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Open Doors, End Gate-keeping | Govt cracks down on school screening

Threatens private schools of closure for fl outing kindergarten norms
12:05 AM Dec 24, 2023 IST | Syed Rizwan Geelani
open doors  end gate keeping   govt cracks down on school screening
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Srinagar, Dec 23: The J&K School Education Department (SED) has warned the private schools to cancel registration and impose a penalty for collecting capitation fees and putting kids through screening tests at the time of admission in kindergarten classes.

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The circular instructions in this regard have been issued by the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK).

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The Directorate has warned the private schools to desist from charging the capitation fee and other non-notified fees besides doing away with conducting screening procedures of children for admission.

“In case of deviance from any school in this matter, action under rules will be initiated to the extent of cancellation of registration of the said school,” the DSEK circular reads.

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The circular instructions have come days after the Fee Fixation and Regulation Committee (FFRC) in its order warned the private schools of CBI probe for collecting admission fees from parents without receipt at the time of kindergarten admission.

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The DSEK has stated that some recognised private schools charge a capitation fee at the time of admission and subject the students and their parents or guardians to go through screening tests.

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"Section 13 of the Right to Education Act, 2009, clarifies that no school or person should while admitting a child, collect any capitation fee and subject the child or his or her parents or guardian to any screening procedure," the circular reads.

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The DSEK has warned that any school or person in contravention of the provisions of sub-section (a) receives a capitation fee, and should be punishable with a fine which may extend to 10 times the capitation fee charged.

“If the school management subjects a child to screening procedure, it should be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs 25,000 for the first contravention and Rs 50,000 for each subsequent contravention,” the DSEK circular reads. “Capitation fee means any kind of donation, admission fee or contribution or payment other than the fee notified by the school.”

The DSEK has said that the objective of the provisions of section 13 (1) read with section 2 (o) is to ensure that schools adopt non¬discriminatory, rational and transparent admission procedures.

“Schools should not subject children and their parents to admission tests and interviews to decide whether they will admit a child or not,” it reads.

The DSEK said that tests and other screening procedures can only reveal differences in nurturing, rather than any intrinsic differences in the potential to learn.

“In such a situation it is the obligation of the State and society to provide for better nurturing through good schools for children from poor and disadvantaged sections of society,” the DSEK circular reads.

The DSEK has stated that the availability of equal opportunities for children belonging to different social and economic backgrounds would reinforce the idea of equality enshrined in the constitution and ensure that children are not discriminated against based on their social and economic background.

“The guidelines also emphasise the importance of moving towards composite classrooms with children from diverse backgrounds, rather than homogenous and exclusivist schools: heterogeneity and diversity in classrooms lead to greater inter-learning, respect for differences, tolerance and creativity,” it reads.

However, the DSEK said that various complaints from parents and civil society were pouring in regarding the demand for admission fees by private schools which was “totally against the law of the land and a punishable offence”.

Repeated warnings have been issued as the private schools are readying for the admission process for the kindergarten classes.

“Due to change in the academic session in J&K in conformity with the academic calendar of the entire nation as per NEP-2020, the admission time in schools should begin in March and many schools are flouting this norm as well,” the DSEK circular reads.

The DSEK has appointed all the Chief Education Officers (CEOs) as nodal officers in their respective jurisdictions to ensure the implementation of these circular instructions in letter and spirit.

“Also all Joint Directors, Cluster Heads and Zonal Education Officers shall monitor the implementation of these circular instructions in their respective jurisdictions as well,” the DSEK circular reads.

A copy of the DSEK circular has been sent to all the school heads to “strictly follow” these instructions.

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