Monday, April 30, 2012

Government plans slew of measures to implement RTE

Government plans slew of measures to implement RTE
TNN Apr 25, 2012, 02.02AM IST

JAIPUR: With the Supreme Court upholding the Constitutional validity of the Right to Education Act, 2010 with immediate effect, the education department is planning a slew of measures to ensure implementation of 25% reservation for underprivileged students.

The government will hold a state-level workshop of nodal officers to share, discuss and suggest measures to overcome the challenges under the Act. Education minister Brij Kishore Sharma said: "The department will evaluate the implementation of RTE so far to plan the next move."
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This year, many private schools had again given the excuse they have not received enough applications for the seats reserved under RTE. District education officer S C Meena said they seek the support of RTE activists and civil society to make the Act popular among the real beneficiaries.

Munesh Kumar, a lawyer and RTE activist, feels that government has spend little on creating awareness on this Act. He proposed road shows and street plays to ensure that the beneficiaries should know how to exercise this Act. "The economically weaker sections are still very apprehensive about the Act. For a couple of years, the government has worked in tandem with activists to deliver 100% results," said Kumar.

TOI did a reality check to find out the awareness on this Act and found that many areas which have sizeable population of economically weaker sections are not upbeat. Most of them feared that they will have to follow a rigorous scrutiny process which involves lot of hidden cost.

Prem Kumar, a mechanic from Adarsh Nagar, narrated his ordeal saying that this year he went to Seedling Public School for the admission of his four year old son. "I was asked to bring an affidavit along with domicile certificate. Later they gave a number on a chit and asked to visit school after some weeks. Since then I went to the school several times but was never entertained by any school official," said Kumar, who is now planning to get his son admitted to another nearby private school.

Meanwhile, student groups are seeing this as an opportunity to connect with the masses. Sumit Bhagasara, state president of National Students Union of India (NSUI) said that they had been distributing pamphlets and holding rallies in the slum areas to create awareness on this Act. The ABVP has also jumped into scene by launching a campaign against the defaulter schools for not following the provisions of the Act.

Right to Education Act threatens education

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Right to Education Act threatens education
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, ET Bureau Apr 25, 2012, 03.32AM IST

In analysing the Supreme Court judgment upholding the Right to Education (RTE) Act, television channels have focused too much on the 25% reservation of seats in private schools - including famous elite schools - for low-income children.

This minor social engineering has produced some ridiculous protests from the elite. Yet, equally ridiculous is the claim that this will significantly help the poor. Of India's hundreds of millions of schoolchildren, only a few thousand poor will enter the elite havens. The others will remain at the mercy of third-rate government schools that provide no worthwhile education.
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Worse, the Act poses a huge threat to the poor because it mandates the closing of all private unrecognised schools by 2013. If implemented, this will be the greatest educational disaster to befall India.

In desperation, the poor have increasingly switched their children from free government schools to fee-paying private ones. Only a tiny handful of private schools are elite schools. Most are unrecognised, charging low fees of 300 per month or less. They are cheap precisely because they lack the expensive infrastructure and qualified teachers mandated by government rules.

The Act obliges private schools to match government school salaries and amenities or close down. If implemented, school fees will rise 560% in low-cost schools and 173% in higher-cost schools in Patna, says a recent study by Rangaraju, Tooley and Dixon ( The Private School Revolution in Bihar).

The Act obliges the government to finance the 25% of reserved seats in private schools based on government teacher salaries. But government payments are typically much delayed, and require the greasing of palms. Even after receiving payment for 25% of students, private schools will have to raise fees enormously for the remaining 75%. This will hit the poor.

The educational establishment is embarrassed by the failure of government schools, and the mass switch to unrecognised schools. But the Patna study suggests that the rise of unrecognised schools is more a matter for celebration than embarrassment. Though illegal, they are providing parents with choice and education that were unavailable earlier.

The study of Patna is a microcosm of the issues affecting the whole country. It suggests that 65% of all Patna children are in private unaided schools. There is hardly a street without such a school. This is not because of the lack of government schools. The study looked for private schools within a radius of 1 km ofdifferent government schools. It found a minimum of nine private schools, and a maximum of 93!

Children in unrecognised schools cannot appear for official school-leaving exams. Yet, the study showed that the majority of parents knew this and did not care. One reason was double enrolment: kids were enrolled in government schools but actually studying in private unaided schools. This was illegal, but enabled them to appear for exams, after greasing some palms. Once again, government failure was partly assuaged by a nominally illegal, but socially sanctioned market solution.

Many educationists expostulate that the bulk of these private schools lack qualified teachers, playgrounds and other infrastructure, and amount to exploitation of the poor. Many claim to be English-medium schools but have teachers that can barely speak or teach English.

The Patna study found that low-cost schools on average paid teachers 1,447 per month. High-quality private schools paid as much as 11,094. Government school teachers get far more in several states. Yet, the lowly-paid, unqualified teachers in private schools in Patna have on average produced better results than government schools.

An Aser study of Ward 60 in Patna compared learning outcomes in government and private schools, and found that the former lagged in virtually all indicators. For instance, the proportion of Class II children who could read at least some words was 30.6% in government schools and 87.5% in private schools. The proportion of Class III children who could recognise numbers up to 100 was 53.9% in government schools and 97.2% in private schools.

These figures should be used with caution. They may not apply to other states and cities. Some private schools may be useless.

Yet, on the whole, parents switching their children to private schools know what they are doing. Educationists wanting to close substandard private schools do not.

A Right to Education may be a good idea, but the actual Act provides no such right at all. It has no penalties or sanctions whatsoever for state governments that fail to provide schooling. It has no penalties for government schools and teachers that do not teach. It has no objection to schools that produce only dropouts and functional illiterates. The Supreme Court judgment pays no attention to this.

Private schools are illegally providing some sort of education, which the RTE Act is incapable of doing legally. That is India's tragedy. It will not be solved by ordering 25% reservation for poor children in elite schools. And it certainly will not be solved by closing down unrecognised schools, or forcing them to match government teacher salaries and, hence, quintuple school fees.

I don't often suggest the flagrant violation of the law. But state governments should ignore the RTE Act's provision to close private schools that do not measure up to desirable but unrealistic standards. Rather, state governments should recognise the value of 'unrecognised' schools, and devise ways to gradually integrate these into the formal system. If this means violating the Act, so be it.

SSA teachers recruited online

SSA teachers recruited online

Today the UT Education Department completed the recruitment process for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan teachers. Applicants have appreciated the new on-line system.

This year Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has recruited its teachers online. A week after the deadline for submitting applications, the organization uploaded the list of eligible applicants and their merit ranking on its website. These candidates were called to present their original documents on April 25, 26 or 27 at the Sector 10 Government Model Senior Secondary School.

653 Junior Basic Teachers for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have been recruited in this way. They will work on contract until March 31, 2013, when the contract expires. Applicants have expressed satisfaction with this streamlined process.

This year, teachers were entitled to apply only if they had qualified in the Teachers’ Eligibility Test. Score in the written test was the sole consideration and no interviews were conducted. Cut off scores differed for each category of applicant

At present, only 480 SSA teachers are working in city Government Schools. According to the provisions of the Right to Education Act, the pupil-teacher ratio in schools should not exceed 40 students per teacher. However, in the absence of a sufficient number of teachers, the ratio is currently as high as 150 students per teachers. This makes teacher recruitment imperative.

SSA to provide weekday & Saturday uniforms

SSA to provide weekday & Saturday uniforms

Good news for children studying under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme. From this year they will be provided two sets of uniforms.

Formerly Model School students studying under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme were provided free white uniforms which are worn on Saturday only. This week UT government schools have received instructions from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan organization to provide students of both Model and Non-Model Schools both the Monday-through-Friday blue and white uniforms and the all-white Saturday uniforms.

Commenting on the new directive, D.P Sharma, Principal Sector 28 Government Model High School, said that the news has gladdened his students and represents a very large financial outlay by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Purchasing two sets of uniforms can be a heavy burden on families of very limited means. These families are very happy with the provision of uniforms and with other facilities such as the midday meal program. Their only complaint is that not all schools are providing the full range of benefits stipulated under the Sarva Shiksha Abhayan.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhayan programme is implemented in partnership with all the state governments with the aim of providing universal access, enrolment of all children in relevant age group . The SSA focuses mainly on access to education, social and gender equity and quality of education imparted to the children.

‘Progress requires Muslims to be educated’

‘Progress requires Muslims to be educated’
New Delhi, April 24, 2012, DHNS:

Focus should not be just on religious sentiment, say community experts

Members from All India Muslim Education Society said majority of the Muslim community need education. The women and children of the community have to become literate to witness progress in one of the largest minority population of the country.

“Instead of the focus being given to the religious sentiment of the minorities, education should have been given similar importance. Muslims are lagging behind in education,” said Azam Baig, member of the society in a conference on Tuesday.

The society has spread to south India with the aim to promote education to the minority community. “We are running various schools and colleges in there, specially our grip is strong in Kerala where Muslims are more.

There are other units of the society in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. We also have plans to expand in northern India now,” said T P Imbichammad, secretary general of the society.

