Take steps to clean up edu system

Unearthing of a scam on the misuse of the economically weaker section (EWS) quota seats in a prominent Delhi school has raised fresh questions on whether the benefits under the Right to Education Act were actually reaching the target audience. The scam surfaced at the Bal Bharati School in north-west Delhi’s Pitampura area when verification from sub-divisional magistrate’s office found that documents submitted for securing the seats were forged. The police are investigating whether the scamsters have spread their tentacles in other schools as well and up to what extent the school administration is involved in perpetuating the misuse of the EWS quota seats. 

Even though the authorities in the past decade took several steps to improve the admission procedure in Delhi schools, the EWS scam clearly demonstrates how touts continue to thrive in the system, cheating desperate parents in the urban metropolis. While part of the blame definitely lies with the parents, the government can’t escape responsibility for its failure to ensure an honest and transparent admission procedure that would naturally weed out the middlemen from the system. As most of the Delhi schools receive barely any funding from the government, they mostly remain outside the government oversight. The Directorate of Education in the Delhi government takes action only when controversies like the EWS scam break out or specific complaints are received. But ideally, a regulatory system should be functional throughout the year relying on regular surprise inspections to deter the touts and keep the school administration on guard round the clock.

The moot question, therefore, is whether the Directorate of Education is capable for the task and if the government is willing to wield the broom. To be fair to the DoE, it is poorly staffed and has too little infrastructure to regulate hundreds of privately-funded schools. Also, by giving low priority to school education, previous governments allowed seeds of corruption to sow. There is little on the ground to show the Aam Aadmi Party government intends to chart a different course. As education comes within the authority of Delhi government, the city government does not need any external assistance to get rid of corruption from schools. Creation of a specialised EWS admission cell in the DoE, bar-coded admission forms issued by the government, online admission procedures and surprise checks, can aid in cleaning up the system. But it is the political will that matters the maximum. Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia, who holds the education portfolio, should remember that they came to power with an unprecedented majority riding very high on the people’s expectation to clean up the Augean Stable. It’s time for action.

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