Apropos Aarish Chhabra’s column titled ‘Right of admission reserved’ (HT Sunday Read, December 20), I, as a member of the school fraternity, will like to respond to his views with a different perspective.
With the process for new admissions on at this time of the year, private unaided schools are once again the subject of derogatory remarks without a clear understanding of the actual position. This article will delineate some basic facts that everyone needs to be aware of in this context.
Contrary to popular assumption, every private school (that is affiliated to any Indian board) has to be a non-profit organisation and the school derives its income only from fees (except some fortunate ones through donations, grants etc). Whenever there is any attempt to reserve free quotas in any form, there is a shortfall that the schools helplessly pass on the paying children.
The most frequent argument that the administration cries itself hoarse with, and advances in the favour of free quotas is that land to private schools was allotted at ‘concessional’ rates. The press also has been quick to believe this. The reality is different.
In 2001, schools were allotted land at Rs 1,800 per sq yard — land that cost the government `1,200 (including development charges). A 50% markup is a very fine concession indeed! So, even as the Right to Education is the law of the land, where is the justice?
The per-child cost of an ‘elite’ school is, say, between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000. The government forces the school to teach 25% of its children free of cost and offers Rs 700 as compensation — that too after three years. Is this justice? If the RTE Act is not repealed soon, the average upper-middle and middle-class parent will end up paying an additional 33% to subsidise the 25% children admitted under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category.
Universal education is a noble aim. Our Constitution states that the state should provide free and compulsory education to all; and the government calmly seeks to abdicate its responsibility to the private sector. The role of private schools is to provide excellence in education not universal education.
Are restaurants, hotels, factories making cloth etc obliged to part with 25% of their production for free? Do the thousands of people living in their own houses set aside 25% of their homes to accommodate EWS families?
Charity is a fine and people also believe it is a noble thing, but only if they are not at the giving end. If the state can make laws to dump its responsibility into the laps of private schools, why should minority schools not seek the guarantees and protections provided by the Constitution?
Private unaided schools are doing a fine and noble job. Let them just do it. Further government interference will only make things worse.
The author is secretary, The Independent Schools Association, and director-principal, Saupin’s Schools. Views expressed are personal.