixth Pay Commission. Many of the schools in the city were operating without even a bank account and years after years they were granted recognition, it said.

Several of the schools have not been maintaining proper accounts and were not getting their accounts audited as required by the law, and were also not filing annual returns, the report said. "Some of the schools have been fabricating their accounts and getting various types of certificates from chartered accountants which do not qualify as audit reports," said the report.

Advocate Ashok Agarwal, appearing for a group of parents, earlier said that if the report was submitted "it would be a great relief to the exploited parents, as they would be entitled to refund of the excess fee recovered from them by schools".

The court would next hear the matter Sep 14.

September 4, 2012

Government has no control over schools

A Delhi high court-appointed committee has said that the extent of irregularities indulged in by private schools in the capital to bolster their case for a fee hike in 2009, indicated that the government had no control over their functioning. The panel, which inspected accounts of 200 schools to verify the validity of up to 25 per cent fee hike imposed by them, submitted before the Delhi high court that it was high time the government took action against errant schools.

"Regulatory mechanism envisaged by the law has been thrown to the winds by the directorate of education. Schools are enjoying total and unbridled freedom and are acting in the manner they like," said the three-member committee headed by former Rajasthan high court chief justice Anil Dev Singh.

"Right from the stage of granting recognition, the lack of supervisory control of the directorate of education is writ large. Hardly any inspection is done," it said. Apart from the 64 schools indicted by the panel for unjustifiably hiking fees, the panel also found that at least 50 other schools had fudged account statements and concealed receipt books and made it difficult to ascertain the extent by which they hiked the fee.

"In case violators are not dealt with adequately by the education department, their disdain for the rules would keep on pinching the pockets of the parents," said the panel, recommending punitive action against many such schools.

"The panel's conclusions are sensational. It is a warning bell. Hope it brings a change in the way schools function," said Ashok Agarwal, lawyer for parents in the PIL which triggered formation of a panel to verify the validity of fee hike.

August 17, 2012

Nursery rush begins again

NEW DELHI: Over a dozen schools in NCR have started registration - some even admissions - for the nursery class of 2013-14. Some others will initiate the process by August-end or early September.

Gurgaon-based Vijaylakshmi has been calling schools everyday. "I've also been coaching my son," she says. She is interested in having her son admitted into one of three schools and is referring to - started by another beleaguered parent - for help.

She is interested in DPS Sushant Lok, which had sold forms at an admissions fair but isn't anymore. "They say they'll start selling after August 21." Parents who collected DPS Sushant Lok forms were told that appointment details for their round of interactions will be intimated in the first week of September. Registration is open at other schools, too, including Lotus Valley International School (Gurgaon), Shiv Nadar Schools (Gurgaon, Noida) and GD Goenka Public School (Indirapuram).

Ardee School started selling forms on August 16 and the last date for submission is September 15. "DPS Vasundhara opened last week and admissions there will remain open for another two weeks. We are not covered by the Directorate of Education guidelines. We're lucky that way," says Rita Kapur, executive director, DPS Ghaziabad Society.

Another Gurgaon parents have already managed to get her son placed in Ryan International. "I bought the form at the fair and they gave me a date and time for the interaction there itself. My child got selected," she says sounding relieved.

Most of Sarbani Ojha's "target schools" - Scottish High School, Heritage and Sun City School - will open only next week. "I also want Shri Ram School but for that I'll have to wait till January. I feel uneasy about waiting," she says.

"In Delhi, the bigger, better established schools will wait till the guidelines from the Directorate of Education are declared. Most open after November," says Sumit Vohra who has started

July 31, 2012

July 30, 2012

Fee hike: Again rift seen between parents, school

Saturday, 28 July 2012 12:24  BHOPAL
In want of fee regulation in the private schools, the rift between parents and school administration over fees hike has increased in St Theresa School and Campion school on Friday.

Meanwhile, some more parents of different schools are approaching School Education Department with complaints against school administration for fees hike.

St Theresa School fees hike matter again surfaced on Thursday when school administration asked the parents to deposit fees of May and June month also. In May and June, the schools remain closed due to summer holidays and fees were not charged for these two months. Parents’ complaint to District Education Officer CM Upadhyay on Friday that they were not given any prior notice about this and beside that if they pay fees of these two months also then the fees hike will be around 45 per cent.

DEO Upadhyay said coordination with school administration will be made and action will be taken after investigation of the matter. The St Theresa School of Piplani area had this year once again hiked the fees by 60 per cent. The angry parents protested outside the school on July 5. Parents were demanding roll back the hike. After school education department’s interference fee hike was rolled back and only 20 per cent of the tuition fees was increased. Later school administration declared that parents have to deposit fees of May and June month also.

Meanwhile, parents whose children study in St Mary’s school of Tulsi Nagar complaint to DEO Upadhyay as the school administration increased fees from `3,000 to `5,000 of every student from this academic session. Parents complained that excessive financial burden is being forced on them. DEO Upadhyay said the matter will be investigated.

Meanwhile, on Friday, parents of students studying in Campion school, Bairagarh reached Khajuri police station and filed a complaint against school administration. Shiksha Sudhar Morcha Coordinator Gopal Mukhariya said Campion school was administered on the name of CBSE affiliation for last 5 years but in reality it has affiliation from MP board. Parents got their children’s admitted in the school as they told it was affiliated from CBSE.

Mukhariya said case of fraud should be lodged against school administration for cheating the parents.

No relief from school fee hike this year

Mumbai: Looks like parents still have to wait a while before a new Act comes in place preventing schools from riding roughshod over them in the matter of fee hikes. The much awaited school fee regulation Act, though passed by the state legislature last year, is now stuck in limbo, as two union ministries reviewing it have sought clarifications on certain aspects.

The Act, once implemented, will limit the fee hikes imposed on parents by schools to one every two years. It was passed by the state legislature in August last year, and then forwarded for approval to the President of India. As part of this process, the draft of the Act was also forwarded to various government ministries for comment. Two months ago, two union ministries — Law and Justice and Human Resource Development – sent letters to the state government with some queries on the Act, a senior state government official revealed. These developments have caused the law to lapse into a state of limbo. The official added that it was unlikely the Act would come into effect in time for the new academic session, which will take off in a few weeks.

The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fees) Act, 2011 was passed by the state legislature unanimously after a 27-member joint select committee, comprising members from both ruling and Opposition parties, approved of the draft.