In Delhi-NCR, the society have built a college in Greater Noida. “The project in Delhi NCR has started last year. A Rs 5 crore project in Noida is also in process, besides Haryana and Faridabad. Enrolment phase is going on in the Greater Noida educational institute,” said Khwaja Khaleelullah, member handling the Delhi/NCR unit.

Calling the Right to Education (RTE) Act as infrastructure specific act, the members stated to make provisions for budget schools. “There are schools providing good quality education without grand infrastructure. Rabindranath Tagore started such a school.

Most of the Muslims are underprivileged or middle-class who want quality education, without world class infrastructure,” said another member. Under RTE, the schools need to meet several infrastructure requirements, including a playground.

As far Madarsa education is concerned, the society is tying up with the registered Madarsas which are willing to incorporate modern subjects like science, computer science and mathematics. “There are a huge number of Madarsas which do not want to include such subjects. We can explain the pros and cons of that, beyond that its their fundamental right to choose what they want,” said Justice Fakhruddin, member and former judge.

Survey identifies 2,414 children with special needs in Tuticorin

Survey identifies 2,414 children with special needs in Tuticorin
Staff Reporter

A total of 2, 414 children with special needs have been identified by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) officials during a survey across the district. According to Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, all children in the age of six years to fourteen years must be educated.

The children identified in the survey would be provided with inclusive education for differently abled in this academic year, J. R. Isaac Sugirtharaj, Additional Chief Educational Officer, SSA, Tuticorin, told The Hindu here on Monday. Of the identified children, 1, 375 boys and 1,039 girls would be provided with special education to suit their needs.

Two hundred and eighty six children were identified in Tuticorin urban area under the special needs category. The 10-day survey schedule, which commenced on April 9, came to a close here on Monday.

As for the out-of-school children survey, 862 dropouts including 565 boys and 297 girls have been identified during the schedule.

Tuticorin rural has recorded the highest number of dropouts numbering hundred and eight students. While taking stock of the survey, Mr. Sugirtharaj along with a team at Inigo Nagar, a coastal hamlet in Tuticorin, advised the children to acquire knowledge through education.

The team reached the doorsteps of households and enquired about the educational background of fishermen's children. Importance of education in the competitive scenario was stressed. The initiative should not only be from the children but also from the parents to educate them.

Joined mainstream

During 2011- 12, as many as 482 dropouts out of 675, joined the mainstream curriculum of education in regular schools and the rest were imparted education under residential special training courses at five centres run by voluntary organisations.

Since some parents of these children had migrated to other places, the children were enrolled in these centres, which offer residential schooling.

Pay fees, forget vacation

Pay fees, forget vacation

For parents in Patna, it’s fast becoming a choice between sending children to reputed schools and planning annual excursions and other family activities. Obviously, the school fee gains prominence and the other plans are shelved without a debate.

Most schools in the state capital have hiked students’ fees by 10 to 20 per cent annually for the past three years. This continuous hike in the school fee has not only disturbed monthly budgets of families but also forced parents to compromise with other important things in life.

“The Christian minority schools are hiking the annual fees by 10 per cent for the past three years. Earlier, the hike was effected in alternate years. But ever since the central and the state governments started hiking the dearness allowance (DA) of employees and implemented the Sixth Pay Commission payscale, the schools, too, were forced to hike their fees as teachers started demanding more salary,” said Brother Felix, principal, Loyola High School.

Elite public schools like DPS, Radiant, Litera Valley and others have also hiked the annual fee and maintenance fee. “It’s a big burden for families with single earning member. I cannot even get a job at 40. So we have cancelled vacation plans and cut down on outings in the weekend,” said Pranita, a homemaker, whose two children study in a missionary school.

“Though the hike is 10 per cent, my financial burden has increased by 20 per cent and I am really in a fix as how to balance my budget. To add to that, my company did not give me any substantial increment this year,” said Parinita’s husband Alok Bhagat, who works in a private telecom firm.

Santosh Verma, a bank employee, is so upset with the fee hike — implemented by his son’s school on the pretext of building maintenance — that he is now seriously planning to pull out his son from the “expensive” school and admit him to a “cheaper” one.

“Some public school managements claim that they have implemented the Sixth Pay Commission payscale for teachers and non-teaching staff and so the hike is justified,” said Neena Sahay, a state government employee, whose seven-year-old daughter studies in a leading public school.

Patna-based CBSE regional office sources said school managements are empowered to alter the fee structure taking parents into confidence. “There is no such guideline in the CBSE board to direct the (CBSE-affiliated) schools on fee structure. The parents, at best, could sit with the school’s management and work out a reasonable fee structure,” said a source.

“Many schools have collected extra money with school fee even on the pretext of organising smart class concept,” said Ajithabh Jha, the president of a leading school’s parent-teachers association.

The Right to Education Act, too, has become a prime concern for private schools in the city. With the annual reimbursement amount expected to be between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000 per child admitted on underprivileged quota, schools, which have to implement RTE from this academic year, are planning a further fee hike from the next academic session. “The reimbursement amount is just not enough to sustain the cost of education and maintain the quality service being provided to the students. The sum being offered might be on a par with that spent in government schools, but it is meagre for private players,” said A.P. Das, the principal of MGM Public School.

Under the prevailing circumstances, a playschool can make one poorer by Rs 25,000 to 50,000 a year, while primary and secondary education in a private institution can cost anything between Rs 25,000 and Rs 1 lakh per year.

Paying such high fees could be a problem for many. Banks have now come forward to resolve this dilemma. Some nationalised banks have started offering education loans for children’s school fees, a phenomenon that began about a year ago. Earlier, education loans were offered only for professional courses. Now, one can avail them pay the school fees from nursery to senior secondary. Public sector entities such as Bank of Baroda and Central Bank of India in Bihar are offering this facility.

The loan amount usually varies from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1 lakh, but Bank of Baroda has an upper limit of Rs 4 lakh. Though one does not need an account with these banks to avail of the facility, account holders are given preference. Pradeep Salvatore, assistant general manager Central Bank of India, said: “We will give loan to a customer even if he does not have an account with us, but serving an existing customer will be our first priority. Another condition is that the school should be affiliated to ICSE, CBSE or any state education board.”

The loan is primarily meant to fund the tuition fee, but it can also be used to pay for other expenses, such as buying a laptop or any apparatus that may be required for projects. However, in such a case, the equipment will remain in the bank’s name as security till the total amount is paid. The loan amount can also be used to pay library, laboratory, hostel fees and purchasing books. C. Jha, senior manger, Bank of Baroda, said: “Generally, education loans are based on the parents’ or guardians’ income level and their capability to repay.”

The interest rates also depend on the income as well as the credit profile of the borrower. One could also get a concession if he or she provides a security or a collateral. The interest rate on such loans is around 12.5 to 14.75 per cent. According to the data available on a loan portal, Bank of Baroda charges 12.75 per cent interest per annum, while Central Bank of India lends at 13.75 per cent interest per annum. Some banks give a concession of 1 per cent in the rate if the loan is for a girl child.

Loans are also available to pay coaching fees. Rohit Mishra, an assistant at Patna secretariat, has applied for a coaching loan for his son, who is eager to join IIT-JEE classes. “I have applied for a loan to the Central Bank of India in my home town Muzaffarpur. The bank has assured to sanction it at the earliest.”

The loan for early yearly sub-limit is repayable in 12 instalments. The first instalment is to be paid 12 months after the first disbursement of each year’s loan component. For instance, if the bank has given the loan in April 2012, the repayment will start from April 2013. According to Section 80E of the Income Tax Act, the interest that one pays on an education loan is a deductible expense. Earlier, only the loan taken to fund professional courses came under this ambit. This has been amended from the assessment year 2010-11 to include vocational courses pursued after passing the senior secondary exam.

The right not to be left behind

The right not to be left behind
Kiran Bhatty
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Forget the misplaced angst of private schools, the real challenge of RTE lies in delivering schooling to the majority of India's children.

The Supreme Court in its verdict on the constitutionality of the Right to Education Act in relation to the reservation of seats for Economically Weaker Section [EWS] and socially disadvantaged [SD] children has rightly upheld the principle of integration. It is hard to see how it could have been any other way. In fact, the arguments against segregation and in favour of diversity in schools have long been settled in international debates on education. In India, where disparities are wide and reflected in the increasing gap between private and public schools, the need to make schools inclusive is perhaps even greater. This is not to deny that there will be challenges faced by all concerned — school managements, teachers, parents and children — in enforcing the law both in letter and in spirit. But given that children from the EWS and SD backgrounds are being inducted in the “incoming” class of a school, the anxiety being expressed seems somewhat exaggerated. It is another matter that it is being expressed almost exclusively by the “elite' sections of society. No EWS parent or child, for whom the “trauma” is likely to be greater, is complaining or wanting to do away with the quota.

Real issues

Nevertheless, the matter has now been settled by the Supreme Court. Legal clarity to the argument for diversity in the classroom and regulation of quality in all schools — public and private — has been provided. It is time this issue, which has taken up far more space than warranted, was laid to rest and focus shifted to the real issues plaguing the education sector.

