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Luis Miranda

Impact of the RTE Shutdown of Schools

education

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Some years ago I wrote in an article that Right to Education (RTE) could cause budget schools to shut down. And that is happening today. As feared, RTE has made it more difficult for children to go to school whereas it should have created more opportunities for them.

Let’s understand the issue. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, (popularly known as ‘RTE’) gives every child the right to full-time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school (which satisfies certain essential norms and standards).

These input norms include prescribed Pupil-Teacher Ratios, standards for buildings and infrastructure, defined school-working days, defined teacher-working hours and the appointment of appropriately trained teachers. There is no mention at all about outputs and no requirements about improving the quality of education. [For more information on the RTE you can check http://www.righttoeducation.in/]

In the recent past, budget schools have proliferated in India. These schools charge fees of around Rs 200-600 per month and serve as an alternative to the free government school system. Given the low fees, these schools cannot afford large infrastructure or offer the same salaries that government schools offer their teachers. But many parents prefer to spend money sending their children to these budget schools instead of sending them for free to a government school.

Makes one wonder why someone would refuse a free service? The government’s response (and Amartya Sen’s response too) is that the poor cannot make rational decisions about their children’s education — a throwback to the days of a controlled economy. Professor Karthik Muralidharan (UC San Diego, NCAER, NDER and J-PAL) recently presented the results of his research on schools in Andhra Pradesh. He concluded that private schools deliver slightly better test score gains at less than a third of per-child government spending.

Data is sketchy on the number of schools that are being closed down because of the RTE. State education portals do not carry these figures. The Centre for Civil Society, a leading think tank in Delhi, has tried to get data on this. According to their analysis, 933 schools have been closed in Punjab and another 219 schools face closure. In Haryana, the court has stayed the closure of 1,292 schools.

Assuming an average school size of 200 children, this works out to 500,000 children who either have no school to go to or cannot go to their school of choice. In some cases these children will be forced to go to a government school — a perverse situation where the government is forcing poorer children to go to government schools. However, where there are no government schools these children will have no school to go to.

I visited one such village in Ukhrul district of Manipur, where 40 students found that they had no school to go to when their private school was shut down; we finally bought them a bus so they could travel 5 kms to another private school in a neighbouring village.

Accurate data is not available for other states, though press reports suggest that 529 schools have been closed in Andhra Pradesh and 30 in Tamil Nadu. In addition 6,116 schools face closure in Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. This adds up to 1.8 million children who may be forced to quit their chosen schools. And this dangerous stat pertains to eight states only.

It is not that those private schools that are being shut down have necessarily been doing a good job in educating children. Some of them could have been bad, like the one I visited in Manipur in February. But some of the government schools that I visited in Leh and in Mumbai earlier this year were not better by any measure. So, by forcing a child to move from a private school to a government school doesn’t necessarily assure the child a better education, as inferred by Professor Karthik Muralidharan’s research.

Many budget schools are working hard on improving the outcome of education. The National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) was formed in 2010 to create a unified voice in India for budget schools and to also improve the quality of education in these schools.

It is interesting how democracies work and how public choices are made. Instead of creating more opportunities for children to get a proper education, the RTE is pushing children out of the education system or forcing them to get inferior quality education. I am hoping the Parliament expected something else when they passed the RTE.

