Admission confusion again

City government's move to scrap management quota in private schools might be a principled decision.

Nursery admissions in the capital have for the most part been controversy-prone. Year after year. parents encounter trouble while getting their wards admitted.

After coming to power, the Aam Aadmi Party government had promised that 2016 would be different for them and schools would not be able to discriminate on various grounds or offer admissions on the basis of arbitrary criteria.

Upholding this, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday scrapped all the quotas, including the management quota and 62 other ‘arbitrary criteria’, set by private schools for nursery admissions.

It announced that the only reservation now will be for poor students under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category.

“Management quota that we scrapped was one of the biggest sources of corruption in admission process,” said Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, who also holds the education portfolio.

Since January 1, when the admission process started, it has been observed that many schools are adopting discriminatory practices in the garb of “autonomy”, like reserving quotas for staff, despite giving points to wards of staff in the criteria, the government says.

While the move is being seen as a necessary step to rein in schools which are giving points under discriminatory criteria, including lifestyle choices of parents and their professions, the decision in the middle of the process is bound to create more confusion for parents and schools alike.

Parents say there is no clarity on how the admission process will shape up as most schools have not uploaded the revised criteria on their websites after the announcement.

For her child, Sapna Jain had applied to Mahavir Public School which is giving five points each to parents who are non-smokers, vegetarians, and teetotallers.

However, with the government scrapping such criteria, she says she is now left more confused as she had submitted the forms on that basis.

“The website still has the previous point system and not changed it after the announcement. No one at the school is responding either. I don’t know whether I should fill more forms now as the chances of getting an admission on the basis of previous criteria can be less,” Jain says.

Similarly, Rashi Agarwal had applied to Bal Bharti School on Pusa Road which, among other criteria, is giving 20 points to ‘first-born child’, which has been scrapped by the government along with 61 other such criteria.

“I was hoping that my child will get admission in the school on the basis of neighbourhood and the first-born criteria. But with this announcement, I think I should apply to as many schools as possible because nothing is clear. There is no clarity at all,” she says.

“Why is the government tinkering with it now? It should have done it before the starting of the process,” says another parent.

While the parents’ are worrying over the lack of clarity on the admission process now, almost everyone has hailed the government’s decision to scrap the management quota, calling it a “much-needed step”.

Transparency
“It is a good decision in terms of education reform and bringing transparency in the admission process. I had gone through many problems while availing admission for my son two years back,” says Himanshu Verma.

Experts have also lauded the step, but are wary of the chaos it might lead to.
“It would have been ideal had the government scrapped the management quota before the commencement of the admission process,” says education activist Sumit Vohra, founder of admissionsnursery.com, an online portal for the parent community.

“Though management quota could have been done away with before the process, the scrapping of various criteria could only be possible after the schools declared them.

As we have seen many schools had not declared their admission criteria even after the starting of the process intentionally to avoid any action,”
 he adds.

R C Jain, president of Delhi State Public School Management, says, “The government has forgotten that admission procedure is going on. Now, those who have already filled the form will get disturbed by this order.”

Even the rival parties, while supporting the decision, said it was mere public posturing as the best way was to incorporate it in the amendments to the Delhi Education Act passed recently in the Assembly.

The move is expected to spark more chaos for parents as school associations are planning to go to the High Court against the government decision, which can delay the whole admission process.

Legalities
“We are looking at various legalities regarding this. We can go to court with a previous plea already in the court. We can pass an application on January 21, which is the hearing date or we can write to the Centre as well. We are discussing it with our legal cell,” says Jain.

It is important to note here that the Delhi High Court had in 2014 quashed similar guidelines by Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung in a plea against them by school associations and allowed them to set their own criteria.

Quoting this example, the rival parties have termed the government’s decision as “public posturing”.

“We support the decision to scrap the management quota but the government’s decision regarding this was just public posturing since it was not incorporated in the amendments to the Delhi Education Act passed recently in the Assembly,” Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken has said.


Experts say though it is a good decision, it lacks proper planning.
“The best way to go was to include the decision in the amendments since the schools are now planning to go to court against it.

This in turn can delay the whole process. The government still has time to call a special session and include it in the amendments. The government won’t face much trouble with it as it is on the same page with the LG on the issue,” says Vohra.

As the future course of action is not clear, he has cautioned parents to tread carefully and fill as many forms as possible.

“The parents should play safe and be prepared for anything now,” he says.
According to DoE sources, it is still unclear what step the department is planning to take if the schools go to court or do not follow the decision.

With so much uncertainty around, there is a feeling of déjà vu. “It can be said the nursery admission circus is back,” says Vohra.

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