School Education in Delhi And the AAP government
THE AAP government recently brought three bills in the Delhi assembly, which it claims will ‘(a) Provide affordable and quality education to children in Delhi; (b) Provide good salary to all school teachers and end their exploitation and (c) Remove legal contradictions, such that school managements are able to work honestly.’ (Full page advertisement by GNCTD on November 25). These bills are - Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015. DSE (Amendment) Bill, 2015 proposes to delete Section 10 (1) of theDelhi School Education (DSE) Act, 1973. This section guaranteed that the teachers (employees) of recognised private schools get salaries and other benefits equal to their counterparts at government schools. Another amendment, through the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Delhi Amendment) Bill, 2015, proposes to remove Section 16 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which provides for non-detention of children until class 8. School education is one of the prime concerns for a large section of Delhi’s population. It is important hence that the stated claims of the AAP government are examined vis-à-vis the ground realities.
Enrolment in (Lakh)
2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
Primary & Middle
Secondary & Sr. Sec.
(Economic Survey of Delhi, 2014-15)
THE LOOT BY PRIVATE
Education minster, Manish Sisodia, while presenting theDelhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015 – also known as the Fee Regulation Bill rightly pointed that, “Fee of a private school nowadays is more than the salaries, making private schooling of kids a nightmare.” An ASSOCHAM survey shows that the fees of private schools in big metro cities have increased by more than 150 percent in the last 10 years (2015). If one includes other expenditure like uniform, stationary etc, then figures show that the school costs have risen at more than double the rate of inflation.
According to the bill, a committee headed by a retired high court judge or retired district judge or a retired officer not below the rank of principal secretary to the Delhi government will be constituted to verify schools’ accounts. If a school is found charging extra fee or diverting money, the committee can direct refund of excess fee and ask schools to re-fix its fees. The schools will also have to submit audited financial return along with proposed fee structure for next session. Schools that fail to comply may face jail term or fine. There will not be any regulation/cap on the fees that a school can charge. The AAP government has used the vacuous logic of ‘autonomy’ to justify this move.
What do these regulations mean in concrete terms? This means that the unaided recognised private schools will now have absolute powers to increase fees arbitrarily instead of controlling it. Any arbitrary fee-hike by private schools will continue to remain legal and valid, unless a complaint is filed and the committee comes out with a decision. Further, any complaint can be made only a year after the fee-hike, since administration has one-year time to justify the hike in the form of actual expenses. Then there are certain pragmatic difficulties regarding the very complaint mechanism: First, the affected parent will have to file the complaint, bringing both the parent and the child under the threat of victimisation by the administration. Second, each complaint would require the support of the parents of at least one-fifth of the total number of students in the particular class. Third, no time limit for the disposal of complaint by the committee has been fixed. Further, schools can delay the decision by filing objection at various stages (initial stage, as well as after the final decision has been given), which again has no time limit for disposal.
It is not that AAP government did not have any alternative legislative model to check the fee-hike. In fact, the Tamil Nadu (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2009, has a stipulation of prior approval by the committee before fee-hike and the increased fee, once approved, cannot be further hiked up to three years.
The loot by the private schools of Delhi is not a new story. The Delhi High Court in its decision dated August 12, 2011 in Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh and others vs. GNCTD and others had constituted Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee to look into the accounts of each school and find out whether the fee hike by private unaided schools on the pretext of the Sixth Central Pay Commission was justified. The High Court had further directed that if the fee-hike were found to be unjustified, it would be refunded by the school to parents along with 9 percent interest. Justice Dev Singh Committee has so far indicated more than 450 schools and the refundable amounts cumulatively come to over Rs 250 crore. However, until now, not a single school has refunded the due amounts to the parents. Earlier in 1997 when the parents had approached the High Court against fee-hike on the pretext of implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission, the High Court vide an interim order had permitted the schools to increase fee by up to 40 percent, resulting in recovery of over Rs 400 crore from the parents of Delhi. This was to be subject to the findings of Justice Santosh Duggal Committee and liable to be refunded if found unjustified. However, the DoE-Private Schools nexus deliberately stifled the working of this committee. As a result, no amount has been refunded until date. (First Post, December 1, 2015)
The GNCTD in its advertisement has claimed that: (a) Teachers who are getting salaries as per sixth pay commission, will continue getting the salaries as before; (b) Minimum wage will be ensured; (c) Schools who have been following the pay commission recommendations, will be asked to continue doing so, and (d) A certain fixed percent of the school fund will have to be spent on the teachers’ wages.
