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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

How RTE is Devastating Second Rung Schools in Mumbai

The academic year is in it’s third month, but many second rung private unaided Hindu run schools in Mumbai still have vacant seats due to RTE. As per this report only 39% of the applications received for admissions since April have been admitted. Only 6409 applications for RTE admissions were received against 9664 available seats. So in effect, 7166 RTE seats are lying vacant in the 318 private unaided Hindu run schools of Mumbai – an average of 22 seats per school.

One can work out the financial stress these schools will come under due to this capacity under utilization – Government reimbursements for valid RTE admission are anyway delayed by years, there is little chance they will re-imburse schools for vacant RTE seats.

What is causing such a huge shortfall in admissions under RTE? As @realitycheckind analyzes in this set of tweets, the main reason is that it is a badly designed law which has misdiagnosed the problems with Bharat’s education system and has ended up hurting interests of both children and education providers, while doing nothing to improve standards in Government run schools. These are the key points which the activists and Lutyen’s babus who devised this law did not think through in their ignorance –

  • The high echelon private schools are more attractive for parents – and hence they are oversubscribed, then they use lottery etc.
  • A free seat in a lower grade private school is not always attractive compared to a paid seat at a better private or minority (exempt from RTE) or govt schools.
  • The second rung private schools are left in the lurch – even if vacant RTE seats are now released from RTE, schools can’t find kids who are ready to pay in the middle of the school year!

So on the one hand, RTE is enmeshing top notch private non-minority schools like NPS in a maze of red tape, while it is financially crippling the emerging private budget school segment as well.

This comment by the BMC’s deputy education officer reveals the disconnect between how policy is made and how ordinary people act – “Some parents are very selective and hence have not been able to secure admission.” Basically, what our babus and establishment intellectuals forgot is that even the poor can be choosy and make additional sacrifices like shelling out money (for a paid seat) when it comes to their child’s education.  

The ‘activists’ & NGOs who cannot afford to accept that RTE has been a disaster since its implementation in April 2010, since it was their collective brainchild executed through Sonia Gandhi’s NAC, claim that schools are rejecting students due to income certificate issues or distance criteria. They want Government to take ‘strict action’ against schools. What they fail to mention is that the school’s caution is natural, given that schools have been made culpable in the past for fake income certificates – principals, schools owners etc can and have been hauled to jail/court for RTE violations.

Belying the activists’ claims, BMC says they have received satisfactory replies from almost schools against which RTE related complaints were raised. So schools are following the rule book – it is the inherent flaws in RTE which have resulted in the mess.

Some defenders of RTE might say ,”If private schools are of such low quality that even the poor don’t want to send their kids there, its better they shut down.” The answer is that yes, those schools should shut down if they fail to sustain themselves in an environment with a level playing field. But RTE denies Hindu run private schools that level playing field by burdening them with various clauses, while allowing their competitor minority run schools (even aided ones) full autonomy. Over time, RTE will cause Hindu run private schools to die out – voluntarily or otherwise.

This is a time sensitive issue, RTE needs to be repealed or seriously reformed asap – one option is to extend RTE to all schools, including minority run, to remove the scope for bureaucratic discretion and license-permit raj. Alternatives like school vouchers have to be explored to meet social justice goals.  

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