What the Act says:
As per the provisions of the Act, educational institutes will be able to hike fees only once every two years. The Act also makes it mandatory for the schools to form Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and discuss the proposed fee structure before a hike. Only after the PTA approval will the school be able to increase the fees.

Once the law comes into effect, a two-tier structure will be instituted, including a divisional fee regulatory committee and a state level review committee. Both will consider the fee hike proposals, before giving their approval. The committees will be empowered to take action against any school that violates the provisions of the Act. After verification of the complaint, the divisional committees can slap fines ranging from Rs 1-5 lakh on the errant schools, or even send the straying individual to jail for three years.

The state minister for Education, Rajendra Darda, said, “The Education Secretary, who is in Delhi at the moment, would be in a better position to provide details about the status of the bill. I would be able to provide you a clearer picture tomorrow.”

Futile protest?
The unrest over the erratic fee hikes effected by schools gathered steam last year, when angst-ridden parents joined hands with teachers activists and protest groups like Forum Against Commercialization of Education (FACE) and went on an indefinite hunger strike at Azad Maidan. Officials from the education department met the protesters invited them to meet the education minister. The strike was called off when the protestors were given assurances that the Act would be passed soon.

Jayant Jain, president, All India Federation of PTA, says, "The bill has been prepared by the state government, but unless it is signed by the President, it cannot be implemented. It is the state government’s duty to follow up with the President and take her signature as soon as possible. Because of this delay, many schools that hiked their fees last year have increased it this year as well."

Arundhati Chavhan, president, PTA United Forum, says, "It is our state government’s duty to keep tabs on the movement of the bill and follow it up with the President." Dr Deven Naik, president, Forum against Commercialization of Education, says, "The bill in its final form was ready in 2011, after many rectifications were made according to suggestions that came to the state government. Though the present education minister is keen on implementing the bill, it seems the department authorised to follow up with the President is working slowly to enforce its implementation."

Sanjay Jadhav, member, Forum For Fairness in Education, says, "Even if it is implemented, I don’t think the rules will be followed by any school religiously." Sajid Momeen, a parent, says "May be some internal political issue is responsible for the delay in implementation. May be the president is busy with her foreign tours."

July 9, 2012

Sakshi | 9th July, 2012 | Hyderabad

Going to school not so safe anymore

This year about 215 school buses were seized for various violations: senior transport official

Reckless:Auto drivers carry eight to 10 children in one trip even though the law restricts them from carrying more than six children.– Photo: Nagara Gopal A new academic year has commenced, triggering many problems for parents, particularly regarding the transportation of their children to schools. In addition to the rising transportation fee, safety of children is another worrying factor for parents these days.

The Transport Department has listed out many rules that vehicle owners should adhere to while carrying children in school buses and auto-rickshaws. But many still violate them, risking the children’s safety.

While some school managements ignore the necessity to have an attendant in the school bus, many auto drivers carry eight to 10 children in one trip. This is even after the law restricts them from carrying more than six children in one auto.

There are about 1,500 school and college buses in the city. Every year, before the commencement of a new academic year, the Transport Department seizes many school buses for operating without valid documents. This year, about 215 school buses were seized for various violations, explains Joint Transport Commissioner G. Panduranga Rao.

Apart from the lack of a fitness certificate, other violations include drivers operating the bus without valid licence, poor maintenance, attendants driving the bus etc. Though most managements have a fleet of good vehicles, there is still scope for improvement, he adds.

Managements charge about Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000 per month per child as transportation fee and yet do not find the need to follow rules, points out Hyderabad Schools Parents Association president N. Ravi Kumar.

Auto-rickshaws charge about Rs.800 a child per month but parents are not assured that their wards will have a safe and comfortable journey.

July 5, 2012

Private schools to hold protest rally on July 7

HYDERABAD: Demanding that educational institutions be brought under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), hundreds of schools have decided to hold a rally in the city on July 7.

The protest is being organised by Andhra Pradesh Recognised Schools Managements Association which has about 17,000 schools across the state under its wing.

Protesting school managements said as many as 40 working days were lost due to bandh calls in the last academic year of 2011-12.

Even as the schools reopened on June 12 this year, two holidays were announced owing to bandh calls given by various student unions. School managements said they were forced to work even on Sundays to make up for the lost working days in the last academic year to complete the portions.

"Class X students who appear for the board examinations are put to test during the bandh days. They come under a lot of pressure," said S Sreenivas Reddy, president of the association. Only students belonging to class VIII and IX will participate in the rally, officials of the organization said.

The rally, which will start at 10am on July 7, will conclude at Indira Park.

"Political parties and student unions should exempt schools from bandhs as children at that age can hardly understand politics. They only stand to lose in the long run," said Reddy.

July 2, 2012

Let school panels ensure bus safety

Despite recent measures, school bus safety is still a matter of grave concern for parents. With the start of the new academic year, they admit that they still do not feel secure letting their children commute by these buses.

Meanwhile, experts say the responsibility for school bus safety should be given to the school bus committees appointed within the schools.

Shatabdi Bannerjee from Mira Road, whose daughter takes the bus to school every day, said, “Every time I put my child in the school bus, my heart skips a beat thinking about whether she will return safe and sound at the end of the day. But there is no other choice as my husband and I are working professionals who take trains to work.”

Parents who decided to start carpooling their children to school after several school bus mishaps, are now at their wits’ end. Santa Cruz resident and parent Asmita Mogre said, “Worried about school bus safety, four parents in our locality began a carpool. But that has stopped after the petrol price hike. Our children are back to taking the school bus.”

The latest government resolution has stated that schools that do not own their buses but hire buses on contract will no longer be held responsible in case of a mishap. With nearly 80% of schools employing contract buses, this GR has invoked the wrath of parents as they feel that school authorities will wash their hands of their children’s safety and not ensure that mandated norms are in place in the buses.

Experts have recommended that school bus committees formed by schools should be given responsibility to ensure school bus safety. Jayant Jain, president of Forum For Fairness In Education, said, “School bus contractors are appointed by school authorities.

Then why can’t they be held responsible? If schools are not held accountable, they will not look into the appointment of the contractor seriously.

