In recent years, Delhi private schools have seen a decrease in enrollment of pupils from the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category, which they attribute to fewer admissions in the general category. Covid had an impact on school admissions, and the effects are still being seen.
The Delhi Government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) recently published statistics in the Delhi legislative assembly revealing that there were around 45,859 seats for the EWS category, with 33,553 pupils receiving admission in 2018-19.
According to the data provided in the assembly, this number reduced to 35,186 seats in 2023-24, with 28,467 students enrolled.
Despite the government requirement based on Section 12 (1) (C) of the Right to Education Act (RTE), which provides a 25% reservation in private schools for the EWS and Disadvantaged Groups (DG), the number of enrolments is not promising following the epidemic. According to the RTE, the general-to-EWS student ratio in private schools must be 75:25, which is not the case in most institutions.
Speaking to Education Times, Kulbhushan Sharma, national president, National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), the largest conglomerate of private budget schools in India, says, “In Delhi, two categories of private schools have existed for the past few years. The first category of schools is built on land allotted by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), whereas the rest are the budget private schools that are in the unauthorized and semi-rural colonies of Delhi. The mandate of enrolling EWS students is mandatory for both categories of schools.”
“In private budget schools, the total number of sections for each class depends upon the enrollment of general category students in a particular year. For instance, if more general category students are admitted to nursery, correspondingly more EWS seats will be added to maintain the mandated ratio which means that the entire process of admission till class VIII is dependent upon the number of general category students,” he adds.
The Delhi government declared in 2021 that small private budget schools recognized for class I must get approval from the Department of Education to launch pre-primary classrooms.
“When the schools requested the same during the Covid lockdown, the number of admissions was hit and the department evaluated their strength based on the number of general category admissions. Due to less enrolment, sections for different classes were curtailed which forced the budget private schools to cut down the number of EWS seats disproportionately, breaching the 75:25 ratio. In early 2022, when the school admissions were in a revival mode, the Delhi government’s expenditure for compensating the private schools was reduced because it cut the EWS seats by half,” says Sharma.
The fees for EWS students has not been revised in the previous six years, which has harmed private schools, despite the fact that the schools have the authority to modify the tuition fee every two years. “Every year, Delhi private schools are compelled to approach the court for the reimbursement of the tuition fee from the Delhi government against EWS students,” Sharma goes on to say.
The Department of Education says that it has taken action against some private schools that are not in compliance with the RTE Act. The DoE (public school branch) keeps track of the number of EWS pupils enrolled in schools and guarantees that 25% of EWS kids are admitted each year.
“If some schools do not follow the provision of RTE, DoE derecognizes such private schools. In the last two years, about three private schools were overtaken by the government due to non-compliance of the provision,” says a source from DoE.
“If some schools do not follow the provision of RTE, DoE derecognises such private schools. In the last two years, about three private schools were overtaken by the government due to non-compliance of the provision,” says a source from DoE.
The agency did not give Education Times with data on the number of schools that did not comply with the 75:25 ratio for EWS pupils, but sources indicate that action was taken against schools that did not comply.
“In 2022, after the Delhi High Court gave the verdict that private schools cannot deny admissions to EWS students as per their will, the schools protested against the verdict that the government should not interfere in the admission process for the EWS students,” said a source.
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