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National Education Policy: Is objection of private unaided schools valid?

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New Delhi, July 02: Opposition to the proposed National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 is refusing to die down.

It's notable that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been forced to release a revised draft of the NEP 2019, which offers flexibility over the choice of languages in schools under the three-language model, following protests over the perceived imposition of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States. The earlier draft had suggested mandatory teaching of Hindi in such States.

National Education Policy: Is objection of private unaided schools valid?

The Draft NEP, 2019 is also being opposed by few scholars who say that words 'secular' or 'secularism' don't find any mention in the 484-page Draft.

The new objection has come from National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), which represents over 60,000 unaided private schools from 44 state associations.

Kulbhushan Sharma, national president, NISA, says that the government wants to usurp the autonomy of Private Unaided Schools through Draft National Education Policy 2019.

"Extending the powers of School Management Committees (SMCs) are a direct assault on the freedom and autonomy of private unaided schools, effectively turning SMC's into an instrument of surveillance and control for the government," Sharma told media on Monday.

"Traditionally, private schools have been exempt from SMC's under the RTE Act. The clause instituting SMC's across all schools is in direct violation of the TMA Pai Judgment, Article 19 of the constitution and the Society's Act of 1960. Such a move not only is likely to burden parents but will likely deter new edupreneurs from starting schools adversely affecting inclusion and diversity in education," he added.

Here is epitome of proposed National Education Policy

Sharma lamented that while so many quality standards are enforced on a teacher, but no delineated quality guidelines have been framed for SMCs, which will give directives to these teachers and school owners.

Since the apex body of the private-unaided schools has raised specific objection then analysing private unaided schools and proposed SMCs will be in the larger public interest.

Are Private- Unaided schools allowed to make profit?

Private- Unaided schools are managed by an individual, trust, society or other private organisation and do not receive regular maintenance grant from Government, or local body. An institution which is in receipt of one-time ad-hoc grant for a specific purpose like building construction, strengthening of library or laboratory facilities, one-time subsidy towards teacher salary etc., but not receiving regular maintenance grant, is treated as an unaided institution.

In other words, these schools are generally built on subsidised government land with a promise to function for the welfare of society.

"As per Government policy, schools or higher education institutes- government, private aided, or private non-aided- are not meant for profit," says an education consultant, who has set-up many private public schools in India.

He tells One India that most of the parents don't know this fact that nobody is the owner of a school and it belongs to society.

"Actually, people are real owners of schools. Schools are not meant for profit. Once a school has surplus funds then it should reinvest it in upgrading the quality of education and infrastructure. The schools with hefty funds in their bank accounts are in fact legally supposed to reduce the tuition fee. No school has the right to expel a student for non-payment of school fee. Since parents don't know these rules and regulations, the private school owners are involved in bungling of profits through various means. They have formed pseudo school management committees and are fulfilling the required paperwork to run the show. The education department of each state knows the 'game' but don't act as officials get monthly cut," says the consultant.

What will be the role of School Management Committees in NEP?

The Draft NEP, 2019 states that functioning of all schools (government/public, private-aided and private-unaided) will be supervised by the SMC, the constitution of which is mandatory since the enactment of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

It says that States may review the constitution of the SMCs using the following as guidelines.

(A) SMCs should have 10-12 members, the majority of them should be parents of students, especially mothers. At least two teachers along with the head teacher should be a part of the SMC. The other members should be: one or more alumni, a member of the panchayat, and a local person of reputation of social contribution;

(B) The SMC must elect a chairperson, who will ensure its functioning, arrange meetings, set the agenda, review progress and plan for the future;

(C) The head-teacher/principal of the school will be accountable to the SMC. The SMC will be responsible for supervising governance and holding the school and Directorate of School Education DSE (including its officials) accountable for educational outcomes. The SMCs will enable a "sense of ownership" for the school within the community, and would nurture the feeling of social cohesion and working together.

The Draft NEP, 2019 envisages giving many more powers to the SCMS.

The education consultant says that if the proposed SCMS in new education policy would function in letter and spirit then it would revolutionise the school education, particularly private, in India.

He is of the opinion that the government should regularly publicise the ins and outs of education policy, powers and duties of educational institutes to spread awareness among general public.

The consultant adds that until and unless common people know about their rights, chances are that the proposed SMCs in NEP, 2019 will also become part and parcel of on-going loot in the education system.

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