Thursday, March 6, 2014

Illiterate parents face tech hurdle

PUNE: A practical problem awaits parents who want to admit their child to a school under the 25% reservation for economically weaker sections under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The state education department has moved the admission process for these seats online from the 2014-15 academic year. But education experts and RTE activists want to know how the technologically challenged beneficiaries who are from the backward sections of society will access the internet.

The new admission process will roll out from the first week of March. The Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Limited (MKCL) has been commissioned to prepare the software for the platform.

State RTE representative Suryakant Kulkarni said, "The Act's provision to reserve 25% seats in private schools is for the deprived classes of society. Parents of the beneficiaries may not be literate and it will be a tall task to expect them to fill applications online. In such a situation, the child may remain deprived."

Kulkarni said the online process would further reduce the chances of students getting admitted into the school under the scheme. "Instead of working on the online process, the education department must try and keep control on the schools and monitor the admission process more efficiently," he said.

Former director of education Vasant Kalpande said that the beneficiaries of the scheme hardly have any access to the internet. "If a survey is conducted and parents are asked about the internet, very few would be able to even explain what it means. In such a case, how can the education department expect them to fill the forms online, submit them and complete the procedure?" he said.

State director of education Mahavir Mane said, "We will conduct online admissions on a pilot basis in Mumbai and Pune in the first year. We will see the progress and scale it up depending on the success in these cities. We will make adequate arrangements for parents to fill the forms online. Our officials are drawing up a plan."

Sonali Kunjir, an RTE activist working in Pimpri Chinchwad, said, "We have been helping beneficiary parents to get their children admitted in eligible schools since the act was introduced. In the first year, most parents didn't even know that such a provision existed."

Kunjir said that with such low awareness among parents, introducing an online system would be too premature.

"The education department has failed to create awareness about this scheme. Many parents complain about schools to the district officers, who also lack knowledge about the provision. The department must first concentrate on training their own people to solve problems faced by applicants before introducing the new technology."

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