Sibal fumes, Bethany apologises

Minister calls the notice discriminatory

Sibal fumes, Bethany apologises

Slamming Bethany High School over its “elitist circular”, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal reportedly called the notice “discriminatory”. Taking exception to the school’s stand on a socially sensitive issue, the minister said Bethany High School might be pulled up for its indiscretion.

Realising that it had stepped on a minefield of controversy, Bethany High School headmaster Robert Khin contacted Deccan Herald, which broke the story in its July 29 edition, and said he would like to “apologise to the sections which might have been hurt by the circular.”

Khin said the primary aim was to inform parents about the possibility of expressing their opinion on the draft rules as the last day for submitting the same was July 30. The circular was issued on July 26.

The headmaster clarified that his colleagues and he at Bethany were “committed to the cause of education irrespective of caste, creed and economic background.” Citing a reason for issuing the circular, Khin said his school wanted to have in place rules and regulations regarding admission.

But at Bethany, students, confused over the contents of the circular, could not decide whether to support the school authorities or back the provisions of the Right to Education Act. On Thursday, students debated the likely pros and cons of the impact of the RTE and how it might affect them if children from the weaker sections of the society are admitted. Some students admitted they thought Bethany would turn into “an SSLC school.”

Govt stand
Primary Education Minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri was not as scathing as Sibal, though he made it clear that once the draft rules emanating from the RTE are finalised, the government would take strong action against any school that might bar “neighbourhood students” from seeking admission to private schools.

“The draft rules have been posted online and we have invited opinion from teachers, parents and students. We will implement the law only after a thorough debate on its contents. But once the legislation is through, errant schools might have to face legal action,” Kageri said.

However, one senior functionary of a CBSE-affiliated school admitted that some specific provisions of the RTE may potentially “dilute the quality of education offered by private schools.”

Besides, the source said  some school managements are of the opinion that different set of rules of admission should be formulated for private and government schools.
Sources said another sticking point could be the clause that schools should not employ any screening procedure during admission, an issue that several private school managements have criticised. These schools have also been debating the merits and demerits of how to handle expulsion of students at the elementary level, which is one of the draft rules.

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