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25% seats for poor in private schools: Govt

In a major shift from earlier draft RTE laws, the ministry has proposed that the government foot the educational cots of 25 per cent poor students, reports Chetan Chauhan.
Hindustan Times | By Chetan Chauhan, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 01:50 AM IST

Private schools will have to admit at least 25 per cent students from economically weaker sections and won’t be allowed to fail any student till class VIII, says the new Right to Education (RTE) Bill circulated by the HRD ministry.

Approved by the Planning Commission on Thursday, the bill has the consent of several other ministries, a top HRD ministry official told HT on Friday. It is likely to be introduced in the second half of Parliament’s budget session, slated to begin from April 15, as an enabling legislation to enforce Article 21 A of the Constitution — the fundamental right to education for children in the 6-14 age group.

In a major shift from earlier draft RTE laws, the ministry has proposed that the government foot the educational cots of 25 per cent poor students admitted in private schools on ‘per capita’ basis. State governments will have the freedom to decide on the quantum of educational costs per student.

Unaided schools will have the freedom to decide the students they want to select under the poor quota and they will run special courses to help poor students compete better with the affluent students. The government has, however, kept the powers to decide on the definition of poor students, thereby leaving no scope for private schools to tinker with the quota.

"The area education officer will ensure that all private schools admit these poor students," a senior government functionary said. Failure to enforce the quota would invite disciplinary action against the official, the bill states. The officers will be liable for action if the children are denied admission.

For the unreserved seats and admission in public schools, the government has proposed the Common School System that prescribes admission on first come first admit basis within an area of five kilometres. Even though the Kothari Commission in 1966 had recommended this system, Bihar recently became the first state to implement it.

To ensure that the Constitutional obligation of the government to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 is fulfilled, the draft bill debars the schools or education boards to fail a student till class VIII. "There would be a system of continuous evaluation and assessment with special tutorials for poor learners but no students would be allowed to fail," he said.

The bill also deals with the quality of education, the student-teacher ratio, minimum infrastructure facilities and duties of the state to provide the elementary schools required in a five-kilometre area.

But the biggest stalemate to implement the proposed law -- fund sharing between the states and the Centre -- remains unresolved.

The commission did not agree with the formula of the Centre sharing up to 90 per cent of the financial burden and decided to resolve the issue with the HRD ministry. "States performing badly on education indicators would require more money than better off states," explained a commission official.

However, money is not a constraint to implement the proposed law, as the finance ministry has in principle agreed to bear the cost of over Rs 2 lakh crore.

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