27 May 2012

India reserves free private schools places for poor

2:10 pm on 27 May 2012

A Supreme Court judgement in India has asked private schools to provide 25% of places to poorer students.

Legislation that guarantees education to every school age child in the country has divided opinion in India.

While activists believe the ruling is a step towards equal opportunity for all, others are apprehensive about the decision, suggesting it will lead to social friction, Radio Australia reports.

Thousands of other underprivileged children struggle to find admission in the better-run public schools.

Many have to settle for badly-administered government schools, which have a poor record of performance.

But with a law now in place that makes education a fundamental right and reserves 25% of school seats for poor children in private schools, there has been a huge turnaround.

The court ruling followed petitions by some private schools that complained the law violated their autonomy and was a drain on resources.

At the Sadhu Vasvani International School for girls in New Delhi, the principal said she was worried about meeting expenses when 25% of pupils became non-paying, as the school has never had a high fee structure.

However lawyer Ashok Agarwal, who has been fighting for the change in the courts, told Radio Australia the new opportunity will be radical.

More than 40% of India's 361 million children remain out of school and 46% of eligible children drop out before middle school.