For all the efforts of government programmes in the last decade, and especially through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan [SSA], basic education in this country is still a far cry from being universal or of satisfactory quality. It could even be argued that the RTE may not have been needed were this the case. There is a growing realisation that education, particularly but not exclusively, in the public sector has been on a downslide, and that nothing short of radical change was required to turn the tide. This is reflected in the provisions of the RTE Act. The Act establishes for the first time standards for not just infrastructure such as classrooms, toilets and drinking water, but also for quality by stipulating that teaching — teachers' education and training, their recruitment rules, their professionalisation, their accountability — be redesigned. It also addresses teaching methods, curriculum formation and evaluation procedures, as well as corporal punishment and discrimination, all of which are intrinsic to quality and all of which are in need of reform. But bringing about a “paradigm shift” of this type and scope is not easy, especially when the subject is concurrent, involving multiple levels of government.

But the task ahead is clear. Less than 20 per cent of children in this country go to some form of private school; the rest are either enrolled in a government school or not in any school at all. It is these children who need to be addressed and towards whom the RTE Act is largely directed. Quality education for close to 80 per cent of the children in this country still needs to be guaranteed within the framework of RTE. Herein lies the real challenge.

This challenge is made worse by the fact that even as the state has made elementary education a legally guaranteed right of every child, information on how many children are in fact “out-of-school” — not just “never-enrolled,” but not attending, dropped out or virtually dropped out — is not officially available. These are all children who have fallen out of the loop of mainstream education, but the system has no means of accounting for them. They include the urban homeless, the stigmatised, the migrant, but also the many, many children who, while enrolled, attend school at best sporadically. In an exercise conducted by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (which is mandated to monitor the RTE), a house-to-house survey was conducted in 12 districts across the country to assess the situation of out-of-school children [OOSC]. The gap between the official figures of OOSC and what the NCPCR found was startlingly large. While the data are yet to be fully analysed, a preliminary look shows the gap to be as much as 40-50 per cent in some areas. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Identifying all the children, bringing them to school, providing adequate physical infrastructure and qualified teachers and then ensuring they attend regularly and learn all they are meant to learn in an atmosphere free of fear and trauma — all this is a very tall order. What it means is that many more resources and far greater efforts will be required, especially within the ambit of the RTE Act.

It also means that the institutional structures of the state will need to be geared towards meeting these goals. Within the education sector itself, the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) — the body responsible for overseeing teacher education — will need to be overhauled; teacher training institutes — the District Institutes of Education and Training — will need to be reformed; the Block Education Office — the administrative unit closest to the people — will need to be revitalised. The NCPCR and SCPCRs, mandated to monitor RTE, will need resources, structures and staff. At the current allocation of Rs. 50 per school/year and no sanctioned posts, it is hard to see how the huge task of monitoring across the country can be optimally achieved.

Role of PRIs

The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), which have been given the important role of grievance redress, are yet to wake up to this huge responsibility. No rules have been framed and no resources allocated to the PRIs to undertake any form of grievance redress. In other words, the understanding that elementary education is now to be enforced as a fundamental right and not implemented as yet another scheme is still to be given institutional shape and form. For this, the Education Departments and the Panchayati Raj Departments will need to develop a framework for how grievances related to RTE will be addressed.

None of this is to say that nothing has been done so far. Many important steps have been taken to set the ball rolling. Rules have been notified in all but two States; government orders have been passed for the formation of School Management Committees; guidelines for prohibiting corporal punishment have been issued; a Teacher Education Test to select teachers has been instituted; budgetary allocations have been increased, even a grievance redress “advisory” (albeit a rudimentary one) has been issued. But much more needs to be done if the challenges are to be addressed in real earnest. Also, the pace of implementation needs to be accelerated before people start to lose faith in the enforcement of this fundamental right.

The RTE Act provides a strong legal framework for addressing most of the challenges that confront the elementary education sector, but unless it is backed by political will and commitment translated into institutional capacities with adequate resources, it will remain a wasted opportunity.

(Kiran Bhatty is former National Coordinator [RTE], National Council for the Protection of Child Rights.)

Keywords: RTE Act, school education, child rights

RTE clause for disabled kids may widen inequality

RTE clause for disabled kids may widen inequality
Ashpreet Sethi, New Delhi, April 25, 2012, DHNS:

Experts fear that schools will begin forcing children with disabilities to stay at home with the “study from home” clause passed under the RTE amendment bill by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

This amendment adds children with disability to the definition of “disadvantaged groups” and will now be a part of the 25 per cent reservation for the Economically Weaker Section category, under the Right to Education Act.

The bill has given special benefit to children suffering from autism, mental retardation, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities of choosing to study from home.

However, experts believe the amendment has brought good and bad news simultaneously. “While the good news is that other forms of disability are now included in the admission criteria, the bad news is that the severe disability clause – where children will be entitled to home-based care – will give schools an excuse to keep children at home and defeat the purpose of inclusive education. It becomes a slippery slope here,” said Anjela Taneja, education co-ordinator, Oxfam India.

Experts believe that schools will start terming many disabilities as severe in the absence of a proper definition. “The home-based education, followed in some schools at present, is supposed to act as a bridging gap. But it has failed because children get to study only twice a week and a child is deprived of studying with mates who attend school regularly,” added Taneja.

Radhika Alkazi, founder director, Aarth-Astha NGO echoed similar views lamenting that choices cannot be exercised by parents who are helpless. “This amendment will have huge repercussions on children with disabilities. Schools will happily push these children out of schools. Children will be stuck at home. On what basis has the government added this flexibility where a fundamental right is being violated? This is not path-breaking but sad. Also, they have not included special schools,” she said.

Shireen Vakil Miller, director, advocacy and policy, Save the Children NGO said: “Unless children with disabilities explore the world with normal children, they will not be motivated to compete with them or gather strength to overcome their disabilities.

Children learn better with their peers. The government should ensure that there are enough special educators in schools to take care of such children. It is also necessary to ensure that there are special educators in schools and disabled-friendly infrastructure.
They further allege that the RTE Act has now become a “basket of contradictions.” “This is just a beginning. The challenge will begin when we get down to implement the clause effectively,” said Bhuvan Ribhu, an advocate and member Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

Advocate Ashok Agarwal recommends that the RTE in its current form “needs further amendments to include children who are between three to six years old and excluded groups like street children and child labourers.”

30 million Indian school children have no access to toilets: Study

30 million Indian school children have no access to toilets: Study
IANS Apr 25, 2012, 01.44PM IST

NEW DELHI: Nearly 30 million school children in the country still have no access to toilets, even as schools have made significant progress in providing the facility in recent years, a study by UNICEF's Water, Sanitation, Hygiene(WASH) programme revealed Wednesday.

Most schools are also found wanting in teaching of hygiene and life skills.

According to the paper released by WASH, though the proportion of schools having toilets has increased from 50 per cent to nearly 75 per cent in last five years, only 60 per cent of schools have girls' toilets, a factor which has been noticed to be a major deterrent in girls attending schools. Also where the toilets are available, only one or two are usable.
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"About 30 million children across India do not have access to toilet facilities," the paper said.

"More than 90 per cent schools have drinking water facility, but only 80 per cent are functional. The majority of school curriculum lack focus on hygiene and life skill education," it further said.

The figures given by WASH reveal that a total 6.50 million children (3.46 per cent of the total children enrolled in schools) have no drinking water facility.

The Right to Education Act (RTE) requires all schools to have separate toilets for boys and girls and adequate safe drinking water facility.

The Supreme Court had also given a ruling in December 2011, stating that all schools must provide toilet facilities, and denial of basic right to water and toilet "clearly violates the right to free and compulsory education".

The study also says promoting simple handwashing can reduce child morbidity from diarrhoeal diseases by 44 per cent.

According to UNICEF figures, globally, around 2.65 billion people live without access to proper toilet facilities and 883 million don't have access to safe water.

Education specialist at UNICEF Raka Rashid says promoting hygiene habit during school years may last for life and be beneficial in preventing several health problems. It also improves school attendance, girls participation and their health.
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RTE Act can be a model for the world: Kapil Sibal

RTE Act can be a model for the world: Kapil Sibal
Apr 20, 2012, 07.05AM IST [ Kapil Sibal ]

The RTE Act is an opportunity to break gender, caste, class and community barriers that threaten to damage the social fabric of our democracy and create fissures that could be ruinous to the country, feels Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal.

The RTE Act is an opportunity to break gender, caste, class and community barriers that threaten to damage the social fabric of our democracy and create fissures that could be ruinous to the country, writes Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal.

The Supreme Court judgment upholding the constitutional validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act has once again focused public attention on education. While there has been enthusiastic praise of the judgment from most, there continues to be veiled criticism of the provisions of the act from some.

Not withstanding the obligations cast on private educational institutions by the RTE Act, the major responsibility for universalizing elementary education, without doubt, lies with the state. Universalizing access and retention, bridging gender and social category gaps in enrolment, and improving quality of elementary education are the primary focus of government's interventions through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

The provisions relating to private schools in the act do not mean that the Central and state governments are absolved of their primary responsibility of providing infrastructure and facilities, and an enabling environment to meet the objectives in the RTE Act. More than 90% of households in the country will have to continue to enrol their children in government schools - even after children belonging to disadvantaged groups and weaker sections obtain 25% of the seats in preschool/Class I in private schools every year.