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Rajesh Suthar
I am heading an English medium school in Rajasthan. I am facing a practical problem from students moving from Govt. schools or Hindi medium schools to my school. As though RTE Act prohibits student's screening, when checked they lack the knowledge of even elementary standard and the Govt. authorities blatantly says that if a child is of 11 yrs of age, he should be asked to study in 6th or 7th grade. Isn't it funny as well as heinous on the part of a genuine educator to see a child merely watching at the pictures in his books ? Does RTE Act delivers its spirit ? This movement between Regional language and English medium schools should be checked and curbed by making separate provisions in RTE Act.
Dear Rajesh, This is a real problem and it is something that has not been addressed yet. You should check http://ccs.in/rte-portal and http://nisaindia.org to see how this can be addressed.NISA (National Independent Schools Alliance) was set up by CCS to address the concerns of schools like yours. Luis
Dear Rajesh, Through National Independent Schools Aliance (NISA), we are helping private school like yours tackle with this and other issues related to RTE implementation. We would be happy to discuss the issue with you and see what can be done. Please drop us an email along with your phone on nisa@ccs.in
PRIYADARSHAN SIRAS
Very true. RTE Act will surely destroy indian education system.
I hope not. We are working to see how the act can be implemented in a more efficient manned in states. You can get more information on http://ccs.in/rte-portal
Vimala Ramachandran
Entirely agree - the bureaucrats and proponents of RTE do not care to make sure government schools adhere to the RTE norms and instead turn all their attention to private schools... during my own work in the field in the last 2 years I have noted that harassment of private school heads has increased and the government school heads and teachers happily absent themselves when they please. The RTE has also meant that government schools no longer care if children learn, they just promote children and wasj their hands off...
Vimala, this discrimination against private schools is sad. And the job of being a teacher got so much tougher because of the no-hold-back policy. I look forward to catching up when next in Delhi. Would be great to know more about your work.
Hi all, Thanks for giving such insightful details. I am a professional and was looking forward to open a school, but due to requirement of heavy investments dropped the idea. Now, looking at your details, would like to offer helping hand to any of the budget school which can revive with the help of some funds. I know how much it pains, when a school is shut down in the middle of your studies. Please help such budget schools to reach me at my email given. Regards Pankaj
Pankaj, thanks. I will separately connect with you offline.
Hi, my name is Pallavi and i am a journalist working for a city based newspapers in Pune, Maharashtra (http://www.punemirror.in/). The article is very interesting and throws light to a totally different angle of the much spoken about RTE Act. I have been writing about RTE for some time for the newspaper. I would like to locate such schools from the state of Maharashtra to write about this issue hoping to get government's attention to this entirely different aspect of the Act. It would be great if you could help me connect with some of these budget schools from Maharashtra. My email address is mentioned here. Thanks Pallavi
Pallavi, I am sorry for noticing your comment so late. I will connect you to the folks at NISA/CCS.
Mr. Miranda your article bares the naked truth of being pound foolish, penny wise,.at whose cost ?. I firmly believe the Indian Bureaucracy have no knowledge of ground realities and mere passing IAS donot make them read bitter truth and the state dept. are treacherous ones; Of course many a slips between cup and lips. No sincere efforts form the people concern as much consultations from the stakeholders. Concepts never fail. people fail.
Ravindran, but we cannot give up ... we need to keep plugging away.
Crony governance - allowing government schools to deliver inferior outcomes for the users but preventing relatively better run private schools from benefitting the users who are willing to pay even more . Who said that the right to education is for the user ? Luis piece makes it clear that the Right to education means the right of the government alone to provide ededucation take it or leave it bala
Bala, true ... back to the days when government decided what is good or bad for us ... and we know where that led us to ...
After all the Christian educational instituitions has not been brought under ambit of this maligned law. Or did law makers forgot they should treat everyone equally in a so called secular state
Natesan, you have your facts wrong - this exemption is for minority schools and not just Christian schools. And some states are anyway ignoring this exemption for certain clauses. All I can say about this exemption is "thank god" ... otherwise more students would be adversely affected.
Pulak Kumar Sinha
This is really a revelation to me, Mr. Luis Miranda. I have no doubt that our Think Tank in the Parliament and a large group of Advisors had never expected this sorry state of affairs. However, it is a fact that framing rules without considering the pros and cons of the same creates a situation like this. We hope that the Government will take stock of the position prevailing in this space and take immediate action to reverse the trend. The Parents of the affected students must raise the issue in all possible fora. At the end, I wish Mr. Miranda will bring out such issues to the knowledge of the People.
Pulak, when I told a senior person in the HRD Ministry about this he was shocked. Unfortunately, this is an example of the law of unintended consequences.
It's always efficient to give "coupons" for the needy than creating these distortions. Hope we will get there some day.
Shyam, CCS runs a voucher programme in Delhi and we are starting one for vocational training in Mumbai and Pune with the Government of Maharashtra, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and NSDC. You can find out more fromn the CCS website - www.ccs.in.
Its really sad to see these private schools shut down. I had the privilege of visiting a number of these schools run in and around Hyderabad. These schools were run by feisty entrepreneurs and were running to full capacity. In my interactions with some of the parents at these schools, there was a clear choice for the private school, as they gave 'English Education'. Don't know what will happen to the aspirations of the parents, and what kind of education will the kids get at the government run schools that have large soul-less buildings as the requisite infrastructure..
We have till Nov 15 to write to the RTE Act Parliamentary Committee at committeehrd@gmail.com. Please send in your comments about it being a shame that schools are being shut down despite parents wanting to send their kids to these schools.
Thanks Luis for the email reference. I will definitely write to them and atleast lodge my protest..
Himanshu, I saw it. Super!
Abhishek Bhattacharya
Kudos for the great piece! Another issue is discrimination between govt. and private schools. Many govt. schools falter in following these very norms and standards for which budget private schools are closed down due to non-compliance. RTE explicitly keeps govt owned schools established before the commencement of the Act outside the purview of closure. These schools need not obtain certificate of recognition unlike private schools. Few states like Jharkhand have stated that even govt schools have to obtain recognition but when we made an enquiry, we found that no govt. school is being closed down. In fact, there is hardly any news of any govt. school being closed down anywhere in India. This is a bias against students studying in govt. schools. Govt. school students can study in RTE non-compliant schools whereas pvt school students have to study in RTE compliant schools. Irony of a pro-poor govt.! Ends up helping only the rich!
Abhishek, very true. Many government schools are non-compliant but still continue. CCS (Centre for Civil Society) runs a series of seminars across the country and I run a capsule on public choice that shows how final outcomes often are very different from plan because of human behaviour.
Dear Luis, Spot ON!!! I witnessed a small school, Divine Angels, being closed down in Mumbai where all our Domestic Servers sent their kids. The school has been around since 1989 run by Catholic ex-School Teachers from prestigious schools in Mumbai - St Marys ISC, Bombay Scottish, Cathedral & John Cannon etc. They actually had secured a small plot from the local Government and I personally know children that have come from there who are now engineers, doctors and bank managers. Now a nephew of a politician has the premises, 800 square yards today with his Corporate Edifice to commence under construction in January 2014. My questions to you are as: 01. Can something be done about that by getting the place back - school was shut at the closing of the school year in April 2013? 02. Would you know of any such good initiative where we could sponsor @ Rs 500/- per child / month, education for about 100 children? Awaiting your reply.
Suraj, thanks. I think it will be tough to get the place back since it looks like a non-transparent transfer. Try reaching out to your friends about funding these students. That's how we funded 160 students at the same price point in Manipur and Nagaland. All the best.
Hey Suraj, I know that school. It was really amazing and everyone worked there with all their heart. While I used to study there, we used to have an annual fate where we had students sell food items and all proceedings went towards Divine Angels! It is such a shame they closed it down that too for vested interests. Really sad state of affairs
The late George Stigler would have said "I told you so!"
Wim, Amen! I currently conduct a session on Public Choice for the Centre for Civil Society. A lot is from what Stigler taught us in the 80s. Luis
Thanks, Luis, for the wonderful although sad article. Enough people had even then argued against RTE and its provisions. In fact, Gujarat in its modified Act did try to address some of the concerns and focussed on incremental addition to infrastructure rather than infrastructure at a point of time and even emphasised on outcomes as against just outlays. After the grossly deleterious MNREGA, Congress discovered the mantra of rights without any accountability, loot with impunity... And why schools alone? They have even reduced the IITs to a sorry state.
Anirudha, yes, Gujarat has addressed the outcomes issue better than other states ... in fact I do not know why Modi doesn't talk about this as one of his government's achievements.
True. I think most politicians still believe that such details will not sell in the electoral battlefield. And that is true. Big slogans, announcements, outlays, mindless debates take up all the space. When even most of the media ignores those good things and any comment on Gujarat and/ or Modi gets linked to 2002 and becomes an ideological divide between two sides. even otherwise honest economists, journalists and academicians are trying to prove their level best that there has been no good in Gujarat in the last 10 years. Somewhere there also has to be the exchange of learnings between different states.
A very valid observation, Luis. I remember instances where the maids working at our home (be it Mumbai or Patna or among the other places) would always send their kids to some local private school (fees between Rs 100 - 350 per month) near their homes rather than send them to a Govt. school. It was their observation that their kids actually learnt something in such schools whereas Govt schools was about only mid-day meals (which are also of very poor quality in most schools, but that is a completely different discussion altogether). So, you are absolutely spot on when you say that these private schools do provide slightly better learning and test scores. RTE was again very poorly implemented (just like CCE) and the data that you speak about (over 1.8 million kids in just 8 states out of their preferred schools) is going to breed more disaster for an already poor education system. A lot to focus on for damage control!
Priyadeep, thanks. There is unfortunately too much talk and less focus on closure of issues. In Mumbai there is more debate on the 25% reservation while more important issues like remedial training and teacher training are ignored.
 
