The recent Supreme Court’s ruling that the provision under the RTE act which provides 25% reservation to economically disadvantaged students in private unaided institutions as constitutionally valid brought a lot of cheer to the disadvantaged people who hope to receive education on par with the affluent sections of societies.
Education is the most potent factor in improving the chances of poor people to climb up social echelons. Realizing this, Indian parliament has passed a landmark law, making compulsory education for all children below age 14 a constitutional right.
The RTE act has a provision which reserves 25% of seats in all schools except minority run schools for economically disadvantaged people. Now the Supreme Court held that this provision which is applicable to unaided private institutions according to the act is constitutionally valid.
This is causing distress for private schools. Though education is a service oriented institutions, profit is a powerful motive which incentivizes schools to provide quality education. The act’s provision cuts 25% of their revenue at once, this puts enormous financial burden on them. The schools will be now forced to raise fees of unreserved students, this in turn affects middle class families which already spend a great percentage of their saving on their children’s education. Or the schools may be forced to reduce their expenditures on critical facilities. Both these responses will have long term negative effects on our talent pool.
Some experts have criticized that the government is transferring its responsibility of providing education to the private sector. And that the economically disadvantaged children will find it difficult to fit in with other children, this may actually cause psychological distress to those children.
Another issue with the judgment is that, it declared that the minority educational institutions are outside the ambit of art 21A and so they are not required to reserve 25% for the economically disadvantaged people. This judgment is based on the premise that reserving 25% seats to all economically weaker sections of society will transform the minority character of the institutes. However, it can be said that forcing them to reserve seats for poor people is not affecting their fundamental beliefs or minority status; hence the minority schools need to be treated on par with other private institutions.
Although the intention of the act to provide equal educational opportunities for all, may be in the right place, questions arise if this is the right way to reach that goal. Burdening private institutions with the responsibilities of state and arbitrarily placing minority institutions out of the ambit of RTE, will damage the educational sector in the long term. Instead government should focus on improving the quality of government schools and bring minority institutes under RTE.