It is important to underline that a teacher is not a worker under either the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 or the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Hence, there is no legal protection of their service and they cannot even claim minimum wages as a matter of right. There are separate state legislations that ensure that teachers receive minimum wages and the DSE Act, 1973 served this purpose in Delhi. AAP government’s claims that private schools in Delhi would have to be closed if they are forced to pay same wages as in the government schools would put the biggest apologists of privatisation to shame. Most of the teachers in these schools and particularly the young women teachers have to work in precarious work conditions. Government has pointed to practices such as “schools forcing teachers to sign in pay slips with amounts that are much higher than the actual wages which they receive”. This is true indeed, but then the present move would do nothing to improve the actual conditions of these teachers, apart from obviously satisfying the ‘honesty-fetish’ of AAP.
It is clear that the current legislative enactments from the AAP government are more of a hogwash that cannot hide the pro-private player bias of the government. The overall picture becomes starkly clear when the current moves are seen together with the other major changes introduced in Delhi’s school education over the last 7-8 months. On July 15 earlier this year, the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE), signed a MOU with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to introduce at least two vocational courses per school in 200 government senior secondary schools in this academic year (2015-16). The list of skill-based programmes include beauty and wellness, automobiles, retail, travel and tourism, security, among others, and will be taught from classes IX to XII. A report in scroll.in points to anecdotal evidences that suggest that many of the government schools are offering subject combinations that necessarily include vocational subjects. A significant portion of the increased budgetary outlays (a welcome thing) this year would be siphoned off to companies such as VLCC, which claims to have expertise in ‘beauty industry’ skills. Now, the scores of most of these vocational courses are not eligible for admission in universities including that in Delhi University. So, in effective terms this ‘forced vocationalisation’ would one hand cut off large segments of children from working class and poor families from the university education; while on the other hand, it would reproduce the class division even more starkly. The space for this vocationalisation demanded that the pre-existing school syllabi be modified. The manner in which the 25 percent syllabi cuts have been done speak volumes about the intentions and world-view of the AAP government. The manner in which the cuts have been made clearly smacks of the agenda to erase the progressive component of the syllabus in terms of both pedagogy and content. Such an approach seeks to minimise the social consciousness among the young students and pave way for further depoliticisation.
The decision to scrap the ‘No detention policy’ (NDP) smacks of the same anti-poor agenda. It is indeed true that the number of students failing in class IX has been increasing over the last few years (post-RTE). In Delhi, for instance, this figure increased from 2.8 percent in 2010 to a startling 13.4 percent in 2014 (as per DISE data). In the CABE meeting, also, this agenda had come up and many states expressed intention to do away with the ‘No detention’. This whole approach fails to pinpoint the basic reason behind these high figures. Various education departments have confused ‘No detention’ with ‘No evaluation’, while the RTE itself makes it clear that, the corollary of ‘no detention’ is ‘continuous and comprehensive evaluation’. The 2012 MHRD document on NDP explains the rationale clearly: “The ‘no detention’ provision is made because examinations are often used for eliminating children who obtain poor marks. Once declared ‘fail’, children either repeat grade or leave the school altogether. Compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating and discouraging.”
In the nutshell, how can we define AAP’s education model? It is a model that offers unrestricted profiteering for the private school managements, increases differentiation and inequalities by reserving quality education for the select few, while majority of the children from poor families are dumped in government schools. Education featured prominently election manifesto of the AAP government. At a time when the moves by government are clearly going to go against the stated intentions and promises, it becomes important that democratic sections chip, identify the voids on the ground, link it to the policy direction and mobilise students, parents, teachers and public at large.