Delhi Nursery School admissions rules 2014 – a misguided effort
The official new nursery admissions rules 12795_12809_dt_18122013 . Note Sec 14(e) has been amended since to extend the radius for neigbourhood schools from 6Km to 8Km.
Readers of this blog will recall last years analysis of the traumatic nursery admissions season in Delhi ( Delhi nursery admission meets the RTE ). This year, the Lieutenant Gov of Delhi Mr Najeeb Jung has turned the tables on the Private Schools by abolishing all discretion in admission and imposing a rigid points and quota system on them. It is no longer surprising that an issue of this magnitude has zero comment in the media. Lets see if we can fill in the gaps.
Non Minority Private Rules
To really appreciate the issues you must spend a minute to understand the exact formula proposed. It is also important to critically distinguish between the Points vs Quotas. Here is the formula for unaided non-minority schools.
The entire capacity of the school is divided into four quotas :
- 25% Right to Education quota – where caste based and income based cross subsidized “free” seats are clubbed together into a single lottery ( per Delhi High Court order which banned sub quotas) Topic for another post.
- 5% For Girl students
- 5% For children and grandchildren of Staff
- 65% For allocation by points system below
The points system to be used for the 5% girls and 70% open quota is as follows
- 70% for neighbourhood – defined by 8KM aerial distance. We can have another discussion about road distance, but aerial distance is the only parameter that is justifiable.
- 20% for if sibling is studying in school.
- 5% if either parent is an alumni (typically must have graduated from the school – so if you studied LKG to 9th but moved in 10th you arent an alumni)
- 5% for inter-state transfers
The critical issue with the points system is the following.
All applications at a higher point must be cleared before opening applications at a lower point.
Lets consider an oversubscribed school X – all applicants trying to get their 2nd or 3rd kid in have to be cleared at points 90 before the first applications are opened for single child parents. Similarly all 2nd children of alumni must be cleared before the first applications are opened for 2nd children of non-alumni. If at any stage there are more applications than there are number of seats – a lottery will be used to settle the matter. We will see shortly how this absolutely entrenches privilege as people with lower points are squeezed out.
Minority Private Rules
The rules for minority unaided schools are as following :
- They need to reserve 20% seats for poor in exchange for having been allotted land in the 60’s and 70’s. This has since been struck down by the Delhi High court in St Columba’s and Catholic schools case. All unaided minority schools are expected to be out unless the original land lease deed stipulated this condition. [Source (IE): “Relief for St Columba’s” ]
- They can adopt any rule they want to select and admit their respective minority students. In other words, the Delhi School Education Rules does not apply to them.
- If after admitting minority students, these schools decide to admit Hindu students or students of a different minority than that of the institution, they must follow the above Rules towards all seats in this category. This has since been struck down by the Delhi High Court on a petition by Society of Catholic Schools (Arch Diocese of Delhi) and Society of Minority Schools. [Source TOI : Minority schools can define own rules ]
- So as it stands – all restrictions are now off minority unaided schools. This have full autonomy in the sense the law does not apply to them at all.
A misguided copy from school assignments in advanced countries
At the heart of the matter is the idea floated by left wing intellectuals that somehow or the other excellent capacity exists but is hidden by the cunning machination of private school managements. If only we could arm twist them the capacity will be unlocked to benefit the hordes. They refuse the face the reality that there are not enough seats and no system of adjusting this or that knob is going to create new capacity. Quite the opposite.
If you are familiar with school process in USA and other advanced countries, they have a system of school assignment not dissimilar to this one. The crucial difference is that only applies to public schools (government schools). The reason for neighborhood and sibling points is to optimize school bus costs. The whole territory is divided into carefully mapped school districts with guaranteed similar infrastructure and facilities (relatively speaking) available across the board. They are able to do it due to their first world status. Can we do it ? Can we create Delhi Public School quality government capacity across the entire breadth of the country ? This is where the stark reality of being third world hits you. Private schools can and do fill in the gaps – at the expense of dramatic variation in facilities.
