Wrongs of Right to Education Act

    07-Apr-2021
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Minority schools are growing much faster than Hindu-run schools. The RTE Act hurts Hindu schools in multiple ways making it virtually impossible for a Hindu to open a school. This Licensing Raj system is the handiwork of the previous UPA Government which opened a can of worms for Hindu schools that are now facing financial distress
 
-Pranav Bhonde and Ekaki

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The Minority Advantage in Education: The exterior facade of Jamia Millia Islamia
 
"Give me a lever long enough, and I shall move the world,” said Archimedes. He got the principle correctly – a lever can be used to multiply your force. In the modern world, there are institutions with leverage that act as force-multipliers. The most important on-ground ‘Institutions-of-Leverage’ are schools. A single school impacts hundreds of young students throughout their lives, and at a stage when our opinions are still being formed. This is precisely why the British Raj often focussed on building Christian missionary schools and shutting down native schools in India. As the saying goes “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man”. Muslims too, place great emphasis on teaching their children at madrasas, even though they don’t provide good Science and Maths education. Similarly, in Independent India, we know how Leftist historians have focussed on influencing children through a syllabus full of their agenda-led distortions.
 
Reigning in Hindu Institutions
 
What isn’t well-known is that there is an equally dangerous legal assault on Hindu-run schools. In the last two decades, students have overwhelmingly shifted to private schools i.e., private Hindu schools had started flourishing, which shifted the balance of power away from the government. To regulate private schools, the UPA government legislated ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’ better known as RTE (Right to Education) Act. However, Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution prevent the Government from interfering in minority institutions. Therefore, the RTE Act is applicable only to majority Hindu-run schools. This means, that there is a separate set of laws for minority institutions, and a far tougher law for Hindu-run schools, which gives a huge advantage to minority schools.
 
Government Data shows that minority-run schools have grown rapidly, while Hindu-run schools have stagnated. The growth rate of minority-run schools from 2015-16 to 2018-19 was 126 per cent, i.e., number of minority schools have more than doubled in merely 3 years. In comparison, the growth rate of Hindu-run schools was stagnant at 2 per cent. There’s a huge difference of 120 per cent+ in growth rates of minority institutions and Hindu-run schools! This disparity in growth rates is caused by the Right to Education Act 2009 (RTE Act).
 
 

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Muslims place great emphasis on teaching their children at madrasas
To regulate private schools, the UPA government legislated ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’ better known as RTE (Right to Education) Act. However, Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution prevent the government from interfering in minority institutions. Therefore, the RTE Act is applicable only to majority Hindu-run schools. This means, that there is a separate set of laws for minority institutions, and a far tougher law for Hindu-run schools, which gives a huge advantage to the former 
 
The RTE Act hurts Hindu schools in many ways. First, a virtual Licensing Raj system has been set up in every State, making it much harder for majority Hindus to open new private schools. For example, the Kerala Government had said that before granting approval, it will evaluate whether there is a need for the school at all! Why should the Government decide that, that too, only when a Hindu wants to open a school? The Kerala Government has practically snatched away the power from Hindu social educationists. In Kerala, some of the provisions were so absurd, that they were struck down by the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court. For example, the Kerala government made a regulatory provision that required CBSE and ICSE private schools, to compulsorily have at least 3 acres of land. This requirement is impossible to meet in major Kerala cities, except for some super-rich people. And remember, this rule was made under RTE, which is not applicable to minority institutions! While this extreme regulation was struck down by the High Court and Supreme court , other rules are still present for majority Hindu-run schools. across all the other States in India.
 
 
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The RTE Act hurts Hindu schools in many ways. First, a virtual Licensing Raj system has been set up in every State, making it much harder for majority Hindus to open new private schools. For example, the Kerala government had said that before granting approval, it will evaluate whether there is a need for the school at all! Why should the government decide that, that too, only when a Hindu wants to open a school?
 
Unfair Checks on Hindu-run Schools
 
Second, the RTE Act has increased government’s interference solely in Hindu-run schools. The administration can make multiple checks on schools – auditing balance-sheets and income-expense statements, physical inspections etc. Interference in the school’s functioning can be done at multiple levels, from village/ward level to State level, which opens-up multiple avenues for corruption. For the schools, complying with complex regulations ends up wasting time and resources, which could have been better spent on the students. 
 

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Third, RTE has decreased autonomy of Hindu-run schools and increased financial pressures on them, by mandating spends to be done on expensive physical infrastructure like boundary walls, that has little to do with educational outcomes. Additionally, it has forcefully taken away 25 per cent of seats under a caste, religion, and income-based quota. The State governments are supposed to reimburse schools for these expenditures. However, many State governments have delayed these payments, leading to financial distress of the schools, to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees.
 
One must note that this law was backed by the Sonia Gandhi led, National Advisory Council. The Congress party has historically thrived by giving appeasement benefits to communities most likely to vote for them. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Right to Education Act was formulated where Hindu-run schools get inferior treatment, while schools of minority religions and communities get a strategic advantage.
 

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The British Raj focussed on building Christian missionary schools
 
The separate laws for schools based on religion, have unfairly punished majority Hindu-run schools. We now need to harmonize and offer equal rights to Hindu schools as given to minority schools. The protections under Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution for educational institutes, need to be offered to all schools, irrespective of the religion and minority status of the management. Until this is done, majority Hindu-run schools will be penalized unfairly, and will continue to suffer.
 
(Pranav Bhonde is an entrepreneur, a journalist and editor at Vishwa Samwad Kendra. While Ekaki is a budding government policy enthusiast and student)