I have gone through the recent GO passed by the Government of Tamil Nadu with regards to RTE act with some interest.
I will not spend much time in going through the whys, whereforea and what-nots of the parent RTE act. The reader is assumed to have some basic information regarding this.
We can observe, however, that the RTE act has a few implicit assumptions:
- The Private schools are significantly superior to public schools in providing academic results to students
- Currently, the level fo regulation of private schools is such that the schooling system excludes children belonging to socially and economically disadvantaged groups
The RTE act is presented as a solution that will redress this exclusion by mandating at least 25% reservation for disadvantaged children in private schools.
In this brief article, I will attempt to analyze and present
- The impact of RTE act upon the overall schoolgoing population of Tamil nadu State
- Loopholes inherent in the act and the Tamil Nadu GO in its present form.
Impact of RTE
First, let us quantify the impact of the RTE Act and GO:
- The total school age population of the state is 1.69 crores, of which children between 6 and 11 enrolled in schools is 89 lakhs – page 197 here
- We can safely assume that , given drop-out rates, 30% of this figure would be the number of children aged 6 that start in schools next, or roughly 27 lakh children
- The GO applies only to “Private Non-minority Un-Aided Schools”
- There are a total of 54914 schools in the state
- Private unaided schools are 8542 in 2005-2006 – page 6 here – we will asume growth of 10% – roughly 9500 private unaided schools
- Of these, roughly 5000 are private minority schools, which are not covered in GO
- Thus, we have about 4500 schools that are affected by GO
Assuming an average student enrollment of 50 per year, we arrive at a figure of – totally 2.25 lakh children
Of these, 25% are to be enrolled under RTE, i.e., 56,250 children by our assumption
Thus, the GO for RTE only affects the fates of 56,250 children out of 27 lakh children, i.e., 2% of enrollments in the academic year 2013-2014!
Now, let us look at another facet – the disadvantaged group is a somewhat wide net, which includes SC, ST, BC, MBC, Orphans, HIV/Transgender,BPL families, differently abled and children of conservancy workers
(Aside – I think the word used in the GO ‘scavenger’ is particularly offensive and derogatory, when applied to a human being.)
Now, of these numbers, I believe a good percentage would be children from economic backgrounds that would enter these schools anyway.
To explain, children from SC/ST/BC/MBC households that have the spending power to put their children in the same schools, will now be a offered a waiver on fee. We cannot expect a significant result in end-outcomes for them, in term of academic achievement.
So, I believe, the real impact, i.e., getting children into a school where they would not have been able to enrol but for the RTE act at a lower number, probably 1% of this coming years primary enrolments.
The first and most glaring loophole is the definition of entry at Age 6. Now, anybody who has a child that goes to school knows that children very often start schooling as early as 3.
So, by the time the enrolment under RTE act kicks in, at age 6, children admitted under this Act could face a significant disadvantage in terms of being able to catch up with the children who have already been in the system form the age of 3/4.
There is the question of reimbursement of fee revenue foregone by the schools by admitting students under RTE. It is not clear whether 100% of fees foregone, as per Govindarajan committee, will be refunded.
If not, the loss will have to be picked up by someone – either illegaly, by under-the-table payments or by starting a new ‘management’ quota.
The management quota would involve giving seats at higher fees so that a certain portion of the foregone fee can be compensated.
The policy for drop-outs/transfers is not clear.
Let us take the case of a child transferring from school A to school B
Once a child transfers from one school to the other, would his/her status as a entrant under RTE continue? So, what happens to the existing 25% already admitted under RTE in school B? Does the school have to keep adding more and more RTE students, above and beyond quota?
What about the seat now vacant in school A? Does it have to be filled only by a child from within RTE quota alone?
- Note that I am not going into the other, more commonly discussed areas – exclusion of minority schools, exclusion of schooling for differently abled children
- New RTE regulations for schools, which could imply quite a good number of schools actually shutting down. I am not going to discuss that, as it has been very well analyzed elsewhere