“School bus committees have to be appointed as per government norms and should include all stakeholders like the principal, RTO officer, a parent and the bus operator as well. This committee should be given joint responsibility for child safety,’’ he said.
Sakshi | 02.07.2012 | Page 9

June 28, 2012

State can't violate Supreme Court directive on RTE

HYDERABAD: Protecting private schools from implementing the Right to Education act is a state government order, according to which seats in neighbourhood government and aided schools should be filled before private schools are approached for admission under RTE. The order has been a key reason for private schools to steer clear of earmarking 25 per cent seats under the RTE Act. But Supreme Court advocate Ashok Agarwal, who has been spearheading the RTE implementation, says that the GO is in violation of the Act.

In the city on Wednesday, Ashok Agarwal told TOI that he had been travelling to various districts across Andhra Pradesh to meet lawyers and create awareness about the act so that they can take up cases of violation. "Section 12 of the RTE Act makes it very clear that it is a child's right to get admission in a private school and such a government order (issued by the state government) is in contradiction of this provision. The state while framing the rules cannot violate the act, they don't have power. This amounts to repealing section 12," Agarwal said.

He said another problem in AP is in the rules framed by the government on RTE's implementation. "They have applied reservations in this 25 %. This is reservation within reservation which is not permissible," he said.

Agarwal, who has been actively involved with MV Foundation, has toured districts including Kurnool, Khammam and Nalgonda over the last few days speaking to lawyers. "We are telling our lawyer friends about RTE provisions and asking them to adopt one school and then find out violation of the act. People can go to taluka and even district court... they needn't move the high court. We are getting a good response," he said.

Why has RTE hit a roadblock in Andhra Pradesh?

HYDERABAD: Nithin Gollamudi, a city student dreams to be a doctor and secretly wants to be the state topper in medical entrance examination. Belonging to an economically and socially backward family, the 12-year-old who was helping his father in a masonry shop in Chotuppal till two years ago even while going to a nearby government school says that it would have been impossible for him to dream this big till recently. With the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) act, 2009, Nithin along with his twin brother Nikesh got admission in a reputed city school located in Begumpet and are now doing well on their own in a class of 40 students. What the RTE gave them is an ability to dream big.

Unlike the twins, however, most children in the state may not be able to enjoy the benefit of the 25 % reservation under RTE. Over 12 lakh out of school children (as per the human development report, 2007) in the state are left in the lurch, with the state government deciding to go slow on the implementation of this act which was deemed to have the potential of changing existing social orders. Even after the Supreme Court directed private schools in the country to implement section 12 of the act by virtue of which 25 per cent of the seats in their classrooms will be reserved for students from underprivileged backgrounds, the state government has been taking its own time to even debate the possibilities of implementing the act. This even as neighbouring states like Karnataka and Maharashtra have started the reservation process under the act.

While the Supreme Court order that came on April 12, 2012, had called for immediate action, the state appointed committee which looks into the implementation of the act has met exactly twice so far, bringing out no substantial outcome. The state's apathy has come at a time when a majority of city schools had welcomed the act and the SC order. "About 17,500 schools in the state had agreed to the implementation of the act on the very day the Supreme Court order asking implementation of section 12 was issued. The government seems to be lagging behind as it claims that it does not have enough money to fund the studies of children," said S Srinivas Reddy, president, recognised schools managements' association. As per the act, the government is supposed to give private schools an amount equal to the per-child expenditure it sets aside for government school children every year. Other than the state schools, many CBSE and ICSE schools located in the city had also welcomed the act. "The act will help build richer classrooms. When children from lower social classes come into a classroom they might help other students to learn about sharing and caring. Classroom becomes a place to learn," said principal of a school located in Bachupally.

The schools which do not want to implement the act, however, are immune to it as a government order issued in 2010 exempts them from a strict implementation of section 12. As per the GO, private schools need to open their gates to under privileged children only after all the seats in neighbouring government schools get filled. "With most private schools in Hyderabad being surrounded by government and aided schools the act loses it teeth when it comes to reservations in top private schools which charge anywhere between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh as annual fee. This is complete distortion of the act," said Anil Sadgopal, an educationist and RTE activist.

Schools, however maintained that they need no RTE act to govern them to care for poor children from the neighbourhood. Some of the schools like P Obul Reddy School, Jubilee Hills and Vidyaranya School, Lower Tank Bund are known for admitting a good percent of students from poor economic backgrounds into their classrooms. Principals of schools like DPS and DAV Public School too maintained that they have been giving subsidized education to several children from the neighbourhood. "We consider it our moral responsibility to give back to the community. Since help children of poor economic background since the past few years," said a principal. Schools, however set some criteria for offering help. "We definitely consider students who are meritorious or good in sports but come from lower income groups for free admission. But it depends on the demand. Every year, many parents who cannot afford the fee amount approach us for their child's admission, and the school sponsors the child," said Shamita Bhattacharya, principal of St Andrews School Bowenpally. Jubilee Hills Public School too has a provision for underprivileged children from which around 25 students benefit every year. Families which come below the poverty line apply for scholarship and the tuition fees of those whose applications are approved are taken care of by the Kode Venkatadri Charitable Trust.

The activists, however, said that the kind act of schools to help children from the neighbourhood would only qualify as charity and not as a right. "What the schools have been doing so far was not monitored by any government body. But RTE makes it mandatory for all private education institutions to reserve seats for the poor. And the number of seats the schools have been reserving to help poor students is mere tokenism. The act ensures inclusion of more number of students under the same banner," said Achyuta Rao, president, Balala Hakkula Sangham, a child rights NGO. The primary education department which is in charge of implementing the ACT said that the committee which looks into the implementation of the act will soon come up with a working plan to enforce certain aspects of the act.

Besides, the problem with its implementation is that the entire government machinery thinks this is an SSA programme, says M Venkat Reddy, national convenor of MV Foundation. He said that the government has to ensure that this is a right there will be legal implications on those denying the right. "Finally, a redressal mechanism is missing. We have asked the state government to have a mechanism where parents can go and air their grievance," Venkat Reddy said.

Schools, however, maintained that they will not be able to help the government in implementing the act unless a clear blueprint of the plan is given to them. "The people who should be availing the benefits of this act are not aware of it. There is no proper road map to make the vision a reality. When we are given proper instructions on RTE from the government, then we will certainly follow them," said Sita Kiran, representative of a city school.

June 23, 2012

Law to regulate fees in private schools needed

The act makes it mandatory for all schools which have proposed a hike in fees should submit their proposals to a high-powered committee headed by retired judge and should adhere to the decision of the committee.

