New Delhi: The
beginning of a revolution in education or a cloud on the autonomy
of private institutions and a financial burden on the middle
The Supreme Court judgment asking private schools to provide 25
percent seats to economically weaker sections (EWS) as per the
Right To Education (RTE) act that guarantees education to every
school going child in the country has split opinion right down the
While private schools are frankly unhappy, education activists say
the April 12 ruling is a great step towards equal opportunities
for all. Parents are apprehensive about how it will work out and
many wonder if this will lead to social friction in the classrooms
and school buses.
"There is nothing wrong in giving education to the
underprivileged, but then the government should reimburse the
entire tuition fee or else it will become a financial burden on
us," Madhulika Singh, principal of Delhi's Tagore International
School, told IANS.
Some schools in Kolkata believe it would be better if they are not
included in the list of government 'aided' institutions and are
ready to bear the extra financial burden rather than take
government aid to subsidise poor students that they will have to
take under the Right to Education act.
Damodar Prasad Goyal, president of the Society for Unaided Private
Schools, says it is more about the autonomy of schools than
"We are not opposed to 25 percent reservation for EWS students,
but it is our fundamental right to have the autonomy to admit
students... the government cannot nationalise 25 percent seats,"
Goyal told IANS.
While Goyal was unclear about whether they would seek a review of
the ruling by the two-judge bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia
and Justice Swatanter Kumar, the Federation of Indian Public
Schools, which comprises nearly 300 schools from New Delhi, said
it would seek a rethink by a larger bench.
"We will comply with the Supreme Court orders, but we want a
review of the decision by the full court," the Federation's R.P.
Activists are equally certain that this is the best thing to have
"It is a great victory for underprivileged children of our country
and will ensure their right to education. The verdict has
validated the stand that education is a basic constitutional right
of every child whether it is in private or government
institutions," RTE forum convenor Ambarish Rai told IANS.
Anjela Taneja, education coordinator with Oxfam India, cited the
example of the 1956 US Supreme Court judgment that ended the
system of separate schools for African Americans and the whites.
"Barack Obama is one of the first generation that benefited from
this... We often look west for examples, and this is a suitable
example," Taneja told IANS. "Perhaps this will give an opportunity
for 'Bharat' and 'India' to meet."
Some schools and parents are concerned about how seamless this
integration will be and what impact it could have on children.
"I think it's about acceptance of a society that simultaneously
exists around you. Whether children from economically weaker
sections and kids from well-to-do families sit together in the
same class or not, there has to be a sense of mutual respect and
acceptance for each other," Vishakha Tyagi, parent of an
eight-year-old in south Delhi's Laxman Public school, told IANS.
At the other end of the income spectrum, autorickshaw driver
Mahesh Kumar is equally worried.
"To get admission in a private school is not the only thing. I am
worried about how my child will cope up with the way of life of
children at these schools," said Mahesh, whose child studies in a
Advocate Ashok Agarwal countered by saying: "It is a question of
mentality and intention." He also rubbished arguments of financial
burden given by private schools.
"It's a bogus argument... it will not be any great economic burden
on the schools and in addition to that, the government will also
be giving them money for it. Where is the burden?" he asked.
"This is the beginning of a revolution..." Agarwal told IANS.
Some schools have begun the process of sensitising parents.
Ritika Ganguly, whose family has children studying in Delhi's
Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan, said: "Even before the judgement
came, the junior school principal at the parent-teacher meet
strongly told parents not to complain and sensitise their children
on the importance of interacting with those from diverse
Fortunately, children seem to be taking the move in the right
"We are happy with what has come out. Why should someone face bias
on grounds of class when education is a right for all," said Swati
Kaul, a student of Apeejay School in Sheikh Sarai.