Last year, the figure of students who got admissions under the RTE quota was around 1.05 lakh. According to Sharad Gosavi, deputy director of education (primary), Maharashtra, this year, so far, about 37,000 students have sought admissions under the RTE quota. “We know that the figure is less this year but if you study it holistically, you will realise that the number of applications are also lesser in comparison to previous years. We have about 1, 17,000 lakh seats under 25 per cent RTE quota.”
Gosavi said, “Last year, there were over 1,20,000 applications for available seats but this year, the number of applications from parents has fallen down to 77,000. We are yet to know why the number of applications has fallen. However, the government has decided to find ways by which we can increase the numbers that has prompted us to allow taking in fresh applications in districts with few takers,” he said.
State primary education directorate officials said that even the state government is looking at the dip in numbers with some concern. One of the reasons being cited for the dip in number of applicants is the government’s decision to introduce mandatory online application system. Until last year, the process was even being conducted offline with parents physically visiting centres and filling up forms and only a few districts having the online application system.
“This year, the process was made online everywhere and we think that in rural pockets, people may not have been ready for it,” said one official. However, senior government officials had a different take. Nand Kumar, principal secretary, school education and sports department, said that fewer applications could indicate the success of government schools in the rural pockets.
“We are studying why there were fewer applications this year. We don’t think that the process going online is the reason for it as we did not see any kind of opposition over it. We think fewer applications are a result of success of Zilla Parishad-run schools that have raised their standard of education,” he said. Meanwhile, the primary education department has given the permission to restart the procedure of online applications in certain districts. However, not many are sure of how successful the process will be.