The Delhi government recently released the nursery admission schedule for city schools, with a rider that the rules will not be applicable for all 1,700 schools in the city. The government said separate guidelines will be released for around 285 schools with distance/ neighbourhood as the main criteria for admission. The government claimed that the distance/ neighbourhood rule will make schools comply with the land allotment clause, which has been ignored for long.
The government’s move has, however, sparked a debate with a number of big schools of the city — like Bal Bharti, vasant Valley and Delhi Public — questioning whether distance can be an equaliser in the admission process?
Argument in favour of neighbourhood/distance rule:
Education activists said the rule is in confirmation with the Right to Education (RTE) Act, and it will help in streamlining the maddening rush for nursery admissions.
“The Right to Education (RTE) says that children should be able to get admission in a school near their home. SO this rule makes sense. There cannot be yardsticks that are different from the RTE,” said Khagesh Jha, a lawyer and member of NGO Justice for All. Justice for All has filed a petition at the Delhi High Court demanding the implementation of the allotment letter clause (what is the letter clause?).
Jha added that with this criterion fulfilled, it will also be easy for regulating and fixing the fees of the private schools.
“The policy behind land allotment was to provide affordable quality education to people living in the area. So once the admission starts taking place by the distance criteria the fees can be fixed as per paying capacity of parents,” said Jha.
Educationist Janaki Rajan said that having distance as the admission criteria is a “form of democratization”.
“In a country like ours, where rich and the poor are living together, admission with the distance criteria will help in bringing about heterogeneity in classrooms and schools,” said Rajan.
She, however, added that in Delhi there was a problem of town planning.
Argument against neighbourhood/distance rule:
Pointing out the problem of town planning, another set of experts and principals added that neighbourhood/distance cannot be the sole criteria for admission.
Ashok Ganguly, former CBSE chairperson and head of a 2007 committee which formulated nursery admission guidelines said he was not favour of the decision.
“There is no proper school mapping in Delhi and hence every area does not have a uniform concentration of schools,” said Ganguly.
He added: “Beside neighbourhood, some more parameters must be added so that the entire process becomes selective and not eliminative being the sole criterion for admission.”
Principals of various schools also had a similar line of argument.
“It cannot be an equalizer because there are many areas with no schools like North Campus and Sarita Vihar. Parents have no option but to send students to far off places. You need to have more criteria to make sure all applicants find a place in schools,” said Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal Springdales School, Pusa Road.