Glitches mar govt's online EWS process

The city government’s first-of-its-kind initiative to centralise EWS admissions to nursery classes through a computerised lottery system, like its other endeavours such as the 25 per cent cut in syllabus, seems a commendable effort at face value. But its hurry to implement the new online process from the

ongoing nursery admission season without factoring in technical hiccups makes it a doomed affair.

Nearly two weeks ago, the Directorate of Education (DoE) had issued a circular stating that admissions to nursery classes under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category and Disadvantaged Group (DG) in private unaided schools (non-minority) recognised under Delhi School Education Act Rules (DSEAR), 1973 will be made through a computerised lottery system, against the 25 per cent reserved seats for them. And the list of such 1,148 schools is available on the department’s
website.

While the EWS admission process at institutions recognised by the Directorate of Education under another law, the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 will continue to be offline. The city has nearly 415 such schools but there is no collated data of these institutions.

Educationalists say that EWS parents are confused as they cannot differentiate between schools under the DSEAR, 1973 and those recognised by RTE.

“The Directorate of Education has not uploaded the list of schools where downloaded forms have to be submitted for manual lottery system. The new guidelines have created confusion. Now there are two categories of schools – one online and other offline in the same area. How are parents belonging to economically weaker section of society supposed to do the homework and find out which school is under which category?” says Sumit Vohra, founder of www.admissionsnursery.com, a forum
of parents with over 1 lakh members.

The DoE’s software makes a cell phone number mandatory to register children online for applying to nursery classes for 2016-17 academic session. The software says “please fill all mandatory fields (*)”, and after asking about the class to which a child is seeking admission to and his name, the third query is about the “mobile number”.

Many people living in slums don’t have a cell phone. “I am trying to convince a nearby shop owner to let me use his mobile phone number to register my three-year-old son online for nursery admissions. But he is not allowing me saying I might misuse his phone number. We don’t understand why is the mobile number so important? What was the need to make it compulsory to give one’s mobile number?” asks Raju, who lives in a jhuggi jhopri cluster at Yamuna Pushta.

“We are poor people we work hard to earn our living and save the rest of the money to give a good education to our children. But the system finds a way to make it difficult for us to do so. When I asked my contractor to give one of his mobile numbers, he made fun of me saying you want to send your child to a private school to make him a collector,” he says in despair.

There are over 25,000 EWS seats to be filled this nursery admission season. According to sources in DoE, the department has received some 22,000 online forms so far.

Experts say that the online process is marred by glitches.

“The Directorate of Education software has many flaws such as the location of schools are not accurate. The distance shown in the software is more than the actual distance between localities and schools,” say Ashok Agarwal, national president of All India Parents Association.

“It is giving a hard time to EWS parents to approach schools and fill in forms as they are not able to make out which schools require online forms and those accepting the downloaded applications,” he adds.

Even the Education Department acknowledges there are a few glitches with the software.

Centralised system
“We have set up a dedicated team to iron out such discrepancies and many of the glitches have already been removed. The city government‘s initiative will go a long way to check malpractices by school managements and harassment of parents,” says an aide tof Education Minister Manish Sisodia.

Educationists say there is no alternative arrangement for those who are not able to apply online.

“A majority of the EWS parents are not computer literate. Moreover, some schools may even turn away parents citing a requirement for online application. Also, unlike last year, there is no provision of a help desk at district admission monitoring committee. The process of on-the-spot correction has not been mentioned in the notification probably because of the centralised system,” says Vohra.

He adds that poor people have been fleeced by the cyber cafe owners. “The cyber cafe owners are minting money by charging illiterate parents from Rs 200 to Rs 500 for filling up forms,” says Vohra.

Some schools have branches and their parent branch is recognised under the Delhi School Education Act Rules (DSEAR), 1973, but others are recognised by DoE under the RTE.

“There are parents who are facing difficulty as they have to fill up an online form to register their eldest child for admission to class 1 whereas they have to submit a downloaded application to admit their younger kid to nursery class in one of
the branches of the same school,” says Vohra.

The guidelines for nursery admissions to 2016-17 academic session are in conflict with the RTE Act.

“While filling up an online application form, an EWS parent can opt for as many schools under categories 0 to 1 km, 1 km to 3 km and 3 km to 6 km. But for the last category 6 km and beyond, the software only gives five options to a parent which is against the Right to Education as there is no such stipulation mentioned in the Act,” he adds.

Experts, however, feel that a centralised lottery system to fill up the 25 per cent seats in nursery classes in each private school is a welcome step. But the city government should have gone ahead with a more foolproof online arrangement.

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