While the private schools in Delhi were gearing up for admissions after the High Court Bench order and it was being thought that the ongoing dispute between the Department of Education (DoE) and Delhi’s private schools has been resolved, the directorate has asked the private schools to hold on to admission process till it moves the matter in SC, thus leading the situation back to square one. While DoE has all the rights to seek the decision of a higher court, until it does so, its new dictate to stop the private schools from going ahead with the admission process is being seen as an infringement on the Bench’s order.
At a time when the apex association of schools known as the ‘Action Committee’ and other associations like National Progressive Schools Conference were going through the process of preparing the guidelines for admissions to nursery, in the light of Bench’s order, the Directorate has asked the schools yet again not to initiate the admission process till the time this matter is placed in front of the special leave petition in the Supreme Court and a final decision is reached. The letter sent to schools say: “As the honourable Supreme Court is under vacation till January 5, 2015 and the matter will come up for hearing after the winter vacations, it is, hereby, informed that the private recognised schools may not initiate and may not go ahead with the admission process in the entry level classes for the academic session 2015-16 in their schools till the matter is decided by the Supreme Court so as not to prejudice the outcome of the said special leave petition.”
The Directorate, it appears, has not learnt the lessons from last year when its attempt to control the entire admission process in private schools delayed the admissions to Nursery so much so that classes could start only in July.
Ashok Kr. Pandey, Principal Ahlcon International School who is also a member of Government’s consultative committee says: “Nearly 4 lakh students applied for admissions in Nursery last year. Out of which all the private schools combined could only accommodate about 1 lakh students. The remaining 3 lakh students ended up studying in unrecognized schools or had to seek admission outside the city. A lot many ended up taking admissions in Government schools whose condition the Directorate has been unable to improve until now. Not bothering about the remaining 3 lakh students, the Directorate is only keen on taking the autonomy of the private schools who are as it is rendering education to a significant number of children.”
Elaborating on how the entire row shot up, Pandey says: “Last year Government issued a notification which schools felt was an infringement upon the autonomy that has been granted to them by the Constitution. That per se was not the irritation. The irritation was that the guidelines were not helpful to the parents. The first guideline, for example, was related to neighbourhood. If everybody from 0 km to 8 km got same points, what was neighbourhood then? The second contentious issue was related to transfer cases as the order lacked proper definition. If somebody was being transferred from Maharashtra to Gujarat and if one member of the family was in Delhi they too claimed transfer points; that created litigation and parents went to the court. Every point was challenged. Whole process was delayed by 5-6 months. List could come out only in May and classes could begin in July.”
Pandey further says: “Matter remained in the Single Judge Bench but it didn’t give the stay last year. The Court’s stand was that new guidelines were not doing any irreparable damage so the hearing went on. Hearing has been completed and single judge bench gave decision on 28th of November and upheld all that we were saying.”
Other private schools that we talked to too harbour the same grudge as Pandey. Asking not to be named, Principal of another school told RNI that till 2013 the Schools were taking admissions in accordance of the 2007 guidelines of Ganguly Committee, which were duly approved by DoE. It was in 2014 that the DoE decided to strangulate the private schools further. The guidelines clearly said that private schools will frame the admission procedure and parameters like neighbourhood, sibling, alumni, shall be available to everybody without discretion.
It was only after the latest order of the High Court Bench has restored the autonomy of Schools that the Schools were preparing the guidelines and gearing up to take admissions. Discontented, as if its hold over schools has been taken away, DoE still wants last year’s order to be restored.
Says Pandey: “The High Court has restored us autonomy to execute admissions but we have not got the license to do something wrong. We are doubly aware that we have a responsibility to uphold. Moreover we upon making guidelines will submit to Government with the purpose that it will keep a check on it. Government’s power of checks and balance has not been taken away.”
Pandey further says: “Though each school won’t have exactly same guidelines, all will have similar guidelines. Parents will have to look for two things while seeking admissions: any guideline violating the principle of non-discrimination and fair play and even if they are non-discriminative and fair, whether there is any loophole and whether any school is violating its own guidelines.”
RNI has been highlighting time and again that Government, keen on making stringent rules, has found to be lacking when it comes to taking action against the defaulters. Several complaints came up by media and parents against schools but not much was done, making some school managements bolder than ever. Even if all the autonomy is taken away, schools which wanted to find a way out will do so. Last year too, despite DoE guidelines in vogue, there were complaints of schools asking for money in cash or even proceeding with admissions while the matter was being heard in court. Little or no action has been taken against such schools. Instead of checking the defaulters, it appears the DoE thinks that by just strangulating schools, by taking away the autonomy they would be able to regulate schools.
Pandey too agrees to this: “Even if you take all autonomy somebody would find a way out of that. Schools which wanted to find a way out did that even last year. Government’s responsibility of ensuring fair play remains intact with Government. I am willing to stand for any kind of scrutiny against any wrong that we do in our own admission criteria.”