Pre-schools linked with a parent primary school will not fall under the purview of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in Maharashtra, with the state government rescinding a four-month-old circular.
Admissions in all pre-primary schools will not have to comply with the norm requiring reservation of 25 per cent seats for children from disadvantaged sections following the government’s latest move.
While a government notification issued in January this year had ruled that pre-schools linked with a parent primary school must comply with the quota for admission in the pre-primary classes (nursery and kindergarten itself), the school education department has now issued orders revoking this notification.
A fresh notification issued on April 30 fixes admissions for standard I as the entry level point under the RTE quota for all category of schools including such pre-schools. A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, admitted that the latest decision was taken in light of pressure exerted by top education barons.
B R Mali, under secretary, school education, has said in the notification that the fresh orders had been issued to streamline admissions under RTE Act and avoid confusion caused due to multiple entry-level points.
Nand Kumar, principal secretary, education department, said, “The basic principle of the RTE Act is to provide education free of cost to students from disadvantaged section in the 6-14 age group. The government is keen to uphold this principle.”
After the Bombay High Court last year disallowed a petition from an education society, controlled by a top state politician, seeking exemption from RTE Act in pre-school admissions, some pre-schools had argued they would be forced to charge fees from RTE Act students if it was considered as an entry level and the government did not reimburse them.
The fresh orders also came in the wake of another observation by the court which had asked the state government to reimburse institutions for such students, a senior official said.
“The government feels it cannot afford the additional expenditure,” the official added. Besides reimbursement of fees, educational institutes owning school-linked nurseries and kindergartens had also raised the issue about being forced to implement multiple-entry levels for admissions under RTE Act.
The government’s U-turn comes at a time when the 2015-16 academic year is about to commence. The government’s order itself acknowledges that several pre-primary admissions had been done under the RTE Act quota this year. But in a move that could lead to some discomfort families who have secured such admissions, the government has now ruled that admissions to pre-schools under RTE now stood cancelled. It has, however, introduced a rider binding the same schools to grant admissions to such students in standard I after two or three years.
The government has also clarified that for RTE-compliant pre-schools, there won’t be a need for reserving more seats under the quota in standard I if the enrollment ratio does not change in the higher grade. But for cases where the intake capacity in standard I is more, the 25 per cent norm would also be applicable to the additional seats on offer.
The school education department has also cleared decks for filling up unclaimed seats under RTE in standard I under the general quota. The government’s fresh orders rule that the RTE process must be taken up in three rounds between December 15 and March 10.
Sudhir Paranjape, member, Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Andolan, an RTE advocacy group, slammed the government move. “This is nothing but denial of Right to Education. It will adversely impact hundreds of students already granted RTE admissions in pre-schools. We have convened a meeting of all those affected, and plan to petition before the government.”
Despite several attempts, there was no response from Education Minister Vinod Tawde, who was travelling to Nagpur.
(with inputs from Dipti Singh)