Pre-primary sections illegal, says Maharashtra child rights commission

If you are sending your child to pre-primary classes, you are violating the Right to Education Act as well as the Child Rights Act. How, you ask? Here’s the answer: The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) yesterday, while hearing cases of schools not admitting children under RTE, said law says education must be provided only after the age of six and questioned the existence of pre-primary sections in schools, as there is no such provision in any legislation.

The child rights panel further asked the schools to submit a response in writing about who gave them permission to run pre-primary sections when there is no such regulation. It then asked the state education department to submit a reply stating how are they allowing admissions in pre-primary sections. Both the schools and the education department have been asked to submit their replies within three days.

“I can impose a fine on stakeholders for indulging in an act for which there is no provision under any law. However, these questions also need to be resolved. Hence, I have asked all the parties to submit their response on the questions that have been raised,” said A N Tripathi, secretary of the commission while hearing the case.

“I am shocked that these children are below the age of six years and hence they cannot come under RTE Act because it talks about children in the age group of 6-14 years. When there is no such provision, how can children be schooled at this young age? How are these schools running? And under which law has the authority granted them permission? These things need to be looked into,” said Tripathi, while adding that he had many times send recommendations to concerned authorities about regulating pre-primary section.

Parents speak
Diksha Shah, mother of a three-year-old from Kandivali, who is trying to get her kid admitted into pre-primary section of a school, “This is very confusing as pre-primary sections have been running forever. I was also once enrolled in a pre-primary class. Schools too do not take children in from Std I and many schools do not even admit children, who went to pre-primary in any other school. In today’s competitive world, we cannot let our child be left behind.”

The difference between entry-level and pre-primary has become confusing due to the panel’s current stance. Jayant Jain, President of Forum for Fairness in Education, an NGO, said, “By raising such questions, they are just confusing parents, which will benefit schools. Government is anyway hands-in-glove with private schools.”

About the case
The commission was hearing cases of 12 children, whose parents had complained that five Mumbai schools weren’t allowing their kids admission at the entry level despite them being allotted those schools. The matter came to hearing after these parents, with several others, held a daylong hunger strike last week outside the commission’s office in Worli. However, after coming to know of the children’s age, the commission instead raised questions over them going to school at all.

Expert speak
Dr Samir Dalwai, a developmental pediatrician and president of Mumbai’s Academy of Pediatrics, said, “It cannot be a violation of the law because there is no law to regulate pre-primary sections. Pre-primary education across country is not standardised and government needs to look into it. And also, it is parents who are driving this market of pre-primary schools by focusing only on academics instead of holistic development.”

Swati Popat, president of Podar Education Network and expert in early childhood education, said, “The state already has a provision to allow admissions in the pre-primary section under RTE, as those are the entry- levels of schools. The state also has an early childhood education policy that specifies that until age four it is play method and the formal learning begins after it.”

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