The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (popularly known as RTE), introduced by the then Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal, has caused large scale closure of low budget private schools across the country, claim activists.

Statistics regarding how many low budget private schools have closed down are not clear, as neither the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), nor the state education boards publish such data.

However, the Centre for Civil Society (CCS), a leading Delhi-based think tank, says that according to a study, it has found that RTE has led to the closure of schools for many underprivileged students.

“From April 2014 to October 2016, almost 5,000 low budget private schools have been closed in four states alone—Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan. In Punjab, 1,275 low budget schools had to close. In Haryana, however, the High Court stayed the closure of 1,292 schools, but for more than 400 low budget schools, no relief was given by either the government or court in the state. Similarly, during the same period, 945 low budget schools in Delhi and 1,260 schools in Rajasthan faced closure,” the CCS study has claimed.

“Besides Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan, the findings of CCS have also suggested that 6,116 schools have faced closure in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand,” Nishant Singh, research coordinator at CCS told The Sunday Guardian.The shutting down of most of these low budget schools, which were serving students from mostly the underprivileged sections, are happening due to the strict input norms prescribed under  RTE.

Most of these low budget private schools charge fees around Rs 200-600 per month and serve as an alternative to the free government school system.

Sanjay Jain, an educationist and former NCERT member, said, “Given the low fees, these schools cannot afford the implementation of input norms prescribed under the RTE Act, which include Pupil-Teacher Ratios, standards for infrastructure, and defined teacher-working hours.”

Expressing concern over the issue, Jayant Bhatia, senior coordinator of the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), said: “It is not that those private schools that are being shut down have necessarily been doing a good job. Some of them could have been bad, but many parents prefer to spend money sending their children to these budget schools instead of sending them to a government school for free education.”

Making a similar claim as the CCS, the NISA has also claimed that within two years, from 2014 to 2016, Maharashtra alone has witnessed the closure of almost 7,000 low budget schools.

“Considering these facts, the NISA has been demanding the easing of input norms of the RTE Act from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), but no relaxation has come in this direction,” Bhatia added.