The provision for admitting 25% children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in private unaided (nonminority) schools is an attempt at affirmative action and social integration. This provision in the RTE Act will enable schools to ensure that their student bodies contain different types of children, so that each student brings something new and different to the school community, thereby enriching and adding value to it, and consequently creating a more democratic learning environment. The RTE Act is a modest effort to bring about social integration.

It's undeniable that this means a major transformation for private schools. It is true that transformation does not take place on demand. Recognizing the difficulties involved in making the change, the act has adopted a "gradualist" approach, and provides for admission of children from weaker sections at entry stage only.

With children admitted in preschool/ Class I moving up, and a new cohort entering the school each successive year, the school will gradually have a more diverse population spread across all classes.

At this pace children will have the opportunity to grow up together and create bonds; bonds that will survive social walls. Progression at this pace will also allow schools to develop professional capacity to respond to the intellectual and emotional needs of children from diverse backgrounds. Children from adverse living conditions can bring rich experiences of coping with life, and sharing these experiences with well-off children can be invaluable. It is this mixing of children from diverse backgrounds that may change the character of the school in many positive ways.

It is possible that in the initial years, some children from disadvantaged households may face difficulty in coping with the curriculum, especially if they are first-generation schoolgoers. But many children from disadvantaged groups have shown that, given a facilitative environment, they can cope with the curriculum as well as, and often, even better than other children.

Indeed, statistics show that increasingly it is children from relatively poorer households who gain admission into IITs. In the sports arena too, it is largely children from poorer households who have excelled. Many schools managed by charitable and religious trusts already have a policy to admit a large number of children belonging to disadvantaged groups - without any compromise on quality.

The long gestation period provided in the act would enable the schools to put in place institutional structures to ensure that the quality of education is not compromised. It is not going to be easy but can be done.

The concern on the issue of financial implication on managements may be genuine in several cases. However, the per-child expenditure by many private schools, especially in rural areas and small towns, is lower than that in government schools. Reimbursement provided by government, therefore, will be adequate to meet the costs of educating children from weaker sections in such schools. But states must put in place open and transparent systems, preferably online, for reimbursement in a timebound and efficient manner.

It is, however, true that some schools in metros have per-child budgets much in excess of those in state schools. These schools would have to find innovative ways to meet the gap. Philanthropic individuals, charitable trusts and corporate funding may be some ways out.

Some of the other positive provisions in the act do not appear to have been properly highlighted. Parents have long suffered on account of unethical and non-transparent practices by some private schools in admissions. With the implementation of the act and help of a vigilant civil society, we hope this would be a thing of the past. Education as an enterprise, as the Supreme Court has time and again pointed out, cannot be commercial in nature. It is in the interest of society that institutions imparting education are transparent and open in their dealings and in their practices.

There is also some concern that the act may set off a spate of inspections and harassment by overzealous education authorities. I believe it is in everybody's interest to create a congenial environment for genuine charitable institutions and individuals to set up more quality schools. All of us are unanimous in the view that there should be no financial and psychological barriers that children belonging to disadvantaged groups have to face while seeking admission to a school. It is these barriers that the RTE act seeks to remove. States will have to understand that focus should be on removal of these barriers rather than on restricting freedom to set up schools enshrined in Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. Several schools and teachers have also expressed apprehensions about certain provisions in the act, which I would like to address.

The first of these misgivings relates to the provision in the RTE Act prohibiting corporal punishment or mental harassment. There are many among us who believe that 'discipline' comes from punishment and fear. But educationists the world over are clear that physical punishment and mental trauma are counterproductive: they may cause a child to become even more defiant and rebellious. Children's bodies are tender. Even a slap can result in a child going deaf.

Any kind of physical punishment and mental trauma is potentially unsafe and injurious to health, violative of child rights, and is therefore prohibited.

The second misgiving relates to the 'no detention' provision. The rationale for this is that compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating, and does not necessarily give the child any special resources to deal with the same syllabus requirements for another year.

The 'no detention' provision does not imply abandoning procedures that assess children's learning. RTE provides for putting in place a continuous and comprehensive evaluation procedure that is non-threatening, releases the child from fear of failure and enables the teacher to pay individual attention to the child's learning. I believe such a system has the best potential to improve quality.

Teachers and school managements sometimes mistakenly believe that prohibiting physical punishment or prohibiting the prerogative to make a child repeat a class or expel him or her from school would undermine their authority and make it more difficult for them to maintain discipline. Rights are not a fixed or finite quantity and empowering children does not mean rights of teachers and managements will be diminished. In fact, creating a school environment in which children's rights are respected is more likely to enhance respect for teachers and management.

State governments and educational authorities will have to imbibe the act in the right spirit. As I mentioned earlier, the major focus will have to be on strengthening government schools where central budgets under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have more than doubled in the last three years. We expect that central and state budgets for elementary education will continue to increase, and this will in turn provide for higher reimbursem e n t s t o p r ivat e schools for education of weaker sections.

The act also enjoins the state governments and private school managements to ensure that norms and standards are followed. The government school system will have to undergo radical improvements to meet these provisions. Equally, private schools that do not adhere to these standards (there are many which have quality of schooling inferior to government schools) will have to reform.

The RTE Act is an opportunity to break gender, caste, class and community barriers that threaten to damage the social fabric of our democracy and create fissures that could be ruinous to the country. I believe that the RTE Act is visionary in its objective and scope, and if understood and implemented in the right spirit by government authorities, school managements and all the other stakeholders, could well become a model for the world to emulate.

RTE is impractical: Gujarat education minister

RTE is impractical: Gujarat education minister
Published: Thursday, Apr 26, 2012, 19:13 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Gandhinagar | Agency: DNA

While the Supreme Court of India's recent judgement to implement the Right to Education (RTE) Act has put private schools in a quandary, Gujarat government too is facing logistic, administrative and as social problems in execution of this Act.

State education minister Ramanlal Vora on Wednesday spoke on these issues, elaborating that they are not only administrative but social too.

A major hindrance in implementation of RTE Act is sharing of expenses between the state and Centre for education in Gujarat. "In schemes announced by the Centre, 75% of the expenditure is borne by the union government while 25% of it is footed by the state. However, there is lack of clarity when it comes to the RTE Act," said Vora.

Sources in the state education department confirmed this anomaly. According to them, Gujarat government bears nearly 87% of total expenses on primary education in the state. Centre's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is part of this primary education scheme where the state foots 35% of the bill. "Even in the remaining 65%, union government is not giving funds as promised," said sources.

Vora is confident that Gujarat can implement the RTE Act but he isn't sure about other states.

"While Gujarat is giving Centre suggestions in the RTE issue, other states are asking for help to fulfil their needs (in implementation of the Act)," said Vora.

He further raised question on who will foot bills of school uniforms, transportation, and books of the 25% students who will be admitted free-of-cost to private schools.

"Let's assume that parents of these poor children will manage costs of uniforms and books; but will private schools be able to provide these children midday meals? What are the steps towards ensuring nutrition of these kids? The Act is silent on these issues," added Vora.

"We also have to consider psychological effects which these poor kids might experience by studying with well-off peers. How they will adjust to such an environment remains a question."
"It's not about criticising the Act, but these are practical issues that are creating hurdles," added the minister.

RTE relaxed for minority schools

RTE relaxed for minority schools

April 28, 2012


NEW DELHI: In a major relief to the educational institutions run by the minorities, whether religious or linguistic, their management will not be usurped by the committee of parents and government nominees proposed under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, popularly known as the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

While the Supreme Court last week exempted the non-aided minority institutions from the RTE Act, Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal went a step further early this week to insert an amendment in Section 21 that “even in aided institutions, the management committees will have only an advisory role.”

He thus kept his word to the agitated minority bodies by restoring the autonomy of their educational institutions. He stressed before passage of the Bill by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday to amend the Act: “So we have protected the interests of the minority institutions.”

Though the original amendment Bill pending since 2010 was limited to cover the “disadvantaged group” of the differently-abled children, Sibal also got new amendments passed to exclude both government-aided and unaided Madrasas, Vedic Patshalas and other institutions imparting religious instructions from the RTE Act’s ambit.

The Bill, that will now go to the Lok Sabha for passage before the current Parliament session ends on May 22, also makes it clear that application of the provisions of the RTE Act shall be subject to Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution that ensures autonomy to the minority educational institutions from any government interference.

Since last November, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board had launched a campaign against the Act, including a convention in Mumbai last Sunday, to exclude Madrasas from its purview and protect the minority institutions established under Article 29 and 30.

“Some provisions of the RTE Act will deny our right to establish and run religious and educational institutions. We will make it a mass movement unless this Act is amended,” the board’s assistant general secretary Abdur Rahim Qureishi had threatened.

Several Christian and Sikh organisations were also up in arms over Section 21 of the Act making management of the minority schools redundant as it mandates setting up of a school management committee comprising parents, teachers and elected representatives of local authority to assume monitoring, development and other functions as may be prescribed.

