45 per cent jump in applicants for Right to Education seats in Tamil Nadu schools

This year, the department has received 1,74,756 applications for the 84,765 RTE seats through its single-window portal.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only. (ENS)

CHENNAI: Applications for admissions in private schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act have increased by around 45%, with the Tamil Nadu school education department receiving 1.58 lakh applications this year compared to 1.1 lakh applications received in 2023.

Under the RTE Act, 25% of seats in entry-level classes in private schools are reserved for students from economically weaker sections. The trend shows the appeal for private schools among parents and their belief about better quality education being offered by them compared to government schools, sources said.

This year, the department has received 1,74,756 applications for the 84,765 RTE seats through its single-window portal. Only schools following state syllabus were included and not those following CBSE or other boards.

Chief Education Officers scrutinised the applications from May 10 to May 27. After rejecting applications for lack of documents or failure to meet criteria, 1,57,767 applications were deemed eligible.

‘Govt needs to modify rules to ensure that tribal students can benefit from RTE Act’

For schools where the number of applicants exceeded the available seats, the department drew lots to choose the students on May 28. Parents of selected students received an SMS notification from the department, and the names of the selected students were posted on the notice board of the respective schools. These students must confirm their admission with the schools by June 3, officials said.

The sharp increase in the number of applications has come amid government’s efforts to increase enrolment in government schools through special drives. Officials from the school education department attributed the increase in the RTE applications to the overall improvement in parents’ financial status after the economic distress during Covid-19.

Though the fee cost will be met by the government for those admitted under RTE, parents will have to invariably spend more on their children’s education in private schools compared to government schools.

“While we must ensure that RTE admissions are conducted properly, we have been promoting admissions in government schools through various schemes, including a 7.5% reservation in engineering and MBBS admissions. However, there is still a gap in changing the perception of government schools,” said an official from the school education department.

KR Nandakumar, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation Higher Secondary and CBSE Schools Association, noted that the trend shows increased awareness among people regarding the RTE Act and a growing trust in private schools to provide better education.

“While people in the cities are benefiting from the RTE Act, those in tribal areas like Kalvarayan Hills remain at a disadvantage. Since there are no private schools in these areas, the rule that only those within a one-km radius of a school can apply for admission to a private school under the Act automatically disqualifies them. The government needs to modify the rules to ensure that these students can benefit from the RTE Act as well,” said ANS Prasad, president, Tamil Nadu Private School Parents Teachers’ Association.

Expressing concern over the increase in RTE applications, PB Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common School System, said when children are enrolled in private schools, they are denied government schemes like nutritious meals and others. The government only needs to pay the tuition fee to the private school, making it a facilitator rather than a direct provider of education.

SPCSS has been advocating increase in outlay for elementary education and improving the infrastructure in government schools to enhance their status. The forum also wants the government to stop reimbursing fee to private schools under the RTE Act and ensure that the right to education is provided through government and government-aided schools.

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The New Indian Express