RTE: Counter view-point

RTE: Counter view-point

Ever since the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 25 per cent provision in private unaided schools the government and many social organisations are ecstatic about it. If one thinks rationally about it one may realise that it may create more problems than solve them.

The court in its wisdom has excluded the unaided minority schools, which then means that the Act is applicable only to other private schools. Schools like Aditi in Bangalore, Sriram public school in Delhi, Poddar and Ambani school in Mumbai fall in this category.
Who are the students who go to these schools? It is not even the middle class but the rich. Most of the middle class children attend convents and other Christian run institutions. There are also many other lesser known private schools in practically every locality in a city where the teaching standard is no better than in the government run schools.

If one makes a casual study one will find that very few students from the elite public schools make it to the IITs or similar institutions. Most of them appear for SAT exam and proceed abroad to join universities in the USA or Singapore. Today there is hardly any child who appears for a board exam without joining tutorials. Apart from paying exorbitant fees to the school the parents are also shelling out hefty sums to the tutorials.

End result

In many of the elite schools, school trips mean foreign jaunts. Children’s birthday parties are held in five star hotels or prestigious clubs with event managers deciding the theme of birthday parties. Take home presents perhaps cost more than the monthly income of a poor Indian. Children come to school in chauffer driven Mercedes and BMWs. In such a scenario how comfortable will children from the unprivileged sections be? Even middle class families barring a few do not even try to admit their kids to these schools. The end result will be that the children from the less privileged society may develop an inferiority complex and the craving for material goods will start at an early age.

One of the arguments being put forward is that the rich kids may learn to develop compassion.This may not necessarily happen as today the post liberalisation society is very materialistic. Kids want the latest I-phone, I-pad and the latest gizmos. Wearing branded clothes is the norm and not an exception. Two to three decades ago this was not the case. When we were in school we had no idea about the affluence of our classmates as those days there were no 5-star birthday parties or branded clothes.

Yes, every child has a right to education but studying in elite schools is not going to help. What we need is more Kendriya Vidyalaya type of schools. Many of the children from middle class families studied in these schools and went on go to the IITs, top medical schools and have been very successful in life.The standard of teaching is good in these schools. Neither Narayan Murthy nor Abdul Kalam studied in elite public schools. In fact many of the toppers in the recently held civil service exams are not even from the metros.
Many of the elite schools have snob values attached to it, not necessarily intellectual values.

The Act also states that children should not be failed, they should be promoted to the next higher class. How many children will study diligently, if they are aware that their performance has no bearing on their promotion to the next grade? Perhaps the no-failure clause can be applied up to third standard. Examination is part and parcel of school life.
Is the intention to groom a generation of under achievers?

There are many state governments who proclaim loudly that permission should not be granted to private parties to start English medium schools and that vernacular medium schools should be encouraged. On one hand the Central government wants underprivileged children to be admitted in the elite schools and on the other the state governments want to encourage vernacular medium schools. Those at the helm of affairs seem to be confused. RTE  Act seems to have been enacted in a hurry.

Many people are very excited about RTE provision but I feel this gives a perfect excuse to the government to abdicate its responsibility to improve the quality of government scools. Now  that the state is going to put children from weaker sections in a situation that could lead to discrimination and humiliation the least it can do is to create a mechanism of counselling for these children. I can foresee absolute chaos during the admission season with pressures and counter pressures from politicians to decide which 25 per cent should be admitted.

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