New Delhi: Six years after the Right to Education (RTE) Act set aside 25% of seats in private schools for poor students, implementation of the plan remains patchy.
Private schools across India fill just 15% of the nearly 2.29 million seats available for students from poor families, revealed a survey conducted by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and non-profits Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative of Centre for Policy Research and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
In 2014-15, only 346,000 seats were filled out of the total available seats under Section 12(1)(c), the survey found. This section mandates reserving 25% of the total seats in private schools for students from poor families.
This is a slight improvement from 320,000 seats filled out of 2.18 million seats available in the previous academic year.
IIM-A and the survey partners sourced data from the human resource development ministry, state governments and other open source data to prepare the report.
Governments can spend as much as 20% of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for reimbursing schools for admitting students under this provision of the RTE act.
In 2016-17, the central government can spend up to Rs.4,500 crore for reimbursing private schools.
Delhi, with 44.6% of its reserved seats filled, was the top performer among states and union territories, followed by Rajasthan at 39.3%, Tamil Nadu at 37.8%, Chhattisgarh at 32.9% and Uttarakhand at 32%.
The worst-performing states with a “fill rate” of less than 1% are Andhra Pradesh (0%), Telangana (0.01%), Mizoram (0.21%), Uttar Pradesh (0.79%) and Odisha (0.97%).
There are nine other states including Gujarat, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh where private schools have filled less than 10% of the reserved seats.
This could be largely because of poor awareness among parents and students, and lack of cooperation from schools and unclear guidelines, said Ankur Sarin, professor of IIM-A and a key member of the team that prepared the report.
He said states that have done well must give credit to civil society groups for creating awareness.
“Awareness is still patchy, especially in rural areas. Once children enter the school system, provision of supporting and child tracking is almost non-existent,” said Ashish Dhawan a co-founder of private equity firm ChrysCapital, who started Central Square Foundation as an education philanthropy venture.