NEW DELHI: The chief and deputy chief ministers of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, held a meeting with the press to tell them about the various education bills — new and amendments — to be tabled in the forthcoming Legislative Assembly session.
Here’s the low-down: the government is indeed planning to drop Section 10(1) of the Delhi School Education Act and Rules (1973) that requires private schools to pay teachers on par with government ones; DSEAR is being amended to give power to the government to decide nursery admission guidelines, to “stop screening” — defined, mainly, as personal interviews — and making collection of capitation fees punishable with fines; but the admission-related amendment will not do away with nursery admission criteria and will likely be implemented only in the next round; a bill will be tabled to re-instate detention in schools; and the state’s fee regulation bill will practically replicate the structure and functions of the High Court-appointed Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee.
“The admission process was plagued by problems. We are now defining capitation fees and a penalty has been prescribed for whoever takes capitation fees directly or indirectly,” said Kejriwal.
Secretary, education Punya Salila Srivastava added that the penalty for that will be a fine Rs 5 lakh or 10 times the amount charges, whichever is higher. “If a child is subjected to screening procedure, the fine imposed will be Rs. 5 lakh for the first contravention and Rs. 10 lakh for each of the subsequent ones,” she said. The amendment will confer upon the government the right to decided guidelines and makes the point on screening and donations more forcefully. On what criteria will be selected, the government “has to apply more mind.” There is a possibility there won’t be any change in the forthcoming session. The ministers also said that the EWS admission process will be moved online.
The government is indeed planning to present a bill reinstating detention in primary school — as the Rajasthan government tried — though the class from which it’ll be allowed hasn’t been decided yet. The rationale for the decision to overturn what even the CM concedes was “a good initiative”, is, as Sisodia said, “Without teachers training, without changing syllabus, the comprehensive continuous evaluation that was to replace detention hasn’t be implemented properly. As a result there was no assessment. If we have the year-end exam, at least we’ll know if kids are studying.”
For the record, the responsibility for implementing the CCE in its schools — and ensuring the requisite support system such as a healthy pupil-teacher ratio, adequate classrooms and schools that are all separate provisions of the Right to Education Act — was with the government. By pushing for NDP, activists like Khagesh Jha argued, the government is essentially relieving itself of that responsibility.
In fact, government’s stated reason for attempting to do away with certain provisions in state and central acts is, essentially that they couldn’t be fully implemented. This is the reason for doing away with Section 10 (1) of the DSEAR. The government seems to believe the public have an inherent right to start fee-charging schools that violate laws from the start. Apparently, managements of these schools are being “forced into corruption” by the law. Kejriwal argues that retaining Section 10 (1) — that protected salaries of private school teachers and was also consistently violated — is being dropped altogether to keep about 700 schools from shutting. This will be welcomed by budget private school associations — R C Jain of the Delhi State Public School Management Association has long demanded it — particularly because the safeguards to ensure teachers are paid is being left out of the bill. “Teachers will have to be paid minimum wages for skilled labour — so those being paid Rs. 3,000-4,000 will now get Rs. 12-13,000 — and we’ll introduce provision through rules or notifications that’ll require schools to pay a certain percentage of their income as salaries . They will not have to sign against amounts they are not being paid,” he says adding that the percentage will be in the region of 45%-60%. However, all of this will be specified in separate notifications such that they “can be tweaked” from time to time. Jha points out that as per the Supreme Court, “the teacher is not a workman.” “How can they be covered by minimum wage laws?” he asks.
The piece of legislation conceived to protect parents and teachers, apparently is the Delhi Schools Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee Bill. As Sisodia and Kejriwal describe it, it is near-identical in function to the Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee. It will be headed by a retired judge, supported by a battery of chartered accountants and will have the mandate, essentially, to study the books of schools to ensure there’s no “farzi” (fake) spending. “We are not telling private schools what to spend on — world class cricket stadium, world-class football stadium, air-conditioner in every classroom. But the committee can study how they are spending and if they are found cheating, it’ll will have the power to fix fees for next year and demand refunds,” says Kejriwal. What a parent who doesn’t want to pay for a new world-class football stadium does isn’t clear. On the plus side, the government is legitimizing a form of public or social audit of financial records as well. Returns filed by schools and all their financial details including fees charged and salaries paid will now be posted online. “The janta can check details on the website and come to us if some data isn’t correct,” says Kejriwal. So far, only a portion of this information could be obtained and that too through an RTI inquiry.
The Anil Dev Singh Committee had looked into fee increase on the pretext of implementing recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission and found over 500 schools who’d raised fees without paying teachers. It had recommended fee refund for all of these and the HC, upholding this, had directed DoE to collect. Practically no schools has paid up. The new committee on fees instituted by the government may have had the same outcome but for a very timely and important amendment to the DSEAR.
Practically the only part to be retained from the first amendment drafts from June this year, the forthcoming one will give the DoE far more teeth. A “graded” system of penalties has been worked out for school management for violating provisions of the DSEAR and the highest penalty is imprisonment of three years and a fine of Rs. 2 lakh, extendable to five. The director can even suspend admission in school. Till now, the only weapon the DoE wielded was withdrawal of recognition. “But that’s an extreme punishment, like a Brahmastra, that affects kids and teachers as well,” says Kejriwal.