Reacting to Maharashtra education minister Vinod Tawde’s latest announcement on admission to Right to Education (RTE) seats, schools have said that they will be forced to charge fees from RTE students in kindergarten if it’s their entry level and the government does not reimburse them. Schools and parents are said to be unhappy with the announcement while education activists have opposed the decision to allow schools to choose their own entry-level while admitting RTE students.
In a meeting between Tawde and other government officials on Thursday evening, it was decided to allow schools to admit RTE students to kindergarten or Class 1, instead of the current system where the schools had to divide 25% students between kindergarten and Class 1, if their entry-level was pre-primary.
However, education activists said that the decision was against section 12 (c) of the RTE Act, 2009, which stipulates that schools have to compulsorily follow 25% quota from their entry-level, whatever that might be. “The state government does not have the power to amend the provisions of the act on their own,” said Avisha Kulkarni, a Goregaon-based activist.
Schools were upset by Tawde’s decision to not reimburse students for admissions in pre-primary. “We will be providing free education to nearly 534 seats in kindergarten. Plus, we are not being allowed to fill vacant seats in the quota,” said a spokesperson from the Goenka Educational Trust, which runs schools in Goregaon and Thane. “This will mean a huge revenue loss for us, if government doesn’t reimburse us how can we function?”
Amol Dhamdhere, vice-president of the Indian Education Society, which runs schools in Dadar and other places, said, “If we do not get reimbursements, we will not be able to pay teachers’ salaries. We will be forced to charge fees from the students then.”
There is also no clarity on how the government will implement the decision as admissions to RTE seats are already underway.
Meanwhile, as of Friday evening, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials were not aware of the new decision. “We will continue with our admission process until we receive a circular or a government resolution from the minister,” said Sambhavi Jogi, BMC education officer.
RTE admission timeline
December 2014 – January 2015: Schools put RTE admissions on hold waiting for government to announce common age limit and uniform schedule
January 21: The state school education department issued a government resolution (GR) implementing a two-layer entry system online admissions for RTE seats, this year. This allowed schools to divide the 25% mandatory quota of RTE students between nursery and Class 1
January 21: Another GR was issued setting a common age-limit for schools to admit students. Nursery was to be three years and Class 1 was six years
February 27 to March 23: The online admissions process begins. BMC received 4,847 applications for RTE seats
April 2: 2,596 students were allotted seats in kindergarten and Class 1 in private unaided non-minority schools. The admissions were as per two-layer entry system, dividing 25% seats between kindergarten and Class 1 in the schools having pre-primary as their entry-level
April 15: BMC education department pulled up schools for not admitting students allotted to them as per the new two-layer entry system
April 16: Education minister Vinod Tawde held a meeting with government officials in evening and decided to allow schools to choose their own entry-level.