By Betwa Sharma
Posting in Education
DELHI -- Kids of a doorman and a doctor can now attend the same school because every poor child has the right to demand free education. But who's footing the bill?
DELHI -- This month, India’s Supreme Court ruled that children from poor economic backgrounds will have access to 25 percent of seats in the country’s private schools. The ruling upheld the constitutional validity of the Right to Education Act 2009, which mandates free education for every child between ages 6 to 14.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has famously remarked, "I read under the dim light of a kerosene lamp. I am what I am totally because of education. So I want that the light of education should reach to all."
The ruling got mixed reactions ranging from "landmark" to completely unfair. Parents express fear about the quality of education deteriorating in private schools, which they pay a hefty fee for. SmartPlanet spoke with experts on both sides of the debate.
Private schools argue that providing totally free education violates their right to operate independently. They don’t see how see how private schools will maintain their standards if 25 percent of students have to be provided free education without adequate financial support from the government or hiking fees.
Providing for underprivileged children, they insist, is the responsibility of the state. Government-run schools in India are notorious for providing poor quality education to millions of children. So, the judgment is perceived as lessening the government’s burden to improve its schools. “Most countries in the world there is viable system of state education. The question is how far the state can abdicate it responsibility,” asks Jyoti Bose, director of Springdales School in Delhi. “Do they want to reduce the private schools to the common school system?
There are a diverse range of private schools in India catering to different income levels. Those, resisting change, are criticized for being snobs. “Private schools, especially the ones that are deemed as elite or prestigious have a big problem with the act as it can rob them of their status,” says Ashok Agarwal, a prominent advocate known for championing universal education.
Agarwal sees the possibility of an overall improvement in the quality of education in both government and private schools since the law requires every school to have proper teachers and infrastructure in order to be recognized by a school board. “This would mean that even the government schools will have to get their act together to create an atmosphere for learning,” he says.
The government will spend Rs. 1190 ($20) a month on a child admitted to a private school, which is the amount it spends in a government school. Agarwal finds this amount “adequate” even though private school provide way more facilities. Bose does not find it adequate. “I am not saying nor asking for unreasonable amounts but what all will this amount cover,” she says. “What will this cover the uniforms or text books or IT education?" Others question whether the government even has the funds to provide for millions of more kids-- at the government school rate.
Previously, the Delhi government had extended 25 percent reservations for “Economically Weak Sections” (EWS) in the capital’s schools that were set up on government lands available at lower rates. “Initially a number of schools complained, but things have settled down since and the experiment has been successful,” says Agarwal.
Bose, however, presents another side. She recalls an EWS application from parents who worked as university lecturers. They applied under the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), which was included in EWS. The director didn’t see how the couple fit in with parents who were rag pickers or ran tea stalls. “So I write to the education minister and I say look they are earning this much, they have given their income certificate. But he says you have to take them,” she says.
Bose concludes that simply admitting children without testing their ability doesn’t make the school inclusive or equal. “We have become more and more differentiated,” she says. “Now we know everybody's economic state, which we did not know before. Caste has become more pronounced than it ever was.”
Apr 22, 2012
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I am an B.tech final year student from Andhrapradash in my state the gov provides free education for the BC,Sc&st students who want to go through b.tech education but the income of there parents is basic criteria and u know what these people do they all fake there income and get a certificate and get free education. In the end the people above the poverty line get free education and the people below are not able to use this opportunity. Let us imagine that this rule comes into existence i don't think it will do any good because people will fake there income certificates and get free education.
Maybe they should try that in Washington, D.C., where the government kids go to classy, expensive private schools.
I don't understand how the Supreme Court's judgement is fair at all. Should the 76th child be denied education to a institute because he is rich? How is this different from denying education to a poor child? If the Courts wanted to be fair they should have passed a judgement that required the schools to evaluate the students based on their abilities and not their economic or social background. Bose is right about this. Also the fact that economic status has nothing to do with caste any longer but is still treated so means that many students who are backward but able to afford facilities can avail of the same for free. Additionally how would the economic backward children interact socially with the rest of the students? I don't believe the Court's judgement will be beneficial to anyone.
Looks like this is just a way for Politicians to garner some votes. If children are allowed 'right to education' by being allowed to go to any school, then on same lines they have a right to food and they should be allowed to just barge in any hotel/food joint and be able to eat and let the govt. pay Rs.10 or what ever the low amount to these hotels. This is not the way to go about this. Getting a law to force private sector to provide service and not pay for it is just not right. Just because the govt. can not provide quality service/education does not mean you force the private sector to provide the same service and not pay the reasonable price for it. Same goes for other sectors like food and health. All humans have the right to food and health too...so then should we force these sectors too to provide the same level of service to all whether one can pay for it or not? How will the private sector then be able to manage its level of service? Rather then forcing such things, wouldnt it be better to reduce govt. expenses which are put in Defense(weapons and more weapons) and pass laws which reduce/prevent corruption(Lokpal bill) and divert these gains to providing quality education, health and food to all the needy. This would be a more constructive way of going about this and a definitely a more sustainable way. But I guess humans are more near sighted when it comes to the masses. I doubt anyone (especially the politicians) would be interested in any long term solutions.
Think everyone should be able to get equal education, if they desire. That is as long as they don't teach dog eat dog and everything will be held against you like they do here in the U. S. S. A. "United Socialist States of America".
Hi Betwa, I think the article is researched. Just wanted to point out at one thing. For the 1190 figure you have quoted, it should be mentioned that only the Delhi govt's figure. According to the law, each state has to determine it's own figure. In fact, our research shows that every district should determine its own figure, as the per-child-expenditure per district varies drastically! You can see some of the figures here - http://accountabilityindia.in/accountabilityblog/2503-what-child-expenditure-government-schools
I view education as an investment in the future, to educate our replacements to take over what we do now and the new technologies that are in constant process. It used to be a measure of how highly civilized a country was to have as high a percentage of literacy as well as other things. Paying for schooling is a tough part. People used to be happy to pay taxes to pay for schooling because it meant that their children would have opportunities they (the parents) could never get. A well educated population is a wealthy one with good prospects for the future.
just a word of caution, i am also from asia, an international school had this thing in our country and one of the kids from the poor family committed suicide. apparently the child had some sort of difficulty accepting the reality that his/her rich classmates have all this wealth.... their single room house is smaller than the garages of the rich classmates. i have nothing against this program.... this is a good program, but a personal psychological monitoring should accompany this program......
There is a difference between accessable and equal education and what i believe is a homogenized education such as the USA education system. I have grown up in Europe and my classes were a mixture of kids coming from wealthy families and others that would spend their free time helping their parents in their land growing vegetables. I've rarely encountered any problems such as the Dog Eat Dog phenomena, and that's because kids were taught to develop their own skills rather than just feeding the same tasteless curricula down their throat to every single one of them. I think that as long as classes are kept small there is not going to be any problem. Another advantage of having small classes would be contained bullism.