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Maharashtra: State govt dilutes 1-km admissions rule

Updated on: 16 February,2024 06:54 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Order, which will eventually see reduction of RTE seats in private schools, draws criticism from all quarters

Maharashtra: State govt dilutes 1-km admissions rule

Educationists have slammed the move, claiming it’s aimed towards helping private unaided schools. Representation Pic

Key Highlights

  1. Latest amendment to the RTE Act has relieved the majority of private unaided schools
  2. The state’s school education department issued a gazette notification to this effect
  3. Any unaided schools selected under the RTE Act will not be reimbursed by local authorities

The latest amendment to the Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009 by the state government has 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 the amendment, 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 Act.

The state’s school education department issued a gazette notification to this effect to government officials on February 9, but it was made public on Thursday. Under RTE, 25 per cent of seats in reputed private unaided schools from primary to Std VIII are reserved under the RTE Act. This meant that financially disadvantaged students could receive a quality education or education in private unaided schools regardless of their financial situation thanks to the RTE.

About 60,000 to 80,000 parents from each district apply for admissions under RTE. Representation PicAbout 60,000 to 80,000 parents from each district apply for admissions under RTE. Representation Pic

However, the gazette notification by the state stated: “But provided that under the Maharashtra Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Minimum 25 per cent Admission Method for Children from Disadvantaged and Weaker Sections at the Level of Class I or Pre-Primary Class) Rules, 2013 for admission of 25 per cent from deprived and weaker sections to private unaided schools, schools that have government schools and aided schools within a one-kilometre radius, such schools will not be selected by the local authority (sic).” This implies that the nodal body or local authority, the BMC in the case of Mumbai, will not include such schools in the list of options for parents to choose from, thereby exempting them from implementing the 25 per cent reservation clause.

Also, any unaided schools selected under the RTE Act will not be reimbursed by local authorities for the costs incurred, as specified in the law. As a result, there will be a reduction in the number of RTE admissions. Parents from economically weaker sections will now be required to enrol their children in government schools if available, rather than choosing private unaided schools for admission.

The amendments will be implemented from the academic year 2024-25, the state government will initiate the RTE admission process accordingly, said State Deputy Secretary Tushar Mahajan. This has led to intense dissatisfaction among parents, education activist and RTE advocates. Moreover, the delay in receiving the reimbursement amount from the government has put additional strain on school administrators. Additionally, since admission to private English-medium schools is not an option anymore, students will not have any alternatives other than district council, municipal or aided schools.

Arundhati Chavan, Parents’ Teachers’ Association United ForumArundhati Chavan, Parents’ Teachers’ Association United Forum

Every year, more than three to four lakh parents apply online for their children’s admission under the RTE. About 60,000 to 80,000 parents from each district apply for admissions under the RTE quota. Now, all these students will have to be accommodated in government or municipal-run schools or aided schools.

Activists, educationists cry foul

Hemangi Joshi, education activist and convener of the Right to Education Forum, Maharashtra, said, “This particular rule/amendment contradicts the primary provision of the RTE Act. The original Act does not impose conditions regarding distance for admissions of children from weaker sections in private unaided schools. Each state is mandated to establish rules to facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the Act, not to alter the original provision. While the implementation of this specific rule by the state government appears to limit the privatisation of education, its acceptability hinges on its alignment with the provisions of the original Act.”

Arundhati Chavan from Parents' Teachers' Association United Forum said she was shocked by the move. “Already, the government was very lenient towards implementation of the RTE Act, now it has openly exempted private unaided schools from it. Is the government guaranteeing that all these disadvantaged students will be accommodated in government-run or aided schools? Will they ensure the quality of education? This is a very bad move, aimed towards helping private unaided schools, which have been opposing the reservation clause since day one."

Mukund Kirdat from Aam Aadmi Party's Parents’ Union alleged the amendment was aimed at denying education rights of students from economically weaker sections. “This is deeply concerning. These clauses of RTE Act intended to provide educational opportunities to underprivileged and economically weaker sections in private schools which otherwise would be unaffordable for them,” he said.

Nitin Dalvi of Maharashtra State Student Parents Teachers Federation said the social integration of disadvantaged in private schools is crucial. “However, due to the decision, there will be a direct economic division, with affluent children attending elite schools and impoverished children attending poor schools. Previously, students from marginalised communities had access to scholarships for English education, which is now no longer available. It is imperative to prioritise subsidised and government schools. The decision to enforce English education in government schools and to enhance their standards is crucial and needs to be implemented by the government in this case. I will be adding this matter to my ongoing public interest litigation in Bombay High Court about the RTE implementation case.”

‘Financial strain’

S C Kedia, general secretary of the Unaided Schools Forum, stated, “There are pending RTE reimbursements owed to private unaided schools in Maharashtra amounting to not less than Rs 1,800 crore to R2,000 crore. Although the state government allocates funds for reimbursements annually, the budgetary provision has never matched the required disbursement amount. As a result, the government lacks the funds to settle the dues, leading to an accumulation of pending payments each year. This has significantly increased the financial strain on private unaided schools. We proposed an alternative solution to alleviate this burden. Instead of mandating RTE admissions in private schools, we recommended focusing on filling vacant seats in aided and government schools to strengthen the public education system.”  Under RTE admissions, 25 per cent of seats are reserved in private schools for children from socio-economically backward classes, and the government covers their fees through reimbursements to the schools. Kedia added, “We applaud this initiative as it benefits all parties involved and provides a mutually beneficial outcome, a win-win for all.”

Rajendra Chorge, vice-president, Independent English Schools’ Association (IESA) Maharashtra, also hailed the move. “Due to this decision, the number of students in government and municipal schools will increase, and the financial burden on the government will decrease. However, as all schools being mandated for RTE admissions under the RTE Act is restrictive, due to the erroneous methods adopted since the implementation of the Act, unaided English-medium schools have suffered significant losses. Many flaws in the RTE Act need to be addressed. By implementing the latest amendments, deserving justice will be provided to the needy and disadvantaged children.”

Govt Speak

>> The education department claimed the amendments were aimed at helping disadvantaged students get admission to the schools nearest to them.

>> Claiming to explain the gazette notification, the state education department issued a statement on Thursday evening that read, “Under the RTE Act, at present, only unaided and self-financing schools have to admit students under the reservation quota. Its scope is now being extended. Local-self-government schools, government-aided schools and partially aided schools are also being made available for these admissions. Some other states have been following such a procedure for many years. Due to this amendment, all types of schools in the state will be available for admission under the Act.”

>> Government schools and non-aided schools within a one-kilometre radius of a private unaided school will be available for a 25 per cent admission process, which means unlike earlier when only 8,823 schools in the state were available for RTE admissions, now all types of institutes, 80,638 in all, will be available.

>> State Education Commissioner Suraj Mandhare said, “All eligible children should be admitted to nearby schools and the scope of education rights should be expanded. This change has been made with that intention. While the basic principle remains intact, new schools have been added to it.” 

Feb 9
Day gazette notification was issued

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