The Centre should enact a law regulating fees structure in private institutions and make provision for providing 50 per cent representation from parents in management committees of private educational institutions, Supreme Court advocate and an RTE campaigner Ashok Agarwal demanded here on Thursday.

“Unless there is a paradigm shift in power from the school managements to parents it is not possible to regulate the private educational stream,’’ Mr. Agarwal said here at a seminar on ‘Right to Education,’ organised by Guntur District Forum for Child Rights at Bar Association Hall. Citing various Delhi High Court judgments during 1997-1999 on Public Interest Litigations (PIL) filed by him during the last two decades, Mr. Agarwal said that even the Supreme Court had dismissed several appeals filed by private school managements and upheld the Delhi HC order that the provisions of Delhi School Education Act should be followed in deciding the fees structure.“The private educational institutions are built on four pillars of philanthropy, community service, non-profit and non-commercialization of their activities,’’ Mr. Agarwal said making it a strong pitch for regulating private education.

In fact, Mr. Agarwal pointed out that Tamil Nadu was the first state to pass a fees regulation Act in 2009. The act makes it mandatory for all schools which have proposed a hike in fees should submit their proposals to a high-powered committee headed by retired judge and should adhere to the decision of the committee.

Justifying the SC’s judgments upholding the RTE Act, he said that unaided private schools should follow the provisions of RTE Act and provide 25 per cent quota for economically weaker sections, students with special needs, and students from socially disadvantaged sections.

Even the children from socially advantaged sections would benefit from their interaction with children from different backgrounds.

Mr. Agarwal, who has been hailed as a, “scourge of Delhi’s education babus and owners of upscale of private schools,’’ has formed Social Jurist, a lawyer’s forum for taking up public issues.

Chairperson of Child Welfare Committee and secretary of, FFCR, Guntur and Chairman of Seeds Organisation, D. Roshan Kumar, Child Rights Advocacy foundation, Vijayawada, secretary Fr. Koshy, Secretary of Legal Service Authority, Ramana Kumari, programme director, CRAF Francis Thambi and president of Guntur Bar Association Kolli Sankara Rao were present.

June 15, 2012

Sakshi | 14 June 2012 | Hyderabad | Page 16

June 11, 2012

Many private schools stipulate that students buy textbooks, stationery from them

Even while struggling to survive the petrol price hike, parents across the city are now faced with the prospect of shelling out more money as the educational institutions are about to open.

With many private school managements stipulating that the students must buy the textbooks and stationery from them only, there is additional financial burden on the parents, as school managements are charging more than the open market prices.

“A full books and stationery set, put out as a package for each student by the school management, costs no less that Rs.3,000 a year even for primary school students. And that for high school students goes up to Rs.5,000,” says Lavanya, whose daughter studies at the Delhi Public School.

Expensive stuff
Even as some schools have made it optional for parents to buy books from the school or from outside, several parents said that schools take advantage of those parents who buy it from the school to save on their time.

“While uniforms too need to be purchased only from the school, each pair costs nearly Rs.1,000. A pair of socks, if purchased from the school, is priced at an unreasonable Rs. 150. Come June and almost an entire month's pay cheque goes on expenses to be borne for a new academic year,” rued another parent.

That apart, several corporate schools are now forcing parents of high school children to even purchase customised tablet devices like the ‘edutor' which costs Rs. 750.

No choice
The device enables electronic storage of lessons to be taught in an academic year. Many parents, however, said that they find no merit in introducing such technology among students when they have to buy and carry books to school, nonetheless.

“Also, this year we were asked to pay an additional Rs.1,000 towards ‘extra curricular activities' so that children are allowed to play indoor games like carom, chess, etc.

Managements are openly looting parents who do not have another choice but to abide,” said a parent.

Parents in dark
Another major concern of parents pertains to the ‘parent committees' which ought to be set up in all schools, as per the AP Education Act. “While many schools have not even constituted the committee, those who have do not ever consult parents before taking any major decisions, including fee hikes, as mandated,” said AP Parents Associations Coordination Committee convenor S. Govindarajulu.
Sakshi | Hyderabad | 11 June 2012

June 8, 2012

SHRC admits plea against high fees in private schools

Hyderabad: Expressing concern over the 'irrational' fee structures in city private schools, a child rights association filed a petition in the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Thursday stating that the managements were increasing fee without any valid reason and imposing additional burden on parents.

Achyuta Rao, president of the association, said, "Many private schools are charging fee ranging between Rs 50,000 and Rs 3 lakh. Most students studying in these schools are from middle class families."

He also complained that the school managements were cheating public by not keeping their promises in advertisements that they would provide the best facilities. "Some of these schools cram small classrooms with students and do not even provide hygienic food and water. Though hefty fee is collected, facilities in private hostels are not up to the mark," he said.

The petitioner added that since a good part of the family income goes towards school fees, parents are forced to cut down on their other expenses. The association has demanded that the government regulate the fee structure. The SHRC admitted the case and directed the principal secretary of school education to submit a report on this issue by August 1


It’s not April but June that’s the cruelest month for city parents, as it is the most expensive time of the year. In June the household expenditure shoots by over 60 per cent when compared to other months. The school fee amounts to 60 per cent of the extra burden on parents and the rest of the expenditure is on school stationary, shoes, uniforms and lunch kits.

As per this year’s fee structure in most schools the expenditure per child is huge, parents rue. While in some schools the expenditure in the beginning of the academic year is around Rs 20,000, in others it is somewhere around Rs 80,000. In every household the average expenditure on school fee which includes term fee, transport, sport and extra curricular activities fee would be around Rs 35,000, parents said. Average expenditure on books, laboratory equipment will be Rs 10,000 and for uniforms too parents are made to set aside Rs 10,000. The school shoes, lunch kits and school stationary would add up to Rs 6,000. To top it all, parents also spend Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 on private tuitions, if their children are in high school classes. “I spent about Rs 65,000 right at the beginning of the academic year this month. In the city most of the parent’s income is going into schooling budget,” said K Ramana Kumar, a city parent.

To add to parents’ woes many school managements have increased the fee even this year. “This year too there has been 10 to 50 per cent increase in school fee. It’s becoming difficult for parents to fi nd good schooling for their children at an affordable cost,” said Kamal Malliramani, a city parent. Parents have also devised ways cope with the June frenzy and the extra fi nancial burden which comes along with it. “This year I paid Rs. 18,000 for my son’s school fees and spent another 18,000 on shopping for this term. To make up for the increase in cost we had to drop our summer holiday plans,” said Venugopal Madishetti, a city parent.

