The much awaited implementation of the section 12(1) C of Right to Education (RTE) Act-2009 wherein the private schools have to keep 25 percent reservation for students belonging to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) is likely going to be a permanent feature in J&K.
Almost two years passed since the RTE Act-2009 became applicable to J&K and the applicability of the Act in J&K had given many hopes to children from weaker sections to get education in the top notch private schools which otherwise remain out of bounds for these children.
But now the students from EWSs will get admission in these schools as the government of India has pressed the education department for proper implementation of the Act in the private schools.
The Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL) has asked the school education department to ensure that the children from EWS get the admission in the private schools.
The move came after the DSEL in GoI extended the extension to Samagra Shiksha for a period of five more years from 2021 to 2025 while integrating it with the National Education Policy (NEP)-2020.
The applicability and the implementation of RTE Act-2009 in J&K was supposed to open up opportunities for the students, and end the monopoly of private schools as under the RTE Act-2009.
After its applicability in J&K from October 2019 it was expected that all the private schools will keep the 25 percent reserved quota for the children from EWS from academic session 2020. But the J&K government failed to implement the Act in private schools for unknown reasons.
The private schools continued their monopoly and the government succumbed to the pressure mounted by the management of top notch private schools.
The private schools are not only to be blamed for creating hurdles for children from EWS but the government was equally responsible for it.
As per the Act, after the private schools keep 25 percent free admission reserved for children from EWS, the expenditure is to be borne by the school education department wherein it has to reimburse the money into the accounts of the respective management of the schools.
The rule says that the expenditure on the 25 percent reserved quota enrolled in private schools has to be reimbursed by the school education department exactly according to the expenditure incurred on the education of each student enrolled in the government schools.
This is the reason why the government is at the back-foot because the funds pumped in by the Government of India (GoI) under various centrally sponsored schemes for education of children in government schools is much more than what is charged from parents by the private schools.
Now that the DSEL as per the revised Samagra has emphasized that the school education department should reimburse the expenditure towards private schools incurred for 25 percent of admissions under Section 12 (1) (c), RTE Act. As per Section 12(1) (c), the reimbursement needs to be provided for admission of EWS students in neighborhood private unaided schools.
This intervention has been included in the guidelines of Samagra Shiksha which makes the school education department duty bound to implement the section 12 (1) (c) of the RTE in J&K.
The intervention will be an annual exercise under the scheme and the education department has to ensure that 25 percent admissions are kept reserved for people EWS in schools every year.
As per the official document, the reimbursement would be done based on proof of actual payment to schools by the States and UT. It would also pave the way for a transparent system of admissions and monitoring system for such admissions in private schools as well utilization of funds on the education of each student every year.
The utilization of the funds for admission of poor students in private schools will be reviewed annually by the DSEL in each Annual Project Approval Board (PAB) meeting convened to review and approve the annual allocation for the school education department.
The DSEL has also made certain that financial norms for the reimbursement would be based on per child norms notified by the State and UTs for classes 1st to 8th subject to a maximum ceiling of 20 percent of total Annual Work Plan and Budget (AWP&B), under Samagra Shiksha for J&K approved by the GOI.
The fact of the matter is that the school education department has framed all the rules and guidelines as per the RTE Act-2009 but the implementation part is delayed for unknown reasons.
After the abrogation of Article 370, the J&K government implemented all other Central rules and Acts in J&K but there is an inordinate delay in the proper implementation of the RTE Act.
Now that the DSEL has made it a policy matter, the admission process will be an online and transparent system for admitting children under section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act 2009. Also, the utilization of funds for the purposes will be reviewed in PAB meetings which raise expectations that the department will reimburse the funds to private schools in a time bound manner to make the process smooth.
While ensuring the admission of EWS in private schools under 25 percent reserved quota, the DSEL will also monitor how many students from the 25 percent reserved quota transitioned to class 9th and will also assess the achievement of grade level competencies of such students from class 1st to 8th.
Now coming to the point, the private schools, as per the orders issued for having a uniform admission calendar, are likely to start the admission process from 3rd week of this month. It is high time for the school education department to issue instructions to all the private schools to keep 25 percent admissions reserved for children from EWS.
Any delay in the process will expose the laxity of the school education department and prove that the private schools continue to have the upper hand in J&K. Also it will also expose the government’s hidden expenditure on the education of the students in government schools which they do not want to reimburse in the accounts of the private schools.
Now that the Government of India has made the admission of EWS in private schools a policy matter we can keep our expectations high that the process will be implemented in letter and spirit by the school education department and the private schools. Any laxity in it will deprive the poor students from getting quality education provided in private schools which will gradually tell upon their future. Let good sense prevail.