Kejriwal vs Private Schools – Treating Symptoms, not the Disease

NITI Central
News Dated: 

Arvind Kejriwal calls it a scandal.

Parents call it a mess.

Experts call it scarcity.

Little do the infants know that getting them admitted in a nursery school is a herculean task for their parents! What should have been a simple admission procedure has become a competition and headache for the parents in Delhi.

In what will affect around 1200 schools and 150,000 children, that too when the admissions were already underway this year in Delhi, Kejriwal has ordered schools to scrap:

All quotas except for 25 per cent EWS

62 ‘discriminatory’ criteria for allotment of points such as food habits and professions of parents

While this is a welcome move, as the intention is to help the people, however it’s not without its flaws.

Will all parents be able to admit their children in schools of their choice?

Isn’t it an attack on the autonomy of schools?

The experts suggest the problem is bigger than the quotas and selection criteria.

Treating the symptoms, not the disease

National Secretary of National Independent Schools Alliance Parth J Shah, on Lok Sabha TV, detailed how and why scarcity of schools is root cause of the problem.

The scarcity is because the laws and rules for approval to build a school are very complicated. It’s difficult to get a license because of the License Raj. The cost of land in Delhi is very high. It’s a difficult proposition – Government wants good quality schools at low fees.

Amit Chandra, who has been promoting low budget private schools, says that this decision of the government is an attack on private schools’ autonomy,

the nature of private unaided schools is such that there should be no interference of government.

If government thinks that schools are not working properly then they can nationalise all schools but their intervention is intolerable. The problem is that the government has not been able to open schools in keeping with the increasing population of Delhi.

Further encroaching upon the breathing space of the private unaided schools, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that private unaided schools on land allotted by DDA have to take prior government sanction before hiking fees,

Schools cannot indulge in profiteering and commercialisation of education.

Too many cooks spoil the broth! Government interventions and Successive Court orders have complicated the situation further.

Court versus Government – Aam Aadmi Suffering

The Delhi High Court on Monday told the AAP government to “set its house in order” by administering its schools and improving them instead of trying to “take over” admission process of private unaided schools. Justice Manmohan said:

“One major reason for all this is the poor state of public schools. No one is addressing that issue. Those people (government) who can’t administer a public school are trying to take over admissions of private schools.

“Please set your house in order. Then there would be no reason for people to rush to private schools.”

Earlier, indirectly challenging a previous court order which allowed schools to frame their own criteria, Kejriwal has said:

“The Education Department officials told me that court has directed not to micro-manage the admission process. I told them not to worry. Tell the court that I have done this. I will tell the court that management quota is the biggest scandal and this should be stopped. And now the Cabinet has given its approval.”

In 2014, the Court allowed schools to frame their own criteria after the lieutenant governor issued nursery guidelines scrapping management quota in December 2013.

While parents are relieved because of the new guidelines, they still remain confused.

The Way Forward – Political Will

Citing the example of Kendriya Vidyalayas, Parth J Shah, who has also been working with Delhi government’s advisory body Delhi Dialogue Commission, says if the government wants it can run schools efficiently. Arguing that the matter of education in Delhi has become a political football where there are too many stakeholders trying to yield their own control, Parth advises:

We need to abolish license raj in school sector

Give incentive to people to open schools.

Amit Chandra is equally vocal in his support for autonomy to private unaided schools:

Either government should open schools itself or it should relax its regulatory barriers and let private players open more schools. When there will be no gap in supply and demand there will be no need for quotas.