NEW DELHI: Budget schools have been having an especially rough time of it under the Right To Education Act 2009. This year, many Delhi ones faced the threat of closure due to the land-norms for recognition, set by the Delhi Development Authority, as only recognized schools can operate under RTE. Nearly 150 representatives from budget schools, educators, researchers and investors gathered for the second School Leadership Summit of the National Independent School Alliance (NISA). They discussed school leadership, education outcomes, shrinking space for them after the RTE Act and staying afloat. And from this year, NISA is a registered society.
An initiative of the Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society (CCS), NISA links 7,000 "low-fee and budget private schools" across 20 states. Leaders of budget schools argued that the RTE Act conflates quality education with quality infrastructure. "In the RTE Act, quality is represented as the area the school should cover, teacher's salary and pupil-teacher ratio. The criteria are laid differently," said Amitav Virmani of Absolute Return for Kids (UK) and trustee of two family-run budget schools in Delhi.
Many among the speakers and audience felt the schools in this category do not get enough government support and that much of the 'quality' is delivered-as one audience member observed-"at the cost of teachers."
R C Jain, president of NISA and Delhi State Public Schools Management Association, argued that making a BEd degree a compulsory requirement while hiring teachers is forcing schools to hire teachers who may be qualified but not competent.
Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, professor of education economics and international development at London University pointed out that a large number of government schools do not meet the standards set by the RTE Act and that budget unaided schools deliver better quality education though its teachers, in most cases, earn a fraction of what a government school teacher makes.
The meeting also included a session on financing. Neeraj Sharma who heads the Indian School Finance Company, which extends small loans-a maximum of Rs 50 lakh-to "affordable" schools which charge Rs.1,500 or less per month as fee, says they are "replacing money-lenders.