By removing all autonomy in admissions followed up by a non stop barrage of defamation from left wing news outlets like The Hindu , the signaling is clear. Private players are severely disincentivised to open up new capacity. As I mentioned in the previous blog on Delhi admissions : Would you exert yourself opening a school if you have no say in admissions, fee structure, and had to de-facto nationalize your effort?
Due to the uneven distribution of private school capacity old and established areas typically play host to traditionally good schools. By a neighbourhood points system you give these residents a reward. There was a news report how parents are busy renting out new houses in established areas just to enable themselves with the all important 70 points. This also gives rise to the anomalous situation where you can temporarily shift, get the neighborhood points, and then go back to your original residence. How does the USA say the Boston School district handle this ? It is true that you can pull that stunt there too – but most parents shift to a nearby school because remember the first world status has given them nearly equal schools across districts. This combined with the fact that buses are not provided across school districts means the parents typically abide. There is no such incentive in Delhi.
Privilege is also entrenched by Alumni points, the so called Aam Aadmi sure as hell isnt an alumni of St Columba’s , Delhi Public School, or Modern School. Without as much as batting an eyelid the left intellectuals have put their stamp of approval on a scheme which actually serves to lock out swathes of people. Also there is no reason why siblings cannot go to different schools – personally we siblings in our household and had no problems going to different schools across town whatsoever. A corner case is that of girls and boys schools where siblings necessarily have to attend different schools. Therefore officially disadvantaging the first child over those privileged or lucky enough to have got one kid on board is senseless. Once again a relic of mindless copying from the west where the motivations for sibling points are publicly funded schools and buses.
Gender quota is another highly debatable scheme and potentially an infringement on the equality clauses in the constitution. Since ALL capacity – whether the caste+income quota, euphemistically called EWS, under Right to Education is decided by a lottery. It goes without saying that when the chips fall, girls and boys will benefit proportionally. By forcing an extra 5% girls quota – the government is essentially turning all classes – by law – in to 53 girls and 47 boys. This combined with the demographic reality of more boys than girls places parents with single male child in a unviable position.
Minority school exemption
Those who follow me on Twitter at @realitycheckind will know that I consider this to be the acid test of Indian secularism. Secularism is not certain types of personal attitudes by can only be tested by the kinds of laws that are passed. Right to Education comes up a cropper on this.
The only restriction on minority schools in the original notification was that if a given minority had to admit outsiders they had to do so by lottery. Consider that both Mr Najeeb Jung and Mr Rahul Gandhi are alumni of St Columbas, the old rules would have necessarily locked them out as they would have had to enter via a lottery and not by management discretion.
As per my information, there are atleast 37 Sikh, 1 Muslim, and 156 Christian minority private schools in Delhi. They not only constitute a sizable chunk of the overall capacity, but a very large chunk of desirable capacity like St Columba’s, Carmel and others. Since the new rules as well as the Right to Education act do not apply to them in-toto, the very rationale for these laws are dimmed. One cannot be faulted for reaching the conclusion that a cheap form of sectarianism and not any love for the underprivileged is what animates these efforts.
The legal issues are quite clear. When a new law that is confiscatory in nature is passed, the authorities are fully aware that the owners are going to seek legal remedy. They also know that two groups, viz the minorities and Hindus (non-minority) have different standards – one is going to win on a mere facial challenge to the law and the other group is going to have to construct all kinds of elaborate arguments. Indeed the true test of secularism is when you know you can easily pull a communal law through courts yet you hold back.
Come February the myriad of lotteries are going to cause parents a lot of anguish as reality hits them. The cheerleading propaganda efforts of the entire media which painted a rosy picture of parents supporting the move will be a distant memory even if only a few weeks old.
Those who win – feel good, those who lose – feel bad. Those who won last year pretend they never went through the trauma this year. It is just another milestone as we stumble along in our effort to destroy the primary education sector.