In its judgment last week, the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of the RTE Act of 2009 and ruled that it will apply even to the unaided private schools, a host of whom had challenged the law as the government’s interference, but not to the unaided minority institutions.

Rights of children with disabilities

Rights of children with disabilities
Renu Singh | Apr 30, 2012, 05.26AM IST

The Right to Education Act (amendment ) Bill passed recently in the Rajya Sabha to widen the beneficiary net for children with disabilities is a retrogressive step since it defeats the very purpose of the Act, which is to promote social inclusion in elementary schools. The amendment is in contradiction of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recent Supreme Court judgment (April 2012) on RTE, since it seems to suggest that home-based education may be the best option for children with 'severe disability.'

The very notion of what constitutes 'severe disability' is a contested term and the assumption that 'certain children' may be best educated at home rather than schools, defeats the very premise of inclusive education that espouses the belief that every child, including those with differing abilities have an entitlement to study with their peers and not be excluded from mainstream education. Even if we were to presume that certain parents 'choose' home-based education for say their child who has severe medical complications with impairment , how would the state governments find the human resources to make home-based education a reality?

Currently, there are a total of 415 institutions which are recognised by Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) to run rehabilitation councils, and the total number of registered rehabilitation professionals in the country is approximately 35,000, with special educators included in this figure.

A recent study has highlighted that in 2007, the total number of special teachers' requirement for all categories of children with disabilities stood at 1,79,116 ( IAMR, 2009) - a current shortfall of approximately 1.4 lakh special teachers. According to MHRD, the number of out-of-school children with disabilities remains a high 35% (SRI-IMRB , 2009) and currently coverage of children with disabilities stands at 26.4 lakh in mainstream schools and 2.4 lakh through home-based education. Is homebased education going to be the vehicle to legitimatise rejection of children with disabilities from schools?

The above mentioned figures are based on Census 2001 estimates of 2.3% of the population with disability . Census 2011 results are due and expected to show an increase in the national population of children with disabilities. Is exclusion and segregation going to be the path that India chooses to meet the fundamental right to education of children with disabilities in the country? This is a contradiction to India's commitment to ensure access to quality education for all children including those with disabilities.


Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, passed recently in the Rajya Sabha, covers children with disabilities. As a result, it will now allow children with 'severe disabilities' the option to receive homebased education. It will also cover children with autism, mental retardation, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities

(The writer is the chairperson of ARTHA - Applied Research, Training & Harnessing Abilities)

Building blocks

Building blocks
Malini Sen | Apr 30, 2012, 05.29AM IST

While the Right to Education Act (RTE) mandates that every child has the fundamental right to free and compulsory elementary education in India, how do you ensure education for children in difficult circumstances? Malini Sen finds out:

From West Bengal and Jharkhand , Chhattisgarh to Orissa , the Maoist-dominated regions are making the headlines. But, in the sidelines of the news is another story - education for children in difficult circumstances , which requires special attention. Apart from political strife, difficult circumstances indicate internal displacement, natural disasters, communal and other forms of violence.

While the Right to Education Act (RTE) mandates that every child has the fundamental right to free and compulsory elementary education in India, how do you set up formal schools in these vulnerable regions? How do you convey the importance of education, when life itself is uncertain?

During a visit to Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) and Khammam ( Andhra Pradesh) a few years ago, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had strongly urged that schools be identified as 'zones of peace.' This would include nonuse of schools for any other than educational purposes, separation of schools from the camps, and introduction of programmes addressing the psycho-social needs of the children delivered within the school environment with appropriate training of teachers.

Shantha Sinha, chairperson, NCPCR, asserts that education should not be compromised at any cost. "In regions of conflict, children are more prone to trafficking , joining the labour force or even the armed conflict. The only way to make sure that they are safe is to keep them in school. And now, with RTE, it is their fundamental right," she adds. The NCPCR is working towards reviving schools in districts facing civil unrest, where there has been a total breakdown of the education system.

According to Unicef sources, at present, there are around 33 districts that are affected by naxal violence. Access to education has been significantly affected, staff enjoy little mobility, teacher attendance is low, civil work has come to a standstill, several school buildings have been destroyed and a number of schools are being used by the forces.

In Chhattisgarh, Unicef has been working with the local administration in South Bastar to bring children back to residential school facilities in Porta Cabins (prefabricated bamboo structures ) and provide them with a child-friendly environment.

At the initial phase, the methodology should be more about direct delivery, says Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director , Plan India. "For example, setting up of child-care centres for children aged 0-6 years, special training centres for children in the age group of 10-18 , supplying teaching-learning materials such as text books, etc."

Secondly, trained facilitators should be engaged to provide psycho-social support to the children affected by emergencies. The primary aim is to provide care and support to the children at regular intervals. "Our role should be of a facilitator, building the right linkages with schools so that children can go back to school safely," adds Dengle.

Reiterating the importance of psycho-social support, Venkatesh Malur, education specialist, Unicef, says sports for development and arts-based therapy has been undertaken to engage children in various participatory activities and divert their attention from what is happening around them in Chhattisgarh.

"Avenues for expression and articulation of their thoughts and ideas have been created using which children have been able to exhibit their skills," he adds. Innovative measures such as activity-based learning methodologies are being used in the classroom. Teachers have been trained on the methodology and age-appropriate learning materials have been designed.

Education also has a vital role to play in social reconstruction in the aftermath of a disaster. In Gujarat , after the earthquake (2001), the concept of building as a learning aid (BaLA) was developed in some schools. "The rebuilding of schools and resuming classes is a positive step towards recovery and the future. It is essential to review the development of new curricula and training of teachers in these areas, this could begin to symbolise a departure from the violent past and the advance towards a peaceful future," says Geeta Menon, who is working as a consultant with Unicef on education in emergencies. The Druk White Lotus School in Leh, which became famous after it featured in the Bollywood film 3 Idiots, was devastated in a cloudburst in 2010. Several rooms including the computer lab and elementary classes block was damaged in the disaster. Thanks to the concerted efforts of both the local and school authorities, the school got a new lease of life.

Education is essential both as a human right and as a component of the peace-building process. "Displacement is a crucial time of transition and vulnerability not just for children, but for youth and adults as well. Failure to incorporate youth and adult education and vocational training as a standard component during displacement is a detrimental omission in the quest to secure peace and initiate long-term development," says Malur.

Orphans in peril as Right to Education Act mandates parents' income certificate, caste certificate

Orphans in peril as Right to Education Act mandates parents' income certificate, caste certificate
Syed Intishab Ali, TNN Apr 24, 2012, 01.19AM IST

JAIPUR: The stringent provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2010, making it mandatory for all to produce income certificate, caste certificate, BPL card and birth certificate, have now claimed a few innocent victims: orphaned children. Schools are not admitting them as they want these documents which the orphaned children can never produce.

Though the schools are willing to admit such children, the RTE Act, which provides for 25% seats for economically weaker sections in private schools, has also made it mandatory for all children to produce income certificate of parents, caste certificate, BPL card and birth certificate.
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For the past 20 days, Jaipur-based Ashrya Care Home's superintendent Sushila Morthiya has been running from pillar to post to admit two children to private schools. In her child care home, which is housed in a marriage garden premises in Chitrakoot area in the city, 22 orphaned children are lodged.

One of the children is a 3-year-old, who was abandoned by parents and was brought to the child care home by the police. Later on when the HIV test was conducted, the boy was tested positive. Morthiya said, "The boy has no caste certificate, no income certificate, no birth certificate and BPL card. I am trying hard to get him admitted to a school under RTE Act. Since the schools are demanding such documents, all my efforts went in vain."

She claimed that she had met school principals to higher officials of the education department but no one has answers to her queries.

When asked about the provision of RTE regarding documents, education minister Brij Kishore Sharma said: "It is compulsory for all to submit the documents to get admission under RTE. Without such documents, no one can take benefit of the RTE." When asked how an orphan can submit such documents, he said he would look into the matter.

District education officer, Jaipur, Shiv Charan Meena said: "Unlike SCs, STs, BPL, disabled, there is no separate category mentioned for orphans in RTE. So, we have sought guidelines from the government on what documents orphans shall produce to get the benefit of RTE."

He had written a letter to primary education department on April 18, seeking directions and waiting for a reply.

Identity and Orphans’ Right to Education

Identity and Orphans’ Right to Education
26/04/2012 – While the Right to Education Act in India lays the foundation to drastically expand access to basic schooling, orphans' lack of identification may get in the way of their ability to enjoy this.

India’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act entitleds all children between the ages of 6 and 14 to free primary school. Passed in 2009, the Act is a truly historic one when it comes to children’s right to education—a right that about eight million children were missing out on when the act was passed.

When implemented, families will pay no direct costs or indirect costs for their children's schooling. This means no school fees and no paying for uniforms, textbooks, lunches and transportation.

The act also requires the inclusion of 50 per cent females and parents of low-income families. But, this tenet has run into several snags, as some schools or districts have found ways to circumvent the system.

Now, the need to make a paper trail may keep the most vulnerable children from the classrooms. While the act reserves a quarter of the seats for poor children, it also requires families/children to present certificates of earning, caste and birth, among other forms of identification. Without them, children are not admitted.

