BENGALURU: When Rachana approached a well-known autonomous school to enrol her son for UKG, her child was put through 45 minutes of rigorous interview by none less than the principal.
“He was asked to identify English letters, numbers, shapes, colours, animals, how many fingers were being held up etc. We were shocked to see an oral exam being conducted for a child so young. Usually my son speaks to people and is friendly, but because he was put in such an intimidating atmosphere, he did not open up. We were asked to wait outside for the principal to talk to him separately for sometime,” said Rachana.
Instead of being centres of education, schools are upping the barrier year after year. Parents and children are expected to be prepared and educated even before entering formal schooling. This is a violation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which prohibits schools from conducting screening procedures for children or parents during admission. There is also a penalty for violations of these provisions. Section 13 states that school must “adopt an admission procedure that is non-discriminatory, rational and transparent, and that schools do not subject children and their parents to admission tests and interviews in order to decide whether they will admit a child or not.”
However, during this time of the year, when there is a rush for school admissions, such violations occur in broad daylight.“We were asked about our income, caste and education. My four-year-old was asked to count numbers from 1 to 20 and identify alphabets, fruits and vegetables. A Catholic school also asked him to recite a prayer and draw shapes like circles and lines. How children are expected to know all this when they are not taught yet? Should the child be educated beforehand,” asked Pradeep, another parent.
Another parent who tried to enrol his child at the same school, said,” Differentiating between shapes such as triangle and circle, colours, numbers and much more was asked. Once my son was in that atmosphere, he got scared. They also asked us to provide details proving that his hearing, vision and speech is normal. What is the need for this?”
Nagasimha G Rao, director, Child Rights Trust, said that he has been receiving several complaints against schools putting children through screening tests. “Under RTE Sections 13 and 16, schools cannot harass children through a screening process. Many schools do it slyly, by seating the parents elsewhere, taking the child on a walk and asking them to identify flowers and colours. The teachers then give feedback to the principal on each child’s performance. Parents do not even realise what is happening and are only told whether their ward is accepted or rejected,” Rao said. “Up to class 8, there cannot be any such screenings to select children,” he added.
“Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Department of Public Instruction and Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Suresh Kumar should take steps against such violations,” he said.
DPI Commissioner K G Jagadeesha and KSCPCR chairperson Antony Sebastian were unavailable for comment.