RTE Act a boon for poor students, but a bane of govt teacher aspirants

With parents preferring to admit kids in private schools under the 25% RTE quota, govt schools are losing out on students as well as posts of teachers.
RTE Act a boon for poor students, but a bane of govt teacher aspirants

Chennai

Even as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 is gaining traction in the State with more than 4.84 lakh students getting an opportunity to study in private schools since 2013-14, some pitfalls of the 'revolutionary' move are also slowly surfacing. According to State data, the 'intense' RTE drive by the Tamil Nadu government, despite stiff opposition from a section of the academicians, has deprived thousands of teaching aspirants of the opportunity to work in State-run schools.

Since RTE does not differentiate between the RTE quota allocation in government and private schools, most parents prefer to admit their children in private schools. This, in turn, has deprived jobs to teaching aspirants in the State-run schools even while drastically bringing down demand for seats in the government schools. The State had issued clear guidelines for effective implementation of 25 per cent reservation for students belonging to the disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in all private non-minority self-financing schools at entry level such as LKG and Class one in accordance with the RTE Act.

The RTE admissions in TN started slowly with only about 49,400 students getting admissions in private schools in 2013-14. However, following complaints, the School Education Department took several steps to ensure that private schools allocate 25 per cent of its seats to the weaker sections as stipulated under the RTE Act. The State government's move to encourage RTE in the state had led to severe criticism then.

However, it was the elementary government and government-aided schools that mainly took a hit. The students' admissions in these schools came down drastically over the last few years. Though the Tamil Nadu government spent more than Rs 30,000 crore for state education this academic year, the number of admissions to government and aided schools has drastically come down by more than four lakhs.

Special drive yields results
A senior official from the School Education Department said that unlike other states, the TN government, to ensure transparency in the filling of the 25 per cent RTE quota seats by the schools, had brought the entire admission process an online affair in 2017. He said the facility enabled the parents to apply online for admission and the schools came under obligation to grant admission, if eligible. “Arrangements were made to facilitate parents to apply online in all the educational offices at block and district level, for free," he said.

Also, if applications are more than the intake capacity of the school, lots are drawn in the presence of applicants and parents, the official said.

Huge cost to the exchequer
The government has fixed about Rs 25,000 as fees reimbursement to each student, who gets admitted in private schools under the RTE Act. The calculation is very simple. As per the data given by the Directorate of School Education, a little over 4,83,000 students have successfully got admissions through the RTE Act during the last six years. That means the government had to spend about Rs 1,200 crore. However, the government has so far reimbursed only Rs 644.69 crore to these private schools.

The official said the balance amount will be paid once the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) releases its share. Many private school managements in the State also complain that they did not receive the fees reimbursement for the students, who were admitted under the RTE Act.

How teaching jobs took a hit
With more than four lakh students getting admitted to private schools in LKG and class one under the RTE Act, among those who got affected are thousands of teaching aspirants, who were eyeing jobs in State-run schools during the last six years.

According to the data given by the State, on an average, about 90,000 students have joined private schools under the RTE Act every year. As per the teacher-student ratio, if these 90,000 students had got enrolled in the government schools, about 2,600 teachers would have got jobs, depending on the number of admissions in each institution.

An official from the School Education Department justified the government’s stand stating it is the State’s responsibility to ensure that the RTE Act is properly implemented in every district, with private schools setting aside 25 per cent of the students for the weaker sections in their neighbourhood. "Similarly, as more than four lakh students went to private schools under the RTE Act, it is quite natural that there will be a dip in number of students in the State-run schools during the same period," he said.

The official, however, admitted that the Tamil Nadu government’s ambitious target to admit at least one lakh children in LKG in State-run schools in the coming academic year is unlikely to bear fruition with parents more keen on admitting their kids to private schools under the RTE Act. It was in the last academic year that LKG classes were introduced in the State-run schools.

Discordant notes in RTE
Tamil Nadu Teachers' Association says the government is concentrating only on implementing the RTE Act instead of improving the infrastructure in State-run schools. Association president PK Ilamaran said the government is also spending about Rs 100 crore every year to reimburse the fees to the private schools that admit students from the underprivileged sections. “While the government takes up the responsibility to help private schools on RTE admissions, authorities should also concentrate on increasing admissions in government and its aided schools by improving its infrastructure facilities,” he said.

“The Act needs to be amended so that admissions in the government schools are not affected,” he added.

Echoing similar views, State Platform for Common School System (SPCSS-TN) general secretary PB Prince Gajendra Babu said no one denies the right to education to children.

“Every kid has the right to get a good education and RTE is a good initiative. However, it does not mean that RTE should affect admission in the government schools,” he said.
What is RTE Act?

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 guarantees children the right to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
How can one apply?

Applicants can log in to RTE-SSA website and fill up the application for the admission to the school coming in their locality range. One has to furnish the details of the student in a clear and legible format.

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