Sunday, February 28, 2010

No profiteering in education: HRD Minister

With a little over a month before the Right to Education Act is notified, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said that his ministry would hold consultations with the states to resolve issues such as fee structure and teachers’ salaries, that are likely to arise while implementing the Act. Stressing that the government will take steps to prevent commercialisation of education, Mr Sibal said that the consultation would be undertaken to evolve a policy so that “poor, marginalised, and disadvantaged” students are not adversely affected. “Our aim is to ensure that all children in India get quality education, but we are against commercialisation of education. Incessant hike of fee and overcharging from parents is something we do not support. I will talk to every state government on issues regarding implementation of the RTE Act from April 1. I will be meeting Delhi chief minister Sheila Diskhit on Monday regarding the same,” the minister said. Mr Sibal drew special attention to the need to provide some relaxation to “marginal” schools, which are currently not recognised.

The RTE makes it mandatory for all schools to be recognised. While state laws, such as that of Delhi, require that all recognised schools pay teachers according to government scales, and tuition fees of schools be regulated. This, according to Mr Sibal, would endanger good schools which are currently not recognised and serving marginal populations. The minister was of the view that some policy to ensure that such schools don’t go under needs to be evolved. “Schools should not be closed because of their poor economic conditions. We don’t want to close down marginalised, unrecognised schools for poor kids because our aim is not to marginalise these kids any more. In fact these schools should be protected. We will, therefore, encourage them to implement the guidelines of the RTE Act and will give them three years’ time to do so,” Mr Sibal said. While the Right to Education states that all schools have to recognised by the appropriate authority, it is silent on the issue of fee structure, an issue largely relating to private schools, and teacher salaries.

The minister said, “Each state has its own laws and we will be requesting them to bring their laws in conformity with the RTE. In cases where the state law and the RTE law are in conflict, the RTE will prevail and where there is no conflict, the state law will.” Drawing attention to issues that require consultation, the minister said, “for example, the RTE Act says that schools should have playgrounds. In schools in urban areas, there may not be enough space for a playground.

Source: The Economic Times, February 21, 2010

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