Times of India | Hyderabad Edition | Page 2 | 7th June, 2012

June 1, 2012

Rising cost of education stifles parents

Many private schools stipulate that students buy textbooks, stationery from them

Even while struggling to survive the petrol price hike, parents across the city are now faced with the prospect of shelling out more money as the educational institutions are about to open.

With many private school managements stipulating that the students must buy the textbooks and stationery from them only, there is additional financial burden on the parents, as school managements are charging more than the open market prices.

“A full books and stationery set, put out as a package for each student by the school management, costs no less that Rs.3,000 a year even for primary school students. And that for high school students goes up to Rs.5,000,” says Lavanya, whose daughter studies at the Delhi Public School.

Expensive stuff
Even as some schools have made it optional for parents to buy books from the school or from outside, several parents said that schools take advantage of those parents who buy it from the school to save on their time.

“While uniforms too need to be purchased only from the school, each pair costs nearly Rs.1,000. A pair of socks, if purchased from the school, is priced at an unreasonable Rs. 150. Come June and almost an entire month's pay cheque goes on expenses to be borne for a new academic year,” rued another parent.

That apart, several corporate schools are now forcing parents of high school children to even purchase customised tablet devices like the ‘edutor' which costs Rs. 750.

No choice
The device enables electronic storage of lessons to be taught in an academic year. Many parents, however, said that they find no merit in introducing such technology among students when they have to buy and carry books to school, nonetheless.

“Also, this year we were asked to pay an additional Rs.1,000 towards ‘extra curricular activities' so that children are allowed to play indoor games like carom, chess, etc.

Managements are openly looting parents who do not have another choice but to abide,” said a parent.

Parents in dark
Another major concern of parents pertains to the ‘parent committees' which ought to be set up in all schools, as per the AP Education Act. “While many schools have not even constituted the committee, those who have do not ever consult parents before taking any major decisions, including fee hikes, as mandated,” said AP Parents Associations Coordination Committee convenor S. Govindarajulu.

May 25, 2012

Bangalore schools punch holes in parents' pockets

Parents sending their wards to reputed private schools in the city and those aspiring to start their kids’ schooling in these institutions will have to tighten their belts. Most of these schools have decided to increase the annual fees by at least by 10%.

A visit by DNA to some of these schools revealed that they have indeed decided to hike the annual fees and some have already issued circulars.

The Cathedral High School in the city has increased the fees to `65,000 per annum. In 2011, the admission fee charged by the school was Rs42,000 and this year it has been increased to Rs65,000. Reacting to this hike a parent said, “The management have begun including donations in the fees. Practices like this were never present before and it is ridiculous.”

There are many schools in the city which are following suit. Even Bethany High School is thinking of increasing the fee. School principal Robert Khin conceded that they are going to increase the fee by 10%. He told DNA, “Every year there will be a slight increase in fees as the prices of all other resources goes up. When you are ready to pay a little extra for your groceries, fuel, etc, why not for your children’s education.”

“I am sending my children to the same school for four years, but the school is increasing 10 to 12% fee in each academic year. This year also they have informed us to bring the extra amount at the time of admission. It is become difficult for us to manage our financial problems,” said Rangarajan a parent, who is sending children to one of the reputed schools in Bangalore North. He did not wish to mention the school’s name.

“We cannot talk against the schools and we are forced to accept whatever new rules made by them, mainly because there is no unity amongst parents. Each one of us thinks that our kids should get a seat in reputed school and we will agree with everything, even if we are not able to satisfy the needs of the school,” said Shruthi Karthik a parent and an employee with the IT firm. She is sending her daughter to one of the reputed schools in the city, which has at least six branches.

There are few schools in the city, where the fee hike has been much more modest - around two to three per cent. However, parents feel that even this would be difficult to manage.

For example Sophia’s High School has raised the annual fee amount to Rs42,000, from Rs40,000. Even Baldwin’s Girl’s School have raised it to Rs32,000 from last year’s Rs30,000.

Reacting to this, Swagatha Raju, a parent who is sending her daughter to Sophia’s said, “Two thousand is not a small amount, being salaried employees we have our own commitments. School management is raising the fee like this every year, but we are not seeing any changes in our salaries. Schools should consider middle class parents like us while increasing fee.”

Many parents there did agree with Swagatha. Kushala another parent, who got seat for her daughter said, “With the facilities begin provided, I think the marginal increase is very much fair. But if the schools make it a habit every year, it would be difficult for us to afford.”

Year after the school fee hike trauma, victim scores 85% in ICSE

It took two years for Adhishree Kulkarni, a victim of the school fee hike row, to finally get justice.

The 15-year-old was expelled from VIBGYOR School at Goregaon in the middle of her class 9, after her mother opposed the school fee hike.

Kulkarni, who has secured 85% in her ICSE exam, wants to become a lawyer so that she can fight for human rights and bring them justice.

Her case was flashed on every television channel when she was victimised for her mother’s involvement in raring an opposition for the school fee hike. Stranded in the middle of her class 9, she was lucky to get admission at St Gregorious School, Chembur. But the school was nearly 35km away from her Goregaon home. Every day the teenagers commuted for nearly two hours to and from school.

“I did not have a choice but face hardship.I used to leave for school at 7am and reach home by 6pm. Though I was exhausted at the end of the day, sleeping was not an option. I would stay up all night revising my lessons,’’ she said.She studied on her own and did not opt for tuitions.

It was tough for Kulkarni when she joined a new school in the middle of the academic year. She tried to fit in, make new friends and study at the same time.

“Students avoid changing schools in class 9 or 10, because it takes time to get comfortable. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I was faced with the challenge of trying to fit in the new school when I should have been focusing on studies. It took a long time but I did it,” she said.

Rasbihari fee hike issue escalates as management refuses to meet parents

NASHIK: After the Rasbihari International School's (RIS) management refused to meet parents on Tuesday to discuss the school's fee hike, anguished parents gave an ultimatum of 20 days for withdrawal of the hike, failing which they threatened to launch an agitation and move court. Parents who arrived at the school on Tuesday were greeted with a notice board that said that since the issue was pending with the education department after parents complained about the fee hike and the school had filed its reply, there was no point in holding the meeting.

