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Maharashtra: Commissioner of state education defends RTE changes amidst uproar

Updated on: 19 February,2024 07:10 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Suraj Mandhare provides rationale behind the controversial RTE Act amendments

Maharashtra: Commissioner of state education defends RTE changes amidst uproar

Education Commissioner Suraj Mandhare

Key Highlights

  1. State education commissioner has provided a comprehensive explanation
  2. Suraj Mandhare told mid-day that the portrayal of negative opinions is unfounded
  3. Mandhare himself and other officials from state education department suggested that move

Amidst criticism surrounding the recent amendment to the RTE Act, especially regarding the 25 per cent reservation in private schools for disadvantaged students, the state education commissioner has provided a comprehensive explanation regarding the rationale behind the government’s decision to implement these amendments.

Education Commissioner Suraj Mandhare told mid-day that the portrayal of negative opinions concerning government-aided and partially aided schools is unfounded, emphasising that the amendment will significantly impact the future positively.

All the criticism started pouring in following the latest amendment by the state government that relieved the majority of private unaided schools in the state from the mandatory requirement of allocating 25 per cent of seats for students from economically weaker sections (EWS). As per these amendments, if there is a government or aided school within a one-kilometre radius, students will be ineligible for admission to private unaided schools under the RTE.

However, Mandhare himself and other officials from the state education department suggested that the move will offer more seats and options for disadvantaged students. The department also said that the amendments are aimed at helping disadvantaged students get admissions in the schools nearest to them.

Mandhare said, “Detailed discussions were conducted on the implementation of the Right to Education Act at the regional level on May 6, 2022 in a meeting chaired by principal secretary of School Education. It was observed that many government and aided schools, despite having good facilities, were not included under the provisions of the RTE Act. The number of such schools was huge. Whereas those (private unaided schools) under the RTE were less in numbers, offering lesser seats.”

As per Mandhare during that meeting it was found that schools (private unaided) under RTE were paid /reimbursed only academic fees by the government as per the regulations, thus depriving these students of other facilities available at the schools.

Mandhare emphasised, “Some parents are adamant about specific schools, but with only 8,000 schools covered under RTE while the state boasts over one lakh schools, many parents struggle to afford the fees for their children, especially since RTE compensation only extends up to class VIII. The new education policy proposes integrating pre-primary sections with primary schools, prompting us to explore provisions in other states like Karnataka, Haryana, and Punjab, which have independently framed laws for RTE implementation.”

“Following the May 22 meeting and subsequent study of three states, a detailed proposal was sent to the government on February 14, 2023. This matter has been under government-level discussion for the past two years before the decision for changes was made. The state’s School Education Department formally issued a gazette notification to this effect on February 9,” Mandhare clarified.

“Justifying the amendments further,” Mandhare continued, “the government, through its schools, aided, and partially aided, significantly contributed to the education system. Limiting the entire RTE Act to only certain private schools, while excluding a substantial number, is unjust.”

According to data from the state education commissioner’s office, nearly 18 lakh students apply for class I seats annually, yet only 85,000 students are enrolled in RTE 25 per cent reservation schools.

“Government-run and aided schools receive substantial funding for teaching and non-teaching grants. Why, then, should these schools fall under the RTE Act?” Mandhare questioned. “Considering this scenario and successful patterns observed in other states, amendments were made,” he added.

However, the exclusion of private unaided schools from admitting economically weaker section students has sparked intense dissatisfaction among parents and activists. Many criticise the government, claiming that admission to private English-medium schools is no longer viable, leaving students with no option but district council, municipal, or aided schools.

Addressing this, Mandhare clarified, “This amendment doesn’t halt admissions in private schools. Private schools without nearby government or aided schools will remain on the RTE admission list and must comply with regulations.”

“It’s noticed that unwarranted negative opinions circulate regarding the quality of government-aided and partially aided schools. Students excel in scholarships and exams after receiving education from these schools. Most students across the state successfully complete primary education in government-run and aided schools, which also strive to deliver education in English,” Mandhare added.

However, parent groups advocate for inclusion rather than exclusion. Arundhati Chavan, president of the Parents Teachers Association United forum, said, “If the goal is to increase school numbers, why exclude private unaided schools? The majority will be out of the RTE ambit due to this 1 km rule. Schools already flout many RTE rules, including mandatory recognition under the act. I suggest including all government-run, aided, and private unaided schools. If students lack facilities, it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure they’re not left behind.” 

May 6
Day in 2022 meeting was held for amendment in the act

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