Over 60 per cent of all recognized private schools in Delhi did not admit a single child from socio-economically disadvantaged families this year, claims a new study.
The study also says only 18,455 out of 42,827 seats reserved for such children under the RTE Act were filled in the current academic year.
Section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act requires that private unaided schools fill a quarter of their entry-level classroom strength with kids from economically weaker sections (EWS) and socially disadvantaged families. However, according to the study, out of 2,470 schools, 1,502 failed to admit a single child under the quota.
The report has been prepared by Indus Action, a non-profit working towards the implementation of this RTE provision.
A March 2015 study based on statistics given by District Information System for Education (DISE), had claimed that 92 per cent seats had been filled in 2013-14 in Delhi. However, it also said that the same data on different government websites was inconsistent, and could be unreliable.
The current study, titled “Status of Implementation of Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act”, is based on RTIs filed by Indus Action. Anurag Kundu, the author, said: “The March 2015 report had used DISE as the only source of data. Our data has been collated from multiple sources, including RTIs and other government documents. Had the correct data been available online, it would not have taken us five months to prepare this report.”
Kundu also said that while 57 per cent of the schools recognized by directorate of education (DoE) complied this year according to the website, the number of such MCD-recognized schools was less than 10 per cent. Schools beyond class 5 are recognized by DoE, while schools that run only till class 5 are recognized by Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
A directorate circular dated November 2 says that only 26 out of 964 MCD-recognized schools had submitted claims for reimbursements for children admitted under the quota. As many as 37 out of 272 municipal wards have zero fill rate, despite eight of them having over 100 reserved seats.
Anil Kumar, Assistant Director (Education), East Delhi Municipal Corporation, refused to comment whether the data about low compliance in MCD-recognized schools, seemed correct.
However, he said: “Parents usually prefer admitting their children to DoE-recognized schools, because DoE schools run till class 12. MCD-recognized schools are primary. Parents think that once their child gets admitted to class 1, he can stay there till class 12.”
Hemlata of Adarsh Bal Vidyalaya gave a similar reason for the school admitting only six students through the scheme in the current academic year. “We did not get applications. Being a middle school, parents prefer not to apply through this scheme,” she said.
An official in the Directorate of Education (North-East), said: “When there are more applications than number of reserved seats, we conduct draws, for which observers go for inspection. Schools submit data online. When there are parents whose children have not been admitted to a school, we send them to the ones which have EWS seats left.” The official agreed that seats are often left vacant because there are not enough applications.
Kundu agreed that sometimes it is true that parents do not choose to apply or are unaware of the provision. But he added: “There also are many schools which create barriers to hinder EWS applications, and later complain that no one applied.”
K.C. Gupta, manager of Canterbury Public School, said that his school is able to fill the 25 per cent seats reserved under the section 12(1)(c). He said that both the school and the directorate have copies of the data on EWS admissions, so that there could be no discrepancy.
Another school recognized by the directorate, Keshav Vidyamandir, said that the number of students admitted in 2015-2016, on the directorate website, was correct, and the school was able to fill its 25 per cent seats.
Kundu said that medium- and low-income schools are often unable to fill their reserved seats.
He added that the study would be made available to all MLAs. “We want to activate the political class for the next academic year. The report is simply written, without jargon and academic language.”
(Tanay Sukumar is a trainee journalist at Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, and a Teach For India Alumnus.)