The Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas could be kept out of the contentious no-screening mechanism for school admissions that has come into effect with the Right to Education Act.
In its response to the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministrys queries on the issue,the Law Ministry has said Navodaya schools are a class apart and so applying the neighbourhood concept or no-screening method to them will prevent talented students from making it to the schools,defeating their purpose and mandate.
The Law Ministers view also offers a more pragmatic approach for private as well as minority schools,suggesting they be allowed to fix eligibility criteria for admissions both have been opposing the no-screening clause (Section 13 RTE),saying it will infringe on their autonomy and merit-based processes.
Attorney General of India Goolam E Vahanvati says the Navodaya schools apart,even private schools while they may be asked to desist from taking a test to admit students will be fully within their rights to fix an eligibility criteria.
This could range from prescribing a certain amount of fee to prescribing the eligibility criteria and this would not be read as screening.
A linguistic minority institution,on the other hand,has the right to fill seats left after the 25 per cent compulsory reservation for students from disadvantaged sections from a particular linguistic minority group provided the selection is done in a random method.
The provision of Section 13 is introduced with an avowed objective of protecting young children or parents from a test. It does not mean there cannot be any criteria or eligibility at all. There may be selection on objective and relevant criteria, the AG has said in his opinion.
It has been added that the meaning of screening has to be interpreted keeping in mind the nature of the school.
The Right to Education Act that promises free education to all children between six and 14 years,came into effect on April 1 this year. While the Act seems to suggest that there should be no screening in school admissions,several private schools have objected to this criteria.
Private schools apart,the likes of central government-run Navodaya Vidyalayas,mandated to provide modern education to talented children from remote areas,have also asked the HRD ministry to exempt themfrom the screening clause.
The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) even shot off a notice to NVS for holding an all-India level entrance test earlier this year for admission to 500-odd Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalyas.
Section 13 (1) of the RTE Act says that no school or person shall,while admitting a child,collect any capitation fee and subject the child or his or her parents or guardian to any screening procedure.
Section 13(2) says any school or person,if in contravention of the provision of sub-section subjects a child to the screening procedure,shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs 25,000 for the first contravention and Rs 50,000 for each subsequent contraventions.