November 23, 2011

India: Why Madrasas, vedic schools ouside the perview of Right to Education Act ?

From: Hindustan Times

Madrasas, vedic schools to be kept out of RTE

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, November 21, 2011

First Published: 21:37 IST(21/11/2011)
Last Updated: 01:24 IST(22/11/2011)

Both Hindu and Muslim religious schools will get exemption from the provisions of watershed Right to Information Act, the government has decided. Number of religious organisations had sought exemption of their schools from the law as both mode of teaching and learning was different from conventional schools.

Zafaryab Zilani, convenor of the Shiksha Sangharsha Sanyukt Morcha said if necessary changes were not made in the RTE, madrasas and vedic schools will have to be closed as they will loose their affiliations.

The RTE law provides for 25% reservation for economically weaker sections, a specific student teacher ratio, mandatory school management committee and no annual examination till elementary level, in addition to free education to children in 6-14 age group.

There are about 3,000 vedic pathashalas (schools) in India and thousands of madarsas spread across country. The Kanchi Matha, the Ahobila Matha, and the Andavan Ashram are among the major south-based vedic institutions that have signed petitions seeking exemption from the Act.

Although the HRD ministry had earlier said these religious schools were not covered citing Constitutional safeguards for religious institutions, a decision has now been taken to insert an explicit provision in the RTE law to have clarity.

There was apprehension in some political quarters that the RTE law can be misused to close down madarsas which fail to comply with its norms. "The right to education says that its provisions will be applicable to all schools," a government official said, and there is a need to specify the exemptions clearly.

HRD minister Kapil Sibal has told the ministry officials to end the ambiguity in the law regarding minority institutions and the changes have been circulated for law ministry's approval.

Another amendment in the RTE law is already pending with the Parliament regarding special needs of differentially enabled students in schools. The ministry has decided to incorporate provisions to ensure that RTE does not hamper education of such students.