Sanjay Deshmukh is a former special project director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which is in charge of enforcing the Right to Education (RTE) Act in the state.
How many students have benefited from the Act so far?
The director of education informed me that 62,000 students received admission in various schools across the state under the 25% quota. Most schools have flouted the Act, but we have decided to not take any action against the errant schools. We understand that since the notification came at short notice, schools that had completed the admission process faced a problem. However, the rule will be made stricter from next year.
What are the biggest challenges in implementing the Act this year?
The lack of awareness about the Act has been the main problem. From October, the Act and its benefits will be advertised over the radio through FM channels. Another problem was improving the quality of education in schools. Incompetence has been a big problem. Last year, the teachers’ union had even opposed a test to evaluate teachers. Schools should also take the initiative to improve the quality of education.
One of the complaints from several schools was that they will need to bear the cost for students admitted under the quota, which would be a huge amount, given the high fees charged by IB schools.
The government will reimburse schools up to Rs. 10,200 per student. Why are IB schools charging such high fees? Only for an air-conditioned environment? The primary classes (Class 1 to Class 5) run only for 200 days and the secondary for about 230 days in a year. Such exorbitant fees are unnecessary.
In any case, they will have to bear the cost of students under the quota. But as far as I know, no IB school has followed the 25% clause this year.
What are the limitations of the Act?
Keeping a check on schools is a tedious process. For example, we are aware that several schools are still following the interview process, which is not allowed under the Act, but there have been no official complaints from parents so far. Thus, we have not been able to take action against such schools.