None of Mathew Peedikayil’s three children go to school. The Dahisar resident and his wife chose to home-school their children seven years ago, a decision under threat since the Right To Education (RTE) Act that came into force last year.
The Act, which came into force on April 1 2010, makes it mandatory for every child in the 6 to 14-year age group to be enrolled at a formal school.
A petition filed in the Delhi high court (HC) has challenged the Act saying it treats “education” as synonymous with “schooling”, and that such an interpretation discriminates against those, such as the Peedikayils, who opt out of the formal schooling system.
The petition, filed by Shreya Sahai, through her mother, argues that the Act does not accommodate gifted or talented children who opt out of the schooling system, or those in alternative schools.
The HC did not hear the petitioners’ arguments last Thursday when the matter came up for hearing, stating that the Supreme Court (SC) was already hearing petitions related to the RTE.
“The SC is hearing the RTE matter in relation to something different,” said Somnath Bharti, the petitioners’ counsel. “We will approach SC this week, saying that the HC did not hear us.”
The petitioners have argued that schooling is just one mode of education and individuals have the right to choose their mode for themselves.
Students who opted out of the school system could until now test themselves by taking exams conducted by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). Sahai, the petitioner, was being home schooled, and depending on the NIOS for testing.
However, human resources development minister Kapil Sibal told Bharti in an earlier meeting that NIOS would be discontinued.
The institute is running on an extension currently. As the petition says, parents are left with no choice but enroll their children in schools, curriculums and environments of the government’s liking.
The petition asks the court to direct the state to amend the RTE Act to include homeschooling and alternative schools in the “specified category” under which certain types of schools are exempted from the Act, and allow the NIOS to continue.