March 12, 2021 1:36:02 am
Seeking dismissal of a petition praying for extension of free education under the RTE Act beyond class VIII for children belonging to disadvantaged and economically weaker sections, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court that its policy statement for school education — National Education Policy 2020 — “does not talk about” the extension. It further said that such students, after passing Class VIII from private unaided schools, are provided admission in neighbourhood government secondary schools.
Under RTE Act Section 12(1)(c), private schools are required to reserve 25% seats for students belonging to EWS and disadvantaged groups. However, the benefit is limited up to class VIII. The government in 2019, before a division bench of the HC, had said the issue of extension of free education even after attaining the age of 14 years or beyond Class VIII and up to Class XII is under active consideration. As many as 43,72,723 students were admitted in private schools across India in 2019-20 under the Section.
The reply has been filed by the government in response to a petition by Social Jurist, a civil rights group. Advocate Ashok Aggarwal, appearing for the petitioner, last week argued before a single bench that parents of such children are not in a financial position to pay hefty school fees to unaided private schools in classes IX and onwards. “If a student has studied from nursery to class VIII in an English-medium unaided private school and is asked to go to government school…, great prejudice would be caused to such students…,” the petition argues.
However, the Centre has said government schools in Delhi also “have an English-medium section” and students will not face change of medium. It has also said schools under Delhi government as well as most private schools in the national capital are affiliated to the CBSE.
Submitting that only 17 states and UTs have started admission in private unaided schools under Section 12(1)(c), the government said any extension or amendment in the provision “will need to be examined in the context of the whole RTE Act…”
The government has also said that many children after Class VIII, and especially after Class X, opt for alternatives like open schooling, vocational education and employment. It has also said the centrally sponsored scheme, Samagra Shiksha programme, provides additional support to states and UTs to achieve “universal and quality education” from pre-primary to higher secondary education.
“NEP 2020 also talks about various strategies for continuation of education after class VIII…,” it has told the court in a reply.
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