CHENNAI: Notwithstanding the doubling of seats filled in private schools in Tamil Nadu under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the 2013-14 percentage of 19.35 remains significantly below the national average of 29 per cent, states a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) along with policy advocacy groups Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative, and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
The study, which assessed implementation of the 25 per cent RTE reservation across Indian States, showed that in Tamil Nadu, out of the 1.43 lakh seats available under the Act, only 16,194 were filled in 2013-14. Of this, 9,896 seats were from rural areas and 6,298 from urban areas. School participation rates, too, seem to be low with only 1392 of the 10,758 schools taking at least one admission: a participation rate of just 12.94 per cent.
The reason for such low participation could be the lack of clarity on several issues including fee reimbursement. “In many States, there is no clarity on how the reimbursement amount is calculated. In many instances, schools and parents are not clear if the fee waiver applies only to the school tuition or includes expenses such as books, stationery and uniform. Private schools also face the problem of delay in receipt of reimbursement from the government,” said Yamini Iyer, director of Accountability Initiative. She added that though the Tamil Nadu rules and notifications outline the time line of the reimbursement cycle, the authority that is responsible for calculating details like cost expenditure per child is not clear.
“Effective implementation of this provision requires that the State RTE rules and notifications clearly provide information to different stakeholders to access the law, expand reimbursement to cover pre-primary classes, prevent disadvantaged children from dropping out and remove blanket exemptions for minority schools,” said Arghya Sengupta, founder and research director of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
According to the report, issues that needed strengthening in Tamil Nadu included creating awareness, clarity on who would incur costs beyond tuition fees, and what should the entry age requirement be. But what does reflect the strength in the State’s rules are well defined beneficiary categories, like orphans, children of HIV affected patients, transgenders, a well- defined selection process and grievance redressal by local bodies.