As most of CRI readers might be aware Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Shri Najeeb Jung had passed a controversial set of guidelines last year regulating the nursery admission process in Delhi. The guidelines mandated all schools, including private schools to reserve 25 percent of their seats for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). The Lieutenant Governor’s guidelines also required the school managements to give preference to children living in the same neighborhood (< 8KMs) as the schools.
With these intrusive guidelines the entire admission process even in private schools has come under the defacto control of the Lieutenant Governor. The private schools in the region, under the umbrella of Action Committee for Unaided Recognized Private Schools had filed a writ petition in the Honorable High Court of Delhi challenging the legality of these guidelines and to protect the autonomy of private schools from being completely eroded. Team CRI had the opportunity and the privilege of conducting an email interview with Shri S.K.Bhattacharya, who is the president of Action Committee for Unaided Recognized Private Schools. For a good background on the topic read this post on the Reality Check Blog: link
Below is the transcript of that interview.
Q) What are your immediate goals to regain your autonomy?
A) Private institutions are entitled legally and constitutionally for autonomy in regard to curriculum development, recruitment of staff, fixation of fees and admission. This has been guaranteed through various Acts and Rules and High Court and Supreme Court Judgments.
However, recently the Government through various orders is trying to destroy the autonomy of the private schools which will also mean destroying the initiative of private sector in education.
This will also mean destroying the quality education which is solely provided by the private schools. We at our end will continuously try to regain the autonomy of the private schools through administrative and aggressive campaigning for safeguarding the autonomy of schools.
Q) The media perception is that private schools are exploiters, but most of us know the excellent work done by them. How do you counter this image?
A) This exercise of image building is to be undertaken by the private schools vigorously through direct contact with the parents, seminars and Workshops, and pro private school articles written by renowned educationists and media campaign.
Q) The Delhi Govt has completely gone against the Ganguly Committee recommendations. Were you consulted? As a stakeholder should you not be consulted?
A) The parameters for admission based on the recommendation of Ganguly Committee were suggested by the Hon’ble High Courts Govt. of Delhi implemented the same. The criteria of admission continued for several years without causing any problem. Order dated 18.12.2013 is a unilateral order, stakeholders were not consulted.
Q) What started as 25% quota in RTE has now expanded to completely take away all autonomy in admissions? Did you expect this?
A) Twenty Five percent free seats as per the RTE has not created any dent on the autonomy of the private schools. However, the Government should be sensitive to the financial implication of the same and must compensate the huge scale revenue loss through adequate reimbursement policy otherwise the burden of the same is falling on seventy five percent fee paying parents, which is unjust and unfair.
Q) Will any trust now come forward to open new capacity given that they have no say in admissions?
A) It is a very serious issue and needs to be addressed at the highest level. We understand very clearly apart from literacy which is the main objective of the RTE that there is equal need for the promotion of quality education. Unfortunately the government sector has failed in providing quality education and people have lost their faith in the government schools. The only alternative for providing quality education is available in private sector.
The private sector alone has been making efforts to improve the quality education with innovations, new teaching practices and reconstruction and revamping of the curriculum to keep it at par with the international standard. The key factor for success of private schools for providing quality education has been their autonomy and if the government deliberately tries to dilute the autonomy granted to the private schools, the future of quality education in the country will be in a mess.
In last ten years hardly any private school has been established in Delhi. The reason being that the Trusts and Societies are now shaky since they know that with the increasing interference of government, it would become difficult for them to manage their schools and promote quality education. This trend is very unfortunate.
Q) As an educationalist, how important is it to retain autonomy?
A) Autonomy is simply not only important for an institution, it is equally important for teachers, head of the school – an essential condition for innovations new practices and research and development. No institution can grow qualitatively in a suffocated atmosphere.
Q) Are your members united?
A) Definitely all the private schools in Delhi come under the Umbrella of Action Committee and the schools are solidly united.
Q) A lot of capacity especially the desired capacity is exempt citing religious and linguistic minority; does this not defeat the purpose of the rules to a large extent?
A) I will not like to answer at this stage. This is a very controversial issue. However, present policy is hindering the interest of education.
Q) Most of the media is running reports portraying unfair practices like donations and illegal fees – but we know the fees are regulated to a large extent, and the media reports are one sided. Do you wish to clear the air on this and present your side?
A) I am not denying that there is no black sheep but majority of institutions in Delhi do not indulge in unfair practices. If any institution is found indulging in unfair practices, taking donations related with admission etc the Government has power to take appropriate action.
(Team CRI thanks Shri S.K.Bhattacharya for sharing his view on the subject and @realitycheckind for his inputs)