 
Luis Miranda
Luis Miranda started investing in India's infrastructure before it became fashionable. He started IDFC Private Equity and was earlier a part of the start-up team of HDFC Bank.
Luis has invested in and has been on the boards of companies like GMR Infrastructure, Delhi International Airport, Gujarat Pipavav Port, Gujarat State Petronet, L&T Infrastructure and Manipal Global Education.
Today he is involved with various non-profits like Centre for Civil Society, SNEHA, Human Rights Watch, Gateway House and Samhita Social Ventures. Luis graduated with an MBA from Chicago Booth.
 
 
 
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July 22, 2014 09:26 am by rohan
Dear Rajesh, Through National Independent Schools Aliance (NISA), we are helping private school like yours tackle with this and other issues related to RTE implementation. We would be happy to discuss the issue with you and see what can be done. Please drop us an email along with your phone ...
July 21, 2014 11:42 am by Luis
Dear Rajesh, This is a real problem and it is something that has not been addressed yet. You should check http://ccs.in/rte-portal and http://nisaindia.org to see how this can be addressed.NISA (National Independent Schools Alliance) was set up by CCS to address the concerns of schools like yours...
July 21, 2014 11:39 am by Luis
I hope not. We are working to see how the act can be implemented in a more efficient manned in states. You can get more information on http://ccs.in/rte-portal
July 19, 2014 13:45 pm by Rajesh Suthar
I am heading an English medium school in Rajasthan. I am facing a practical problem from students moving from Govt. schools or Hindi medium schools to my school. As though RTE Act prohibits student's screening, when checked they lack the knowledge of even elementary standard and the Govt. authoritie...
July 14, 2014 02:51 am by PRIYADARSHAN SIRAS
Very true. RTE Act will surely destroy indian education system.