For orphaned and abandoned children, in particular, this presents a real problem, since they often come into childcare institutions with no documentation.

Primary schooling and birth certificates are rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is the most widely-ratified international human rights instrument in the world. (India is a state party to this convention). The situation facing Indian orphans helps highlight the significance of indivisibility and interdependence of children’s rights.

Rajasthan Minister for Education Brij Kishore Sharma will look into the matter of orphans’ documentation and the RTE, the Times of India reports. Meanwhile, Shiv Charan Meena, the Education Officer for Jaipur, is looking to the government to provide documentation guidelines for orphans as a special category.

India is home to an estimated 31 million orphans—children under the age of 18 who have lost one or both of their parents. There are no official figures used by international sources on the number of children who are AIDS orphans, but estimates put the number at about 1.5 million. Some of these children are HIV-positive themselves.

Activists question RTE clause on disabled

Activists question RTE clause on disabled
Anubhuti Vishnoi : New Delhi, Sun Apr 29 2012, 00:56 hrs

While amendments to the Right to Education Act have brought under it children with all disabilities, a row has erupted over a provision in it that gives the option of home-based schooling to children with severe disabilities.

The changes to extend the Act to the disabled had been made following protests over the issue by activists. However, an amendment in Section 3 suggests that a child with multiple and severe disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy, or who is mentally challenged, “may also have the right to opt for home-based education”.

The provision was added to the Act on the recommendation of a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Terming it a “regressive” move, tantamount to condemning a disabled child to home confinement, activists have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal.

They want the clause to be deleted, saying it would otherwise cause disabled children to be “marginalised, neglected, isolated, stigmatised and labelled”.

“It is a cause of celebration that a historic Bill has been piloted by the HRD Ministry... (But) the idea of keeping an option of home schooling for severely disabled children amounts to condemning a child to imprisonment at home,” said Dr Mithu Alur, the founder chairperson of the Spastic Society of India.

According to Alur, the Act would make it easier for schools to deny admission to a disabled child and recommend home-based schooling. Given the thin line between various disabilities, even those suffering from mild symptoms may pay the price, Alur fears.

Schools are already known to turn down admission requests for disabled children citing lack of trained teachers.

“You would have the likes of physicist Stephen Hawking and Malini Chib refused education in mainstream schools,” Alur added.

Poonam Natarajan, the chairperson of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, said they were taking the matter to “the highest levels of government”.

“The law should instead specify that severely disabled children may receive home-based schooling for say one-two years and then they must be sent to mainstream schools,” Natarajan said.

Activist Ruma Banerjee, who has worked extensively with disabled children in Karnataka through her NGO Seva-in-action, says her experience has shown that schools find a way of keeping the disabled children out with this provision in the Act.

“We have worked closely with the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which introduced the home-schooling element, and have observed in Karnataka that because of this many disabled children who can actually be drawn into mainstream schools are not sent to school. Where schools can avoid admitting disabled children, they do so,” she said.

She gives the interesting example of Himachal Pradesh as a contrast, where the SSA programme encourages home-schooling volunteers to bring disabled kids to schools and assist them there.

Radhika Alkazi, founder director of the NGO Aarth-Astha, fears that with this clause, “the child who needs the most, we are giving the least”. “This is a non-formal method of education. So why are we reserving it for this one child with disabilities? What provisions are there at home for such children?... Most importantly, what kind of social environment are we giving such a child who will have no peers, friends or interaction with a social set-up?”

According to G Syamala, executive director of the Action for Ability Development and Inclusion, “The challenge is for the state governments and schools to provide mechanisms to ensure mainstream education for children with all disabilities, even if severe.”

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People calls the step a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India is a signatory. “Our experience has shown that children with disability who went to school have been integrated far better than those who never went to school.”

Education policy for kids under six

Education policy for kids under six
Author(s): Sonal Matharu
Date: Apr 27, 2012

Experts say the plan misses diet, care and ignores children with special needs

pre-school education The 2011 National Population Census reveals that India has 158.7 million children under sixThe Centre has unveiled a new policy aimed at holistic development of children under six, a group which has so far been ignored by policy makers.

The national Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy unveiled in the last week of March by Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, aims to innovate pre-school education using play-based and child-friendly techniques, which will help children settle in the formal school education.

The 2011 National Population Census reveals that India has 158.7 million children under six. But government schemes like mid-day meals aimed at better nutrition and Right to Education cover children above 6 years of age.

The policy notes that currently there is very little data on ECCE facilities for infants, like day-care centres and crèches run by the government, voluntary sector and private players. There is also negligible data on the number of children with access to such facilities. The policy plans to give “universal access” to children to such facility and at the same time create a standard set of guidelines covering all the three sectors.

The policy will also promote use of local language as the medium of communication in all ECCE centres. Dipa Sinha, national advisor (child nutrition) to the office of the commissioners to Supreme Court in the Right to Food case, says currently different programmes for children on health, nutrition and education fall under different ministries. There is no one umbrella of service that meets all the needs of children. “ECCE talks of holistic development of a child in a single policy, which is welcome,” she adds.

The loopholes

Several child care specialists feel the policy requires substantiation, especially on issues such as day care, diet and children with special needs.

Some of its prescriptions are vague. The policy talks about adding crèches to the existing anganwadi centres, through which the government runs its Integrated Child Development Services programme, but it does not say how and at what scale. It sums up the need for crèches in just one sentence—“Conversion of anganwadis into anganwadi-cum-creches with a planned early stimulation component and interactive environment for children below three years will be piloted”—without elaborating on the needs of working mothers or requirement of day care in the informal sector like women working as construction workers and domestic help. Sinha criticises the policy saying the need of the mother also needs to be recognised along with the needs of the children.

Mina Swaminathan, a specialist in pre-school education, says it is important to specify in the policy the benefit it will advance to the informal sector. “The majority of poor working women, especially those in the informal sector, who are even more invisible, find themselves in a situation where their need to work conflicts with their need to care for their young children,” says Swaminathan.

There are also worries that the policy does not go into the specifics of how it would curb malnutrition among children. Arun Gupta, member of the Prime Minister’s council on nutritional challenges, says that the first two years of a child’s life is important as 90 per cent of the brain develops during this period. A report by Naandi Foundation, a non-profit working on child rights in January 2012, on hunger entitled HUNGaMA says that nearly half of the children in the country are malnourished. ECCE only talks about strengthening structures under Integrated Child Development Scheme but remains silent on the diet it envisages.

Differently-abled overlooked

Children with special needs have been forgotten in the policy. There are no additional provisions for differently-abled children, children of migrating work force and those living in urban slums. “There is no institutional structure an anganwadi worker can refer to if she identifies children with special needs,” says Sinha.

Experts like Swaminathan want the ministry to clearly define what child-care entails. “The stress of the policy is on improving pre-school education but what about children below three years who do not go to pre-school? How will the policy ensure that they are taken care of?” asks Swaminathan.

Vandana Prasad, national convener of Public Health Resource Network in Delhi, a non-profit agrees. “The Union health ministry’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has several programmes for neo-natal care and malnutrition and ECCE currently is divided between various agencies like ministry of health, child development and human resource. But care is left out by all.”

Misusing the ‘minority’ clause in the Right to Education Act

Misusing the ‘minority’ clause in the Right to Education Act
Niranjanradhaya V P, Apr 29, 2012,

The judgment of the honourable Supreme Court on the validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009( Right to Education Act) and applicability of section 12(1)(c) is a mixture of joy and disappointment ­– joy because the validity of the Act has been upheld by the apex court and disappointment is due to non-inclusion of unaided minority institutions under 12(1) (c).

As per the majority judgment by the bench headed by honourable Chief Justice S H Kapadia, Justice K S Radhakrishna and Justice Swatanter Kumar J J, “the validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is constitutionally valid and shall apply to the following: (i) a school established, owned or controlled by the appropriate government or a local authority; (ii) an aided school including aided minority school(s) receiving aid or grants to meet whole or part of its expenses from the appropriate government or the local authority; (iii) a school belonging to specified category; and (iv) an unaided non-minority school not receiving any kind of aid or grants to meet its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority. However, the said 2009 Act and in particular Sections 12(1)(c) and 18(3) infringes the fundamental freedom guaranteed to unaided minority schools under Article 30(1) and, consequently, applying the R M D Chamarbaugwalla v. Union of India [1957 SCR 930] principle of severability, the said 2009 Act shall not apply to such schools”

In essence, the unaided minority institutions are outside the purview of the Right to Education Act. This part of the judgment throws a lot of questions for debate. Without getting into the nitty-gritty’s of the law, as a common citizen of this country, I would like to pose the following concerns in relation to the honourable apex court judgment.

Firstly, the non-inclusion of unaided minority institution into the orbit of the Right to Education Act creates more segregation and gaps in the present education system and leads to a kind of cold war between ‘minority’ and ‘non-minority’ institutions. In a way, the honourable apex court has allowed minority institutions to continue their education business relentlessly without any checks and balances. Further, the quantum of unaided minority schools exempted from 12 (1) (c) is not ‘minority’ in the true sense because in all major cities, majority of the unaided institutions are ‘minority’ institutions; based on either religion or language .

