Delhi’s Legislative Reform on Education: Hit the nails on the heads or tails of ‘wages’

 sisodiaOn December 2, 2015, Delhi Govt ploughed through the 42-year old ‘tough’ and historic Delhi Education Act of 1973 and passed two amendment bills to align the school education law with ‘ground realities.’  The day didn’t stop there. AAP government dared the wisdom of ‘no detention policy’ of the RTE Act and through a third bill took a lead to demolish this clause for the Delhi state.  The radical changes particularly to the RTE Act are going to have national ramifications with reportedly as many as 16 states ready to join the bandwagon  

NURSERY ADMISSIONS IN Delhi is round the corner, typically, it is also the worries season’ for the parent community seeking to admit their kids to schools. The popular perception goes that a nursery seat in a top ranking school goes for a price tag of over Rs 30 lakh. Delhi NCR’s top 200 private schools or so are much in demand by the parents and ‘capitation fee’ in these schools barring core 11 ‘DPS’ schools is a ‘standard’ practice. 

Scenario two, teachers engaged by private schools in Delhi who as per law are to be paid at par with government teachers, are paid much less by majority of schools and lower end schools pay them ever less than stipulated minimum labor wages.
Situation number three. All duffers have got accumulated in class XI because of no detention policy under Right to Education Act. As a result the quality of education, teaching and learning has greatly suffered.
Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government has sought to change the above three listed scenarios by way of legislative reforms. Accordingly it got three bills passed in the Assembly on December 2, 2015 to fix the corruption problems in private school education in the city. It also took leadership in challenging the no detention under section 16 of RET Act. The bills have been sent to the union government as per the Delhi legislative business procedure.
While the final enactment of these amendments may be still sometime away, the reforms have already created bitterness and animosity with private school managements and activists up in arms. According to a statement by the Action Committee of Unaided Private Recognized Schools claiming to represent 1000 private schools in Delhi, their members feel totally dishearten and disappointed with the AAP’s insensitive, draconian and anti-children amendments bill DSEAR bill passed in the Assembly. So, what is so controversial to the amendments brought to Delhi School Education Act, 1973 by Delhi government?
First The Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015, which will provide for the verification of accounts of the school and refund of excess fee charged from the student by school. There is provision of a high power committee under the new law, which will have government nominated members and headed by a retired judge or a five year prior retired officer of not below the rank of Principal Secretary to the Government of NCT of Delhi, the members will consists of a CA, a retired civil engineer, an eminent educationist with director education as member secretary. The committee will have powers equivalent to a civil count and is empowered to verify accounts to ascertain any violation of various provisions and rules. It can direct refund of excess fee or money collected. A compliant must be made at least 20 parents or 1/5th of class students from the school, but is also free to take suo moto action on erring schools. Every person who at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of or was responsible to the Managing Committee for the conduct of the business of the management, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished under the passed bill. And one of the prominent features is application of RTI (The audited financial return and other returns and documents of the school shall be placed on the public portal of the website of the Directorate of Education). Government has cited a 12.08.2011 Delhi High Court judgment that had recommended Government should consider constituting a Regulatory Body for scrutiny of accounts and records of the private unaided recognised schools.
The second amendment and equally controversial is the The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Sections 2, 10(1), 24 and 28 have been amended while as insertions have been made to section 16(A) and section 27. There was no provision in DSE Act to check any malpractices during the admission process in private unaided recognized schools. The problem of charging capitation fee and subjecting child and their parents to various screening procedure by private schools have been faced and various complaints have been received by the Government. The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 has prohibited charging of capitation fee and screening procedure while admitting a child between the age of six years to fourteen years in a school. However, the said Act do not regulate the admission of children below the age of six years in the classes including pre-school and pre- primary. Therefore it is proposed that provisions be made in Delhi School Education Act 1973 to prohibit the school from charging the capitation fee for admission in any class and screening procedure while admitting the child up to elementary level. Delhi School Education Act, 1973 has only two penal provisions, namely withdrawal of recognition and taking over management of school, both of which is extreme measures and hampers effective penal action. It is therefore proposed to include other penal provisions and a provision for imposition of punishment in case of violation of Delhi School Education Act & Rules, 1973 so as to make it more effective..Further, it is proposed to amend section that ensures parity of staff salaries between private schools and government schools, and bring it in consonance with Right to Education Act, 2009.
