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New norms for schools as SC backs Right to Education

The SC directed schools, including
privately-run schools, to admit
from this academic year at least
25% students from socially &
economically backward families.
NEW DELHI: With the Supreme Court throwing its full weight behind the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, (better known as the Right to Education Act or RTE Act) on Thursday, the composition of students in schools as well as the economics of running schools will undergo dramatic changes.

The apex court upheld the constitutional validity of the Act and directed all schools, including privately-run schools, irrespective of the board they are affiliated to, to admit from this academic year (2012-13) at least 25% students from socially and economically backward families. These students will be guaranteed free education from class I till they reach the age of 14.

This means the nature of the classroom will change. Until now, several schools were holding a separate shift for students from poor families after the main school was over. Under the RTE Act, they will have to induct these students in the main class - in other words, 25% of every class will have students from socially and economically disadvantaged families.

While many educationists feel the resultant social integration will make education more meaningful, the reaction of some expensive schools as well as of some parents hasn't been positive. Also, the need to give free education to 25% students is expected to increase the expenditure of schools, which is likely to lead to another round of fee hikes.

The schools will get a subsidy from the government for giving free education (65% of the subsidy will come from the Centre and 35% from states), but the subsidy is not expected to meet the full cost. The government subsidy will be based on the expenditure per student in government schools or Kendriya Vidyalayas, while many private schools spend (or at least, charge as fee) much more.

According to estimates, the government spends Rs 3,000 per child per year for primary education. The Centre has given states the freedom to implement its own grants and aids, but many states are financially broke and the grants vary from state to state. For instance, Delhi gives about Rs 1,200 per child per month, while Haryana doesn't give any aid to schools. Some educationists said that now private schools would have to hike fees as 75% of the class would have to pay for the 25% students admitted under the RTE Act.

Reacting to the Supreme Court order, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said, "I am very happy that the court has set all controversies at rest. One of the biggest controversies was on whether the 25% reservation applies to private schools or not... that controversy has been set to rest."

The court has, however, sought a clarification from the government on applicability of RTE Act to boarding schools and orphanages as the legislation applied only to day scholars. "To put the matter beyond doubt, we recommend that appropriate guidelines be issued under Section 35 of the 2009 Act clarifying the above position," the bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said.

According to 2007-08 statistics quoted by the Supreme Court, out of the 12,50,755 schools imparting elementary education in India, 80.2% were government run, 5.8% private aided and 13.1% private unaided. Of these, 87.2% of the schools were located in rural areas.

News: Times of India

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