Secondly, as a lay person, if we go by Article 30(1) in the Constitution, the minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions. On several occasions in the past, the honourable Supreme Court, while dealing with the provision opined that right to establish and administer educational institutions does not mean maladministration that could defeat the very object of Article 30 (1) (All Saints High School v. Government of Andhra Pradesh,1980).

Defeating the purpose

Thirdly, in my opinion, at the time of framing the constitution, this fundamental right was provided to minorities in order to protect and promote the educational right of minority groups considering political, social and cultural sensitivity at that point of time. But in reality, today the significant number of students studying in minority institutions belong to majority groups. There may be a small percentage of children from that specific minority religion but again they are from the upper strata of that religious group. Moreover, in practice these schools receive hefty fees and donations from students. In fact, while using the tag of ‘minority institution’, they are actually opening basic education to business beyond philanthropy that may defeat the original intention of the Constitutional provision.

Fourthly, from a sociological point of view, minority institutions are not islands themselves .They are an integral part of the mainstream society. These unaided minority institutions are enjoying the benefits of getting land for concessional rate from the government and subsidies for other facilities like water, electricity, land tax etc. Hence, these institutions are not purely unaided minority institutions. More fundamentally, these institutions are not created to propagate any religion but to augment the educational cause of their community which has in recent years transformed into profit making. This being the reality, the minority tag for these schools is an easy escape from the provisions of RTE Act and their societal obligation to supplement the state core obligation to ensure fundamental right to education for all children .

Finally, what is worrisome is that as a result of the honourable court verdict, in future, all upcoming schools may use all possible ways and means to get shelter under the ‘minority’ tag either based on religion or language. Taking shelter under linguistic minority may be much easier to escape from the RTE Act.

In a nutshell, after the apex court verdict, we are only left with other non-minority institutions that include a small number of prestigious but many chota-mota mediocre unaided institutions where we can enforce minimum 25 per cent seats for marginalised children. These institutions may even volunteer to implement 25 per cent because the state will reimburse the fee on the basis of per child cost in government schools. In effect, it further accelerates the privatisation process leading to collapse of the idea of building a national system of education based on neighbourhood school principle rooted in the Common School System as envisaged in the 1968, 1986 ( as modified in 1992) policy. It is a great setback for the current debate across the nation to move towards building a national system of education based on CSS to uphold the core principles of the Constitution.

(The writer is with the National Law School of India University, Bangalore)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Who picks up the tab?

Who picks up the tab?
Prakash Kumar, April 22, 2012

Right to Education: Making it an undeniable right of every child seems eons away

In a landmark judgement last week, the Supreme Court set aside all the arguments that questioned the applicability of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to private schools, especially those receiving no financial support from the government in any form.

Upholding the constitutional validity of the law which came into force in April 2010, the apex court made it clear that it was applicable to all the schools, except unaided minority schools.

It observed that the law envisaged a “reciprocal agreement” between the State and the parents, and it placed an “affirmative burden” on all stakeholders in the civil society. So, an obligation on the unaided non-minority schools to admit 25 per cent children from the disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in Class-I was not an “unreasonable restriction”.

The government has hailed the apex court’s decision, saying it brought clarity to the provisions of the Act. But, parents and private school managements across the country remain apprehensive as to how exactly the court’s verdict was going to affect them.

One of the prime concerns of many private school owners is whether the government will adequately compensate them for admitting children from marginalised sections and providing eight years of free elementary education to them. The parents, on the other hand, are worried if the school managements would shift the financial burden on them by increasing the fees for the paying students.

The RTE Act stipulates that schools providing free and compulsory elementary education shall be reimbursed the expenditure to the extent of per-child-expenditure incurred by the state concerned, or the actuals charged for a student, whichever is less.

This in effect means the amount of reimbursement made by the government will not be adequate for those private schools charging fees higher than that of the government schools.

There are many schools in urban areas, especially in big towns and metro cities across the country, which have per-child education budget much higher than those in the government schools. There is every possibility that schools, especially those operating in low surplus, will consider shifting the burden of providing free education to children from marginalised sections on to parents of other children by increasing the fee.

“As 25 per cent children from disadvantaged and economically weaker sections are accepted, the school budgets will be affected as there will be fewer full fee-paying students whereas the costs will remain the same. The schools will have an option of settling for lower profits, if any, or passing on some of the losses to full fee-paying parents by way of a fee hike. Most schools will end up doing a mix of both,” Sujit Bhattacharyya, Director of Indus World Schools, told Deccan Herald.

For schools, which operate at a “very low or negligible” surplus, there will be no option but to pass on the cost to other parents. Schools which are doing very well and making a reasonably healthy surplus may be able to absorb some or all of the costs, he added.
However, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is not convinced with the contention that school fee should be increased to meet the situation, suggesting that there could be other “ways and means” to raise resources.

“You have many corporations who are committed to corporate social responsibilities with 2 per cent of their entire turnover (to spend on this head). Schools can actually tap those resources, so that there is no burden on parents,” he suggested.

There is also a proposal of the HRD Ministry to subsidise uniforms and text books in the 12th Five Year Plan. “We are trying to do it, even for the disadvantaged children in private schools. We want the government to subsidise their uniforms and the text books,” the HRD Minister said.

Sibal says that government’s contribution towards reimbursement of expenditure incurred by schools on students from marginalised sections will vary from Rs 6,000 to Rs 19,000 annually (Rs 500 to Rs 1,583.33 per month).

But, this does not give a clear picture. The reimbursement has to be made by the state governments to the schools functioning in their respective jurisdiction and the amount to be released will depend on the per-child-expenditure on education incurred by the state concerned. The centre will bear 65 per cent of the expenditure while remaining 35 per cent will come from the state’s coffers.

Per-child expenditure

According to a formula worked out by the HRD Ministry, the total annual recurring expenditure incurred by the appropriate government, from its own funds, and funds provided by the central government and by any other authority, on elementary education in respect of schools established, owned or controlled by the said government or local authority, divided by the total number of children enrolled in all such schools, shall be the per-child-expenditure incurred by the government.

Hence, the amount of reimbursement against the expenditure incurred on students from disadvantaged and weaker sections would differ from state to state. The Delhi government spends Rs 14,300 per child per annum, but this may not be the same in case of, say, Karnataka.

A comparison of the annual expenditure on reimbursement and the eight per cent annual increase in expenditure stipulated by the Finance Ministry for release of subsequent installments under the 13th Finance Commission grant indicates “adequate availability of funds” for states to absorb the cost of reimbursement towards providing free education to children from marginalised sections.

The HRD Ministry officials too express confidence that there will be no shortage of funds towards reimbursement against 25 per cent quota in schools “at least in the initial three years”. Nevertheless, they accept that much more funds will be required for effective implementation of the Act in the future.

An enhanced outlay of Rs 2,31,233 crore has been sanctioned by the Centre for RTE-Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan combined for the period 2010-11 to 2014-15 which takes care of additional funding requirement for implementation of RTE Act which includes additional teachers.

Funds shortage

But, the fact is that the right to free and compulsory education programme has been plagued by shortage of funds. The budgetary provision made in the last two years is only half of what was proposed by the HRD Ministry. While the ministry received Rs 21,000 crore in 2011-12 instead of Rs 43,903 crore, the allocations were only marginally increased to Rs 25,000 crore for 2012-13.

Moreover, the budgetary provisions made so far do not include any expenditure head towards reimbursement of money to private schools against implementation of 25 per cent quota. Ministry officials say, a separate head will now be created under this head only when the states’ annual work plan comes for approval.

Apart from this, the RTE Act has given a wide description of disadvantaged groups and weaker sections which has to be clearly specified by the state governments concerned.
The Act says that disadvantaged group means a child belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, socially and educationally backward class or such other group having disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economic, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factor, as may be specified by the appropriate government, by notification. Weaker section means a child belonging to such parent or guardian whose annual income is lower than the minimum limit specified by the appropriate government, by notification.

But, the law does not specify the order of preference to be followed by the schools while admitting children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections. It has left it to the governments concerned to decide and specify in the RTE rules.

Delhi yet to take final view on education law

Delhi yet to take final view on education law

April 21: Officials in Delhi today said the human resource development ministry was yet to take a final view on whether some provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act applied to unaided minority schools.

Quoting from a Supreme Court order, HRD minister Kapil Sibal had written to state education ministers on Tuesday that the act would not apply to unaided minority institutions. But while drafting the letter, intended to chart the course for implementing the RTE Act, the ministry did not appear to have taken into consideration all its implications.

“The ministry is in the process of studying the judgment as to what provisions of the RTE Act would apply and what provisions would not apply to unaided minority institutions,” a senior ministry official said in Delhi today.

The letter — written after the apex court had ruled that unaided minority schools need not reserve one-fourth of their seats for the underprivileged — had left no room for ambiguity.

“The Supreme Court has held that the RTE Act and, in particular, Section 12(1)(c) and 18(3) infringes the fundamental freedom guaranteed to unaided minority schools under Article 31 (of the Constitution), and consequently the said Act shall not apply to such schools,” it said.

