Currently in India, a whole hierarchy of school education catering to the different groups of children has emerged posing a formidable obstacle to the establishment of an inclusive school education system. The absence of quality education in government schools is also due to the fact that there are many sets of different schools within the public education system. This variation itself amongst the government schools leads to the difference in the kind and quality of education so provided. Studies point out that in Kendriya Vidayalays (Central Schools), the annual expenditure on one child is around Rs.11, 000/- whereas in ordinary government schools, it is a meagre amount of Rs.1, 800/- p.a. Moreover, in the State funded and NGOs run non-formal schools, the annual expenditure on one child is around Rs. 900/- . This vast difference in the government expenditure itself indicates the varied pattern of education that is provided in these types of schools even though the schools are primarily governmental.
The discriminatory framework created through State funding is well illustrated by the following situation prevailing in Delhi:-
Schools run by the Central Government
i) Kendriya Vidayalayas;
ii) Jawahar Navodaya Vidayalayas;
iii) Sainik Schools;
Schools run by the Government of NCT of Delhi
i) Pratibha Vikas Vidayalyas;
ii) Model Schools;
iii) Sarvodaya Schools
iv) Normal Schools;
v) Non formal schools (EGS/NCLP)
Schools run by the Local Bodies
i) Model Primary Schools;
ii) Normal Primary Schools;
The Kendriya Vidayalayas, which are maintained and administered by the Central Government, are better funded and better equipped than the state government schools and admission to these schools is greatly sought after. For admission to these schools, a very rigid criterion is followed, wherein the children of employees of the Central Government get priority over others. Another advantage of these schools is that the medium of instructions is English, at least at the secondary stage. As stated above the studies point out that in Kendriya Vidayalays (Central Schools), the annual expenditure on one child is around Rs.11, 000/- whereas in ordinary government schools, it is a meagre amount of Rs.1, 800/- p.a.
The Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas are run by the Government of NCT of Delhi and are prestigious government schools that have facilities and teaching at par with the high fee charging private schools in the Capital. Admissions to these schools are made on the basis of entrance tests given to children from government primary schools and municipal schools. These schools are resourced differently from normal government schools. Their class sizes are strictly governed by an upper limit of 30. Their teachers are chosen from among the cream of teachers in the government schools and the students are set apart in a uniform that distinguishes them as ‘the chosen’ ones. On the other hand, both normal government and municipal run schools though cater to the mass of children belonging to marginalised sections of people, are totally ill equipped to provide good quality education to the children. These schools invariably suffer from lack of basic academic and physical infrastructure which includes shortage of teachers, shortage of classrooms, overcrowded classrooms, broken desks, non-functioning fans and tube lights, absence of drinking water, unhygienic toilets, broken blackboards, teachers’ absenteeism, dirty classrooms etc. That the Non formal schools like NCLP and EGS schools are run by the Government of NCT of Delhi through NGOs for the child labour/children of migrant labour depend on untrained and unqualified teachers. They are run in private places having no basic facilities. The public expenditure in such schools is around Rs.900/- per child annually.
That within the present public education system, there exist different sets of schools for the children of different socio-economic status. It is submitted that the dispersion of the range of schools into hierarchically placed layers of schools to be attended by pupils placed in corresponding social and economic hierarchies may not have done anything to alleviate tensions about admission to school. Rather, the limited choices perceived as available to a socio economic class could in all probability have resulted in increased pressures to secure admission to schools of appropriate status. This variation of schools in various categories results in arbitrary discrimination amongst the children of this country. It is also submitted that these educational institutions were established to provide quality education with equal opportunities to all children but they aren’t serving their primary goal.
The multiple categories of schools with varying quality, which have emerged within the education system supported by public funding, have put a huge question mark on the objective of equality of opportunity in education. It is submitted that such type of layering within the government education system is violative of Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (state to make special provisions for children), 21 (right to life with dignity), 21-A (right to education), 38 (right to social justice), 46 (state to promote education of SC/ST and weaker sections) & 51-A (k) (duty of parents to provide educational opportunity to children) of the Constitution of India.
The State is obliged to enforce Articles 21 and 21-A of the Constitution of India by putting all the schools within government system all over the country in an inclusive school education system where all the children regardless of their caste, creed, social or economic status should have equal opportunity of receiving quality education. It is submitted that the prevailing education system supported by public funding is exclusionary in nature resulting in exclusion of the children of weaker sections from receiving education of equitable quality. It is submitted that the State cannot adopt discriminatory provisions of schooling to cater to different groups using public funds as it would violate the basic principles of equality and social justice. Using public funds, the State has to provide schools of comparable quality to all the children who seek education through State or State supported schools.
It is suggested that the creation of different categories of schools with public funds involving discriminatory procedures of admission should be replaced with a standard framework with per capita expenditure and common framework for admission on principle of equality of opportunity. The government schools forming different categories should be clubbed together to form one concrete whole. They should function in a similar manner; have the same type of facilities and infrastructure available to every child so that there is equitable quality of education for all. This is also guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which provides for equality before the law. Thus, every child is entitled to equitable quality of education. It is, however made clear that the standard of education of good quality schools within the public education system should not at all be brought down. On the other hand, the standard of education of all the low quality schools within the public education system should be raised to the level of the best quality schools.
By Advocate Ashok Agarwal
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