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Creating Class in Classrooms

By Sushmita Dutta | Last Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 16:15
Sushmita Dutta
Sushi's Musings

The Supreme Court has brought smiles on the faces of children from the poor strata of the society. In a path-breaking verdict, the apex court upheld the constitutional validity of the Right to Education (RTE) Act making it imperative for all private schools to reserve 25% seats for children from the underprivileged sections of the society. The judgement makes the right to education a fundamental right for the kids in the age group of 6-14 years, which is a historical judgement in the realm of education.

The judgment regarding the right to education comes into effect from April 13, and as per the court’s order, previous admissions will not be affected. The RTE Act has certain exemptions, as it will not be applicable to boarding schools and unaided private minority schools.

Disparity in the education system has been a lingering issue. In our country, the gap in the quality of education between the rich and the poor, government schools and private schools is so apartheid-like.

On one hand, we have the affluent and well-heeled elite students having access to modern tools of education, while on the other a large number of kids will never even be able to make to the doors of these institutions. That is why the divide in economic terms is also gargantuan. If the Act can be implemented properly, education can serve as a catalyst to bridge the divide between the different classes. The unacceptable clog of class divide that has been deep-rooted in our society can only be beaten down by the intermingling of people. The court’s step, which would ultimately minimise this disparity, is thus a welcome move. The poor now have a reason to dream, to achieve greater heights in their life with equal opportunities given to them.

But a little digging into the facts will reveal that perhaps the court has not put proper thought into it. It seems that the RTE Act would be without any teeth. The poor could be in a bigger problem even if they get admission into private and affluent schools.

If these underprivileged kids even manage to get through the high doors of these elite schools, the path definitely won’t be rosy for them. Even if they get free education, how will they afford the costly books and prepare for projects and assignments? The court does not say whether these kids will be in the same class as the so-called privileged ones. If yes, then a disparity between these poor kids and affluent ones is bound to creep in and possibly have an adverse psychological impact. The lifestyle of the affluent kids will definitely affect the underprivileged. The poor ones won’t understand that their parents will not be able to afford that sort of a lifestyle. Is this really a way of ending the class system or entrenching the system inside the classroom?

The judgement is also not clear in terms of who will bear the cost of this free education. What will the cost encompass - education fees, uniforms, food and every other penny needed to give them quality education? Private schools, which also run more like corporate houses, will definitely not bear the losses. In case these schools feel that they will run into losses, how will they compensate? Is it going to put hands in the pockets of the more privileged class and squeeze it from them?

Yes, of course. So the Great Indian Middle Class is again at the altar for sacrifice. For the simple reason that to the uber-rich few more pennies probably would not hurt and the poor already have it for free. Therefore the pinch, as is with everything, will be felt by the middle class. The schools are already charging five-star fees for admission and capitation. If the charges go up further, life of the middle class will be made further difficult.

But if not here (in the private schools) also, then where will these little kids go? What will happen to their future? Will they be deprived of proper education? If the government actually wishes, it can easily be done. Private schools can abide by the RTE Act and help the society as much as they can.

What about the government schools? There are so many government schools all over the country and condition of most of them is downright degradable. The quality of these schools should be improved to the level of the private ones. The teachers need to be paid well so that there is equal interest in joining these schools. The kids then won’t have to suffer due to unaffordable fees or trauma of being “have nots”. They will make India proud with the light of their intellect and achievements. Education is the foundation of every country’s future. Let us invest wisely in it.

First Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 16:15

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