“No school or person shall, while admitting a child in any class including entry level class, collect any capitation fee and subject the child or his or her parent or guardian to any screening procedure… Any school or person, if in contravention of the provisions of sub-section(1) – (a) receives capitation fee, shall be punishable with fine which may extend to ten times the capitation fee charge. (b) subjects a child to screening procedure, shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five lakhs rupees for the first contravention and ten lakhs rupees for each subsequent contraventions. (3) Director (Education) shall be the Competent Authority to impose the fine mentioned in section 16A of the act after affording a reasonable opportunity to the school.” Senior advocate and activist Ashok Agarwal feels that if fine is imposed, the school shall simply shift it to parents by levying the same in the fee bill. Who is punished; the school or the parent? There should had been provisions for imprisonment only and not of the fine.
The provision providing for pay parity with government teaches has been amend as ,”In the principal Act, sub-section (1) of section 10 shall be substituted as under : “The salary and allowances payable to, and the terms and conditions of service of employees of recognized private schools shall be such as may be prescribed”.
According to India Campaign for Education, a national forum for advocacy on the Right to Education, “ We strongly believe that this (amending section 10(1)) is in contravention of the right to equality and is in negation of all the gains made by teachers to recognise their services as qualified professionals. More importantly it dilutes the quality of education.” Agarwal goes a step further and explains, “Imagine what are the consequences of dropping Section 10(1) of DSE Act 1973 for a teacher: A teacher is not a workman under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the protection of S. 9 A thereof is not available. A teacher is not a workman under Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and therefore even minimum wages cannot be claimed by it as a matter of right. Hence, the position of a teacher would be reduced to that of a domestic servant.”
In Delhi there are approximately 2000 budget private schools recognized by Directorate of education and Municipal bodies that are unable to implement the recommendations of 6th pay commission even after 7 years have been passed. In estimation a senior secondary school having 500 students must have at least Rs3600/- per month to pay salary as per 6 th pay commission.
Atishi Marlena, advisor to the Delhi education minister, says: “A few laws are only on paper, not in reality. As of now, pay parity exists only on paper. Private schools say they need to charge a fee of about Rs 2,500 a month from each student to pay teachers according to the 6th Pay Commission provisions. According to our data, 70 per cent of private schools in Delhi do not charge so much. There are over 1,000 schools in Delhi that charge less than Rs 1,000 a month from each student.
Leaving apart the top 20 per cent of schools, private school teachers at the primary level in Delhi are paid an average salary of Rs 5,000 a month.” According to her, government will set up a committee to look into the accounts of schools. There are two proposals. First is fixing a gross revenue share that a private school will have to spend on salaries. And the second is setting up bands, where salaries will be correlated with the fee charged by a school. The ones that can afford to match the government school pay will continue to do so.
The third amendment bill relates to Right to Education Act and reads, “. Amendment of section 16, in the principal Act, in section 16, for the existing punctuation mark “.”, appearing at the end, the punctuation mark “:” shall be substituted and thereafter the following proviso shall be added, namely:- “Provided that if a child has not achieved class appropriate learning level in a class, he may be held back in that class.” According to Ambarish Rai, national convener of RTE Forum, the consequence of detaining a child in the same class works adversely on the child’s psyche and has an impact on his/her self-esteem. It often affects the child’s motivation to continue in school which results in drop-out or rather, being pushed out of the school system. Moreover, there is no evidence available that anywhere which states that detention in the same class has improved the learning of any child. It is important to note the profile of these children, who are generally from the marginalised sections of the society and are often, first generation learners. Moreover, he questioned the authority of the state government to amend a central law that is enacted by the Parliament. “ In deleting this clause, we are afraid that children will be demoralized and pushed out of school,” says the India Campaign for Education. Defending the removal of the non-detention policy, Marlena says: “The Delhi government believes in stress-free education. In a perfect world, we would have wanted such a policy. However, this is a policy whose time has not yet come. In a completely broken government school system, the policy removed all accountability of teachers, students and parents. There has been a steady decline in the results of summative assessment.”
BJP’s youth leader and MP, Anurag Thakur too supports this argument by saying that by not failing a child till class VIII you fail him for life. “In name of stress free education, we want our children to lead a stressed and failed life,” he told a gathering of educators in Delhi.
In the end will the just passed Education Bills lead to more crises as suggested by some people like parents pressurizing schools not to increase fee and schools in turn exerting same pressure to increase the fee and teachers joining the protestors’ party and ask for salary hike. Or, will it really work to stub out the flames of malpractices from Delhi private schools and possibly then elsewhere too.