Never known for ceding academic control easily, officials in Delhi today said the ministry was yet to finalise its views.

In Calcutta, school education secretary Bikram Sen denied having received the letter.

The RTE Act makes education compulsory for all children aged between six and 14. However, some of its provisions like automatic promotion till Class VIII and a ban on any form of physical and mental “harassment” have raised concerns in many reputable schools.

J.C. Kurian, a former member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, said that going by the April 12 Supreme Court judgment, unaided minority schools were free to decide whether they would implement the other provisions of the RTE or not.

In Calcutta, heads of several schools iterated today that the exemption had only offered them the freedom to reconsider some of the provisions of the act that they felt could harm a section of students.

“The exemption from the RTE Act does not mean that unaided schools have been given the liberty to practise whatever that is not there in the act at random,” said Terence Irelend, the principal of St James’ School. “We want to make sure no school takes advantage of the exemption. We need to work out a formula so that we are able to maintain the high academic standards of our institutions in conformity with the provisions of the act though it is not binding on us to follow the act.”

Welland Gouldsmith principal Gilian Rose Mary Hart referred to the need for new teaching techniques: “Even when the act was not there the number of failures till Class VIII was negligible. But now we want to ensure that all the children in every class are ready to go up to the next class. For this we need to train our teachers extensively. If necessary we would have to adopt new teaching techniques.”

Hart was among the 40-odd minority school heads who met at Pratt Memorial yesterday. After the meeting, Hart had cited how any effort to discipline students was being “misunderstood” since the act came into effect.

The schools feel sensitising teachers to the objectives of the act could go a long way in helping the schools evolve a new governing policy even if the act is not binding on them. “We are against any physical harm to a child or any form of harassment but it is our duty to ensure the child grows up as a disciplined adult. Even those who framed the act will not mind that,” a teacher said.

The Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools is convinced that the Supreme Court has given unaided schools the liberty to frame their own policies.

It has decided that the individual schools will first go into a huddle with their founder bodies and identify the areas of possible change. The association will then meet to discuss “a uniform model of governance”.

“For example, we need to devise ways to discipline children without hurting them. We also need to develop a system by which we can ensure that each student between Classes I and VIII is made ready to be promoted to the next class,” said one principal.

Most of the unaided minority schools in Calcutta are affiliated to the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations. If the law allows them to devise their own policies, the council is unlikely to complain. According to the council’s rules, affiliate schools are free to follow their own policies till Class VIII.


- The obscure republican virtue, fraternity

In the French Revolution’s great triad of republican values — liberté, égalité, fraternité — the third term has always seemed the runt of the litter. Liberty and equality have (or seem to have) clear, absolute meanings, so clear and so absolute that thinkers nearly always caveat their use of these terms by invoking the real world. Thus, we are often told in passing that there’s no such thing as absolute liberty and no actual state of perfect equality. But fraternity? Fraternity never seemed to add anything to republican virtue that the other two values didn’t already supply; it existed to complete the rhetorical rule of three, it was there for the sake of rhythm rather than meaning. If you google the great fraternal cliché ‘brotherhood of man’, you get pages of links to a 1970s British pop group that once, appropriately, scored a hit with a song direly called “United We Stand”.

Oddly enough, this French flourish was given desi heft and meaning by the recent debate about the Right to Education Act. On the English language news channels, the debate centred on one provision of this bill, the mandatory reservation of a quarter of all nursery admissions in private schools for poor children.

In one television discussion a conservative critic of this rule argued that while he had no objection to privileged and poor children studying together, the emphasis on opening up private schools to the poor seemed to him a diversionary manoeuvre by the government because it didn’t address the appalling condition of state schools which were responsible for the education of the vast majority of India’s students. If every private school implemented the provisions of the RTE Act, some 80 per cent of India’s school children would still receive a wretched education.

This seemed a reasonable argument and it had become something of a refrain when private school principals explained their opposition to the law. At the end of this particular enunciation of the private school position, a lawyer who had argued the government’s case in court when this rule was legally challenged, chose not to make the customary counter-argument. She didn’t say that private schools were themselves making a diversionary argument, that by gesturing at ill-served state school students, their spokespersons were trivializing the very real good the law did by providing access to good schools to a significant minority of poor students. She said instead that we should welcome the court’s endorsement of the RTE law because it spoke to a central republican value: fraternity.

Put like that, the debate about reserving seats for the poor in private schools became more interesting. By invoking fraternity in this context, she reminded us that the opening up private schools didn’t just help poor children out of poverty, it rescued rich children from their isolation. The meaning of fraternity became clearer, not as it would via a dictionary, but as it might if you raced through a thesaurus. It meant adjacency, camaraderie, friendship, brotherhood (and sisterhood). It was the opposite of isolation, separateness and apartness and it expressed something that neither liberty nor equality contained: the difficult ideal of sociability across difference, the acknowledgment that despite visible inequality we were connected by an imagined republican kinship.

There is no country in the world that needs fraternity more than India does and there is no society that has less of it. Most cultures, for example, have traditional gathering places —cafes, coffee houses, bars and pubs —where men hang out and fraternize. India doesn’t. The ones we do have now came to us via a colonial modernity. In a culture where the casual sociability of eating and drinking together is made difficult by the idea of ‘jootha’ and rules about pollution, fraternity is a difficult idea.

Walking my children to their school in Brooklyn some years ago, I met panhandlers asking for money at the corner of every block. My technique was to either ignore them or to hurriedly give them change and move on. The natives did things differently; they stopped, exchanged greetings, and only then did money change hands. A fraternal acknowledgement of a poor man’s humanity doesn’t come naturally to desis. This has everything to do with the exclusions of caste. The caste system is distinguished from other forms of social differentiation not merely or even principally by its endorsement of inequality; what makes it unique is its ideological hostility to fraternity.

In India, the poor and the privileged, even those who are modestly middle class, aren’t divided by class; they’re divided by a line of control. The poor, to adapt L.P. Hartley’s famous first line, are another country. It’s a country that we write about or help make policy for — if we’re feeling curious, generous or charitable. Our concern is frictionless because their country and ours might be adjacent but they’re sealed off from each other. It’s only when this line of control is legislatively breached, when people not-like-us have to be admitted into our country, that we find reasons with which to repair the breach. Thus every episode of affirmative action in our history has been met with arguments from merit, arguments against a pernicious ‘creamy layer’ and now an invocation of the ‘real’ problem in Indian education, the reform of the state schools.

These arguments are often both cogent and made in good faith; their main defect is that, without always knowing it, they deride fraternity in the name of some larger republican virtue. There is, in fact, no larger republican virtue than fraternity. The argument for emancipating all of India’s poor should not be an argument against admitting Dalits into the charmed circle of India’s administrative and academic elite. The entry of some Dalits, tribals and other backward classes (Muslims included) via affirmative action and reservations into the institutions run by India’s ruling class won’t end inequality or abolish poverty, but it isn’t meant to. It’s meant to encourage and, if necessary, enforce fraternity where previously there was none. A republic that systematically excludes most of its people from its governing structures and educational institutions becomes unfraternal to the point of illegitimacy.

Historically, the call for fraternity seeped into Indian republicanism from the peninsula; it percolated upwards from the south to the deeply non-fraternal north. Jyotirao Phule and his Satyashodhak Samaj, the early educational reservations instituted by the Maharaja of Mysore, the Vaikom Satyagraha, Periyar, the Dravida parties that instituted backward class reservation in the Tamil country, B.R. Ambedkar, whose presence ensured that scheduled caste reservations were written into the republic’s founding document, the Constitution, preceded the Mandalization of heartland politics. This was not a coincidence: nowhere outside the north were the savarna so numerous or the varna hierarchy more entrenched.

The private school reservations that the RTE Act mandates is the latest of these incremental attempts to institutionalize fraternity in Indian society and politics. It is particularly hard to argue against because it implements the criterion of economic backwardness that opponents of caste reservations used to invoke when confronted by Mandal. To oppose this in principle is to oppose the intermingling of rich and poor, to oppose, in a word, fraternity.

The debate about the RTE Act helps desis understand how deeply liberal political instincts are rooted in an inarticulate belief in fraternity. Why was apartheid so repugnant? Not because it is unequal (there was, arguably, greater inequality elsewhere in the world); it was repugnant because it was a State-sponsored negation of fraternity which is grotesque in a republic. ‘Separate but Equal’ would be unacceptable even if the second term of that motto was true. Why do self-aware Israelis worry about the occupation? Why does the wall between Israel and the West Bank seem symbolically so ominous? Because it reflects the formal separation of Arab and Jew. Why does the idea of a Hindu, a Muslim or a Buddhist republic sit so oddly with the notion of republican democracy? Because to make Hindus or Muslims or Buddhists sole proprietors of a republic is to exclude people not of those faiths from a republic’s fraternal union.

The implementation of private school reservation might well be inefficient, corrupt, even counter-productive. In the civil rights era, ‘busing’ as a policy for desegregating schools didn’t always work and eventually a series of supreme court judgments led to its abandonment. But, as with busing, the debate about private school reservation might help transform the political culture of the republic by locating affirmative action in that resonant yet enigmatic republican value, fraternity.