Education Commissioner S Chockalingam answers questions on the implementation of the Right to Education Act in the state and the policies being formulated to strengthen educational infrastructure, in an Idea Exchange moderated by Assistant Editor Sandeep Ashar.
Dipti Singh: The education system is going through a transition due to the Right to Education Act. Due you think because of this, agencies such as the BMC and the Directorate of Education are passing the buck over implementation of policies?
I don’t think that if things are put in the proper place it is possible. It is about how you keep your communication channels open, how you communicate and get things done. We had a meeting with the BMC additional commissioner to decide which organisation will take what decision. It is a question of having the willpower and the ability to explain to the other entity as to what is expected and taking over responsibility if necessary, which is exactly what we have done for Mumbai.
Sandeep Ashar: What action is being taken against schools where admissions have not been carried out under RTE in the past two years?
There are two ways of handling any issue. One is taking action post facto. Second is ensuring it doesn’t occur. I believe in making sure that it doesn’t occur. The reason as to why we have focused on only Mumbai and Pune is because these are the places where this huge differentiation occurs. There are international schools and the poorest of people. It is always better to make a systemic change. For normal admission today, maybe you have to go to a school, you might not be permitted to enter. In RTE, you don’t have to go to a school and even if you are, you are going to a help centre. A school cannot deny entry to the help centre because it is not for their admission. It is an admission to the online process. So people can go and apply and then they are allotted at random.
Manasi Phadke: Are the people from deprived sections of society, the ones who are most eligible for RTE, making use of the online facility?
Because certain segments of society cannot go online, we have put up help centres. People can just walk in with physical papers and it will be done by our officials. This is being done here as well as in Pune. Yesterday, a poor labourer got admission in a school in Pune. However, the response in Mumbai is much lesser than in Pune. I am not very happy. It is part of our duty to create more awareness about this facility.
Dipti Singh: Do you think, by any means — offline or online — is RTE reaching out to all EWS students?
RTE has two-three parts. One is it gives right to education, in any school. It is not restricted to any particular type of school. Second, every school except exempted continued…