Parents have given the school an ultimatum of 20 days to roll back the fee hike. They have warned of an indefinite hunger strike and threatened to move court if the RIS management does not roll back the fee hike.

"We have given an ultimatum of 20 days to the school to roll back the tuition fees. Otherwise, we will resort to an indefinite hunger strike in front of the school from June 13 and will also move court on the issue," members of the parents' committee Harish Jain and Suresh Desale said. The parents assembled at the school also decided against paying fees till a decision was taken by the education department of the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC). Jain added, "The school management at the eleventh hour cancelled the meeting, claiming that the issue was pending with the NMC's education department. Hence, we have decided not to pay the fees until a decision is taken by the education department."

The school management declined to comment on the issue, saying that their stand had been mentioned in the notice board put up at the entrance of the school. The notice board featured this message, "On May 15, parents had complained to the education department of the NMC against the school over the fee hike issue. Accordingly, the department has issued a written notice to the school in this connection on May 19. The school has also replied to the notice over the issue. Hence, it will not be proper to hold a meeting as the matter is now pending with the education department."

Desale said, "A meeting had been scheduled on Tuesday over the fee hike issue, but the school management is not ready to hold talks with parents. Our objective is to solve the issue through dialogue and discussions, but they didn't reciprocate. The school management is not being accountable."

It may be recalled that on April 30, parents of children studying in RIS, who had come to school with their wards to collect report cards, had staged a rasta roko on the MERI-Mumbai-Agra national highway (NH3) link road after they came to know about the hike in tuition fees from Rs 1,900 to Rs 3,100 per month. Their demonstration was temporarily suspended after police officials intervened and spoke to the parents and the school administration. A decision was taken for joint meetings on the issue between the school chairman, trustees and parents on May 22.

The school fees, which were Rs 600 per month in 2006-07, have been increased to Rs 3,100 a month in the year 2012-13. Fees were increased to Rs 800 a month in 2007-08, Rs 900 a month in 2008-09, Rs 1,200 a month in 2009-10, Rs 1,400 a month in 2010-11, Rs 1,900 a month in 2011-12 and to Rs 3,100 a month for the academic year 2012-13.

May 19, 2012

Schools, parents panic over Maharashtra government's order on implementing Right to Education Act

Shreya Bhandary,TNN | May 17, 2012, 02.37AM IST
MUMBAI: The state government's sudden announcement asking schools to redo their admission process at the entry level has left schools as well as parents in a state of panic. While schools are worried about accommodating students at the last moment, parents are hassled about going through the entire process all over again.

"The directive should have come long back, especially when the government knows the process in most schools get done by mid-March. How do we explain this procedure to parents who have confirmed seats with us?" asked Lalitha Hariharan, principal, Rizvi Springfield in Bandra (W). Most schools were worried about the chaos over the new rule. "The government is expecting too many things at the last moment from schools. How do we balance everything?" she said.

Educationists are blaming the government for its lax behaviour on implementation of various clauses of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. "The Supreme Court never directed any stay on the admission procedure, why didn't the government make the clause compulsory for schools this year itself? Now, by suddenly bringing up the matter when schools have finished their admission procedure, makes no sense," said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education. He added that if the government reduces the reservation clause for the year, there may be a chance to incorporate students from weaker sections of society in schools. "It is possible for schools to accommodate four to five students in every class, but 25% is impossible to attain now," he added.

Parents are worried about losing out on seats that they have got after going through procedures at various schools. "How does the government expect schools to make way for new students when schools have already finished their admission process? We have spent a lot of time and energy in getting a seat in a school of our choice. We will take the matter to court if we have to," said Rajneesh Batra, who has sought admission for his four-year-old daughter to a school in Juhu.

Schools are also worried about covering up costs for the 25% students who will seek admission in their schools. "While the government is only paying a small amount in the name of fees, what about the rest of the expenses? Our revenues will be drained by half, how do we cover up for the remaining expenses? We will have to depend on a fee hike from the remaining 75% students," said the managing trustee of a school in Navi Mumbai.

May 16, 2012

School teachers win salary battle

MUMBAI: Teachers of St Xavier's High School in Nerul have a reason to celebrate. The Bombay high court on Friday passed an order in their favour and asked the school management to pay teachers in keeping with the Sixth Pay Commission with immediate effect.

Activists feel this judgment will pave the way for payment of all schoolteachers under the Sixth Pay Commission.

"This has been a long fight but in the end, justice has been done," said a source associated with the school, adding: "This should be a good example for other schools to follow." The management will also have to pay teachers arrears for the past one year. The issue surfaced in December 2010 when the schoolteachers refused to conduct classes till the management agreed to pay them under the Sixth Pay Commission.

"While in most cases parents are opposed to fee hikes, in our school, guardians understood our plight and agreed to pay the revised fees. Still, our school was not paying us what we deserved," said one of the teachers.

Nobody from the school management was, however, available for comment.

With the order in place, teachers of the school will now get almost double their current salary because till date, the school staff was not even being paid under the Fifth Pay Commission.

Educationists and experts called it a landmark judgement, which would boost the morale of teachers. A government resolution on the Sixth Pay Commission, which was yet to be implemented in many schools, made it clear that institutes could hike their fees by no more than 50% in order to pay the revised salaries to teachers.

Several schools, however, ended up hiking fees upto 80%.

"For years, numerous complaints have been lodged by teachers but exploitation by the authorities of schools continued. They hiked fees on the pretext of increasing teachers' salaries but never actually hiked the teachers' pay. Now, there's no way they can back out," said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education.

May 10, 2012

More tap iPad Apps for biology lessons

BANGALORE: Shivakumar, principal of Delhi Public School, Surat, was fascinated by the educational apps on the App Store which matched his school's curriculum. And soon he started encouraging his teachers to use iPads for research.

"While teaching the parts of the body, we use an app where the visual body is displayed. Curious students were allowed to tear down the ribs with this app, see what each rib is made up of and rearrange them back. This form of teaching has a greater impact on students who understand the concepts better than those who learn their subjects by rote," he says.

Beginning this academic year, many schools across India will be formally including iPads as an educational tool for students. It has already started in a phased manner in schools like Delhi Public School, Surat, where over 600 students from kindergarten to Class 2 have started working on iPads.

