Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fate of open schools, home schooling students unclear

Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times,Mumbai, April 19, 2012 Contentious issues continue to cloud the Right To Education (RTE) Act, even as the Supreme Court last week decided on the 25% clause issue. A petition filed in the Delhi high court last August had alleged that the act’s move to equate schooling with education discriminated against those who opted out of formal schooling. The RTE Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2010, makes it mandatory for every child (from the six to 14 year age group) to be enrolled in a formal school. Petitioners have argued that individuals have the right to choose the mode of education for themselves, including home schooling. At a hearing on Wednesday, the court asked the respondents to reply to the petition within four weeks. The court also posed two questions to two of the parties: would the central board of secondary education (CBSE) not enroll for exams those who come through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) system? It has also asked the NIOS to clarify whether it would be shutting down following the deadline for the full implementation of the act from next year. “It is a contradiction that on the one hand the state is begging for funds and on the other it is saying that people who want to, can’t be home educated,” said Somnath Bharti, advocate for the petitioner. Respondents, however, see in the home schooling petition sinister designs to wreak havoc unto the education system. “Non profit groups will be able to run unrecognised schools and will child labour also become home schooling?” said Ashok Agarwal, an advocate party to the case and an RTE activist. The next hearing has been scheduled for July 18. City parents see this as an invasion of a personal choice. “I believe it is the right of parents to decide what is best for their children,” said Mathew Peedikayil, who has been home schooling his three children for the past seven years. Peedikayil is part of a home schooling group in the city comprising 15 families who have opted out of the formal schooling system for various reasons.

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