The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008 provides a rationale for the provision of 25% reservation which states that the Bill is:
"anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society, can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all. Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate Governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on Government funds."
Why did the Act not specify a much smaller or larger percentage for admission than 25%? Why was the pre-primary stage or Class 1 taken as the starting point for admission of disadvantaged children, and not a later one? In the MHRD document -- 'Clarifications and Provisions to the RTE Act' -- the following reasons for these and related issues have been provided:
1. According to the 2001 Census, the proportion of the population that is Scheduled
Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes is 24.4%. The Tendulkar Committee of the Planning Commission estimated that 37.2% of people lived below the poverty line.
2. The reservation percentage of 25% for economically and socially disadvantaged children was therefore considered reasonable. A smaller percentage would not have contributed to the
long-term goal of social cohesion and development of human resources.
3. Without forming a substantial proportion in any one class, these disadvantaged children would feel alienated and not participate effectively in classroom interactions.
4. Admission in Class 1 or earlier in an inclusive classroom, would help the academic, social and psychological adjustment of these children, and contribute to their benefitting from eight or more years of education in the school of their choice.
5. Admission at a later stage of primary education would have made the adjustment more difficult -- for example, as in the case of disadvantaged students from non-English speaking backgrounds studying in an English medium private school.
6. Unlike most schools in all developed countries, many of our private schools are 'exclusive' and cater only to middle and upper classes. The management, school administrators and teachers of these schools do not know how to manage effective inclusive classrooms. Therefore, the gradual approach of admitting students only in Class 1 or earlier, and building on this foundation, would give them adequate time to learn.
Which categories of 'disadvantaged' children can benefit from the RTE Act provision of 25% admissions? What is the maximum distance that students can live from schools in order for them to be eligible for admission? Which schools are mandated to fulfil the requirement, and which schools are exempt? Let us attempt to answer these three issues.
The broad categories of disadvantaged students who can benefit, are specified in the RTE Act and the Amendment as:
While the categories are broadly defined by the Act and Amendment, it is the Rules of every State Government which determine how the categories are interpreted.
Who are the eligible categories of children in Maharashtra?
In the notification on the 25% reservation provision, the Maharashtra Rules define these eligible categories as:
What is the catchment area for admissions?
The catchment area is 1 km. If sufficient children are not available within 1 km, then eligible children from the extended neighbourhood -- upto 3 kms -- can be considered for selection. .
Which schools are mandated to fulfill this provision, and which are exempt?
The Maharashtra Rules note that the 25% reservation provision applies to all schools in the State, except the schools owned or controlled by the State Government, or a Local Authority. It also follows the 2012 Supreme Court decision and excludes unaided minority schools.
Both the Act and the Maharashtra Rules have explicitly noted that children admitted under the 25% reservation provision are expected to be provided free education. In order that they are not discriminated against, and to enable them to benefit fully from their education, the Act and Maharashtra Rules have laid down guidelines for schools. These are in some respects a reiteration of the rights of children extensively discussed in Section 2, 'RTE: Children'.
Free education, according to the Maharashtra Rules, means that children admitted under the 25% reservation provision are provided with free textbooks, writing materials and uniforms. it also notes that they"shall not be discriminated in any manner pertaining to entitlements and facilities such as textbooks, uniforms, library, Information and Communication Technology facilities, extra-curricular activities and sports, etc."
The Maharashtra Rules also note that these children shall:
Implementing the 25% reservation provision for admission will be discussed in detail in the subsections for parents and school administrators that follow. This subsection focuses on some key implementation points:
Admissions for children under the reserved category will be held every year only at the entry level of every school. If a school has a pre-primary section, it will begin at the entry level of its pre-primary section. Schools that begin with primary classes will admit children every year only in Standard 1.
'The total number of seats at the entry level or Class 1, as the case may be, shall not be less than the total number of seats in any other class of the school.'
Selection process and reimbursement
This presentation on issues and problems relating to the 25% Free Admissions rules and its implementation in Maharashtra is a revised and updated version of an earlier ppp presented at a 2012 meeting of State Government Education Officers and NGO representatives held at the MPSP, Jawahar Bal Bhavan in Mumbai. Download the presentation here:http://rtemaharashtra.org/downloads/revisedreservationpresentation.pdf