In many others, like the Canadian International School, Bangalore, all the students from classes 8 to 12 have been asked to bring their own iPads when they start the academic year. And at schools under the Universal Educational Group, over 20,000 students have already been given access to iPads.

Using iPads as an educational tool is not new. But the scale of adoption will be going up this academic year, mainly because of the efforts of tech-savvy school principals. "All 200 teachers at his school were provided individual iPads which they connect to TV sets provided in individual classrooms," says Shivakumar.

For students who wanted to do practical worksheets, an iPad lab was opened where they could spend some time. Worksheets based on specific topics are downloaded from the App Store and given to students to solve, says Shivakumar.

"For instance, if algebra is taught, a number of fun games related to it are downloaded and students work on it during their spare time," he says.

To take the concept home, the school encouraged parents to be part of their 'iPads at home' programme wherein they were asked to assist children with their project work and studies by using iPads at home. "Of the 1,200 students in the primary classes, 600 parents use iPads to help their children in their studies," he says.

Those parents who don't have iPads can use the traditional worksheets to help their children. While it is still an optional tool at Delhi Public School, Surat, at others like the Universal Educational Group, iPads have already become part of the curriculum. A 60-member tech team is initiating the group's 20,000 students spread across different schools in Maharashtra and the UAE on iPad use.

Each child at these schools is given access for 20 minutes a day to use iPads. "While students from nursery to class 2 are taught with the help of iPod Touch, all students from Class 3 are given access to iPads," says Jesus SM Lall, Chairman & CEO, Universal Education Group.

"We had piloted the project in 2009 and it has been implemented full scale," he says. "We give them limited access to iPads because we don't want to replace the traditional style of teaching," says Lall. The group's technology team and teachers have compiled an entire library of apps under various subject categories to be used by each class. "This includes everything from alphabet to pictures to stories to rhymes," says Lall.

Another tech-savvy principal, Avnita Bir of RN Podar School (affiliated to the CBSE board), Mumbai, is now allowing her students to bring iPads to school if they want to. She finds it of particular help to CBSE students who, unlike other educational boards, have to score marks based on a continuous assessment pattern. "Students have to thoroughly understand the concept, if they have to answer the questions," she explains.

A pilot study on the use of iPads was conducted at her school for class 7. What interested her was the fact that the class created his/her own personalised content when they were given a topic to work on with the help of iPads. "While teaching history, for instance, we ask the students to create cartoon strips or create a short video clip using their iPads on the subject they are learning," says Bir.

"Very often, no two projects created by students are the same. Different aspects on the same subject are brought out. The end result is that the class creates its own learning content," she explains. Breathing life into content with the help of iPads has been the main focus of schools like the Canadian International School, Bangalore, where all the 200 to 250 students from classes 8-12 will start this academic year with iPads.

"Textbooks are static. This is the reason why we encourage students to take photographs of flowers and trees in the neighbourhood when we teach them aspects of plant life," says Melanie Kells, Dean of Studies, Canadian International School, Bangalore.

"Once this is done, we ask them to upload these photographs on iPads and annotate the content. They are encouraged to do project work on iPads and then take printouts for the final submission," she says.

"Teachers have been using this in a big way," she says. "They design the content to be taught with the iPads." "Students are able to create their own personalized content and are able to thoroughly understand the concepts," she says. Talking about the security issues involved, as students may tend to use the Net for the wrong reasons, Ms Kells says: "Measures are built within the iPads which identify certain words and immediately block them. In the primary classes, the students are given access to iPads only under a teacher's supervision."

May 4, 2012

Postcards from the margins


Social inclusion in education is still a long way off even two years after the Right to Education Act came into force.

Morning prayers at a school in Jammu. Though the onus of providing accessible and quality education rests on the state, its apathy has ensured that there is a surge in the demand for admission to private schools.

EVERY day, in the Delhi High Court, eight to 10 postcards written by children across the national capital reach the chambers of an advocate who has been battling relentlessly for the right to education of children, especially those from the poor sections of society. Neat and legible, almost all the letters are in Hindi. They are complaints about the denial of admission to schools and the lack of infrastructure there, and about fees and teaching. One letter from a child in East Delhi reads thus: “Dear sir, there is no light in my school, no bench, no toilet, no discipline. Pupils constantly play on the ground, while teachers sit outside the class. When I asked my teacher to teach, I was slapped. I want teachers to be honest, and I want to be an honest police officer.”

Another letter, from Shruti, studying in class five of the government-run Sarvodaya Girls School, says: “Sir, the government has placed so many conditions for the Laadli scheme. I filled in the form but have not received the money or a receipt. If I get the money, I will give you a party.” The Laadli scheme, in several north Indian States, is an incentive-based scheme meant to promote education of the girl child and ensure her retention in school. At regular intervals or after the completion of certain levels, the child is given a cash entitlement. In a third postcard, a domestic help, requesting anonymity, pleads with the advocate to intervene on her behalf with the principal of a private school who had threatened to throw out her children for non-payment of fees.

The postcards speak volumes about the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which came into force on April 1, 2010. It made the right to education justiciable, envisaging that every child in the 6-14 age group should have access to a neighbourhood school. The word “free” in the title stands for the removal by the state of any financial barrier that prevents a child from completing eight years of schooling.

Supreme Court judgment
In a recent majority judgment, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Act and its application to schools owned or controlled by the government or a local authority; aided schools, including aided minority schools; schools belonging to specified categories; and unaided non-minority schools not receiving any aid or grant from the government or the local authority. The order exempted unaided minority schools from the Act's application on the argument that it infringed on the fundamental freedom guaranteed to such schools under Article 30(1), which gives minorities the right to establish and to administer educational institutions of their choice.

The petitioners in the case, associations representing various private schools, while calling the insertion of Article 21A of the Constitution (following which the Act came into existence) a revolutionary step, had challenged some sections of the Act that cast an obligation on all elementary educational institutions to admit children from their neighbourhood on the principle of social inclusiveness. They also challenged other provisions that were purportedly interfering with the administration, management and functioning of these institutions. For instance, they challenged Section 12(1)(c) of the Act, which cast an obligation on both non-minority and minority institutions to fill at least 25 per cent of the seats in class 1 and preschool sections with children from among those falling under Sections 2(d) and 2(e) (children belonging to the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups of society).

