For the first time in four years, the number of applicants for online admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) quota has exceeded the available seats. Over 9, 451 students applied for the 9, 482 seats till Thursday evening-marking a 50% rise from last year. Education officials attributed the trend to increasing awareness regarding the seats.
Unaided, non-minority schools are supposed to reserve 25% of their seats for students from economically and socially weaker sections as stipulated by the RTE Act, 2009. In Mumbai, 334 schools are following the quota this year. This is the fourth year of the online admissions, which began in 2014.
Form-filling for the coming academic year, 2017-18, began on February 9. Around 6, 667 students had applied till February 25, following which the deadline for the entire state was extended till Thursday, March 2, by the state education department.
While form-filling was open till Thursday midnight, the number of applicants reached 9,451 by Thursday evening, a significant rise, compared to 6, 409 students vying for 9,664 seats across 317 schools in the last academic year. It was 4,351 in 2015-16 and 6,575 in 2014.
According to Mahesh Palkar, education officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the improved turnout is owing to various awareness drives to publicise RTE seats and an extension of the February 25 deadline. “Around 2, 633 more students could apply because the deadline was moved ahead. If it wasn’t then the number of applications would have been just a tad more than previous year,” said Palkar.
The BMC had conducted awareness drives, put up posters and advertised in 10 daily newspapers, to inform more people about the free seats. “Unlike the past three years, awareness about the RTE seats seems to be high among the public due to the constant media coverage. It has percolated the sections who stand to benefit from it,” said Palkar.
An online lottery will be held next week, most likely on Monday, to allot seats to the candidates. This year, schools were given the freedom to choose their entry-level, which could be kindergarten or class 1. But activists complained that most schools are keeping the entry-level as class 1 for RTE students, while it is kindergarten for others.
What the RTE Act states
As per the RTE Act, 2009, unaided, non-minority schools have to demarcate 25% seats for students from economically weaker sections who seek admission at the kindergarten or class 1.
The schools have to provide free education till Class 8 to these students
The schools cannot charge these students fees.
The fees of these students will be reimbursed to the schools by the state government.
Who is eligible?
The RTE Act defines families with an annual income of Rs1 lakh and less as eligible for admissions to seats reserved under the quota.
Candidates from disadvantaged groups such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes or those suffering from 40% or more disability
Candidates from economically weaker sections such as Vimukta Jati Nomadic Tribes (VJNT), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Special Backward Class (SBC)