The Law Commission, in its 165th report, referring to the Constitution (Eighty-Third Amendment) Bill, 1997, which proposed to insert 21A in the Constitution, had advised that it was not desirable or advisable to keep unaided educational institutions outside the proposed Article altogether. The idea was that while the sole primary obligation of education was upon the state, educational institutions, whether aided or unaided, supplemented this effort. It recommended that these institutions must be made to impart free education to 50 per cent of the students admitted to their institutions.

In the recent Supreme Court verdict, the judgment of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, which disagreed with that of the other two judges in the Bench (Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Swatanter Kumar), averred that where socio-economic rights had been given the status of constitutional rights, those rights were available only against the state and not against entities such as private schools or private hospitals unless they got aid, grants or other concessions from the state. Interestingly, it was also observed that a shift in the state's functions to private entities was because of liberalisation of the economy and privatisation of state functions. While the primary responsibility for children's rights lay with the state, it also had a duty to regulate private institutions that cared for children so as to protect children from violence, abuse and economic exploitation. At the same time, private entities were expected to respect and protect the rights of the child but were not expected to surrender the rights constitutionally guaranteed to them, it said.

The minority judgment was also critical of earlier judgments (in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case and the Inamdar case) that placed a negative obligation on private educational institutions in a manner suggesting that there should be no profiteering, demand for excessive fee, capitation fee, maladministration or cross-subsidy. However, such judgments also said that acts by the state to control or regulate admissions to unaided professional institutions insofar as to compel them to give up a share of the seats to candidates chosen by the state would amount to nationalisation of seats and would be an encroachment on the autonomy and right of such institutions. Had the Constitution wanted the obligation to be shared by private unaided educational institutions, it would have been made explicit in Article 21A, Justice Radhakrishnan's judgment said.

The minority judgment lauded the purpose and object of the Act, that is, social inclusiveness in the field of education, but held that the means adopted to achieve that objective was faulty and constitutionally impermissible. Section 12(1)(c), it held, was only directional and it should be read as being open to private unaided educational institutions, both minority and non-minority, at their volition to admit children who belong to the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood in their educational institutions.

Types of schools
Apparently, of 12,50,775 schools imparting elementary education in the country in 2007-08, as many as 80.2 per cent were government schools, 5.8 per cent private aided schools, and 13.1 per cent private unaided schools. Almost 87.2 per cent of the schools were located in rural areas; the proportion of private unaided schools was only 9.3 per cent and that of aided schools 4.7 per cent. In urban areas, the proportions of private unaided and aided schools were 38.6 and 13.4 per cent respectively. Of the total students enrolled in primary classes in 2007-08, about 75.4 per cent, 6.7 per cent and 17.8 per cent respectively were enrolled in government, aided and unaided schools. Proportionately, the total number of teachers working in these schools was the highest in government schools, followed by aided schools and then private unaided schools.

There is no doubt that the onus of providing accessible and quality education rests on the state. But given the demand generated by the RTE Act itself, there has been a surge in the demand for admission to private schools. To realise the concept of neighbourhood schools and to make mandatory the reservation of 25 per cent of the seats for children from economically weaker sections in unaided schools as well, the Act provides for reimbursement by the state of the per capita expenditure of each child. Such reimbursement, it held, shall not exceed the expenditure incurred for a child by a school established, owned or controlled by the appropriate government or local authority.

“When the government can run its schools with a particular sum, we see no reason why an unaided private school should charge fees more than what is spent on a child by the government,” Ashok Aggarwal, advocate for the non-governmental organisation Social Jurist told Frontline. The organisation founded by him several years ago is singularly devoted to getting children, especially those with indigent backgrounds, admitted to schools. According to him, the surge in the demand for education overall has been an outcome of campaigns by government as well as non-government agencies working in the area of child rights. Unfortunately, as government schools were apathetic to this demand, parents were increasingly gravitating towards private schools under the impression that they were better in terms of quality, he said. And they were prepared to pay huge amounts as fees.

He said that on March 21, the Government of Delhi approved Rs.1,190 as the expenditure for a child a month on elementary education and reimbursable to private unaided schools in respect of children from economically weaker sections. It was also decided that no reimbursement would be made to schools that had been allotted land by the government at concessional rates. “The sum of Rs.1,190 can be safely taken as an ideal figure for the purpose of payment of school fees per child,” said Aggarwal.

Aggarwal, who founded the All India Parents Association, is of the view that if any unaided private school found that Rs.1,190 was not enough, it could show its financial accounts to the government and prove that the school was spending more on the student and hence was eligible to charge a higher fee. “When the Act came, the government began publicising the 25 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections [EWS] category. But no rules were framed. I had to approach the court for the rules, and finally it was ordered to be framed within two weeks. The problem is complex. Private schools used teachers to victimise parents and vice-versa. All categories of parents have a common issue and from the point of a constitutional right, every child should get free and quality education,” he said. Each year, he said, almost one lakh students dropped out of private schools because of the inability to pay fees and sought admission in government schools. There were cases, he said, where parents had to withdraw one child from school in order to educate the rest of their children. “What is bothersome is that the government's intention to improve schools is still wanting. The moot point is that the crisis lies in government schools and the solution is also there,” he said.

There were 9,835 seats vacant in the EWS category for nursery classes in 1,163 private schools in Delhi alone, he said, and the High Court had ordered that the seats be filled before the commencement of the summer break. Aggarwal estimated that almost one lakh children had benefited from seeking admissions under the EWS category.

On April 25, the Delhi High Court pulled up the Delhi government for being unsympathetic to some 700 students of a government school in north-west Delhi. For the last three years, the school was being run in tents. Incidentally, it was Aggarwal who pointed out that despite the orders of the court on February 12 to construct portable cabins as a temporary arrangement pending the construction of a permanent building, the government had done little in this regard.

On February 18, Aggarwal, as a member of the High Court-appointed committee for inspection of schools, visited the school concerned only to find that all the 700 students were sitting in the open. The school building, constructed 25 years ago, had been declared dangerous three years ago. The court has now ordered the government to submit a status report within a fortnight.

There is no doubt about a transformation taking place. The impetus to the transformation, unfortunately, has not come from the government. The lack of interest on the part of the government to enforce the law has led private educational institutions to challenge the clauses in the Act that make the inclusion of EWS category students mandatory. If the government dithers on pushing aggressively to ensure that every child is in school at least up to 14 years, the constitutionality of the Act will continue to be challenged by those who resist social inclusion.