Centre raises ‘objection’ to Kerala norms

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After the controversy over the UDF government’s decision to allot permission to more private schools, the centre and the state are heading for a conflict over the ‘tough’ norms for the granting of no objection certificates (NOC) to CBSE/ICSE schools.

The human resource department has taken a serious view of the grievances aired by the Kerala CBSE managements association and other private schools owners and has “deputed a central government officer to personally visit the state and submit a report on the “discrimination” by the state government.

“Union minister of state for human resource development, Purandeswari promised us central intervention on the issue and deputed a representative in order to submit a report so as to take necessary action. The official is slated to arrive in the state on Sunday to study the problems faced by CBSE/ICSE schools,” T.P.M. Ibrahim Khan, association president, said in a telephonic conversation from Delhi.

The central action comes even as the state government issued over 100 NOCs since November last year as part of its “changed policy”.

“As of March 15, we’ve issued NOCs to 113 more CBSE schools that fulfilled the guidelines. A total of 293 applications were received out of which 65 were returned to the DEO and 115 are pending,” Dr K.M. Abraham IAS, principal secretary, higher education said.

The previous LDF government was dead against giving sanctions to more CBSE schools on the grounds that their growth would stifle the progress of the state government and aided schools.

“We are not against any particular front. It’s a welcome step that the UDF has decided to grant sanction to more schools. But the state has stipulated stiffer norms than the ones prescribed by the CBSE board, resulting in many deserving ones being left out. We feel that since such schools follow the central syllabus, the state should not intervene in their functioning,” Khan said.

The state has fixed stiffer norms for the granting of NOCs than the guidelines prescribed by the CBSE board. For instance, as per the centre’s guidelines, CBSE schools should have a minimum of two acres of land in which to function. But the Kerala government insists on an additional one acre of land before an NOC is granted.

Another matter of concern as far as the centre goes, is the strict direction of the state with regard to the curriculum. It stipulates that Malayalam should be compulsorily taught as a paper with a prescribed textbook and a proper academic evaluation as instructed by the state government from time to time. “Additional norms also stipulate that there should be a minimum of 300 students,” Khan said.

The popularity of the CBSE/ICSE schools, even among parents from Underprivileged sections of society, has often been seen as testifying to the poor quality of education in aided schools. But a section of experts have aired concerns that this may ultimately affect the poor as they cannot afford the high fees charged by unaided schools unlike the middle and upper classes.

“Going by the central move, anybody can now start a school anywhere in the state. This move will have serious consequences and result in the closure of government and aided schools that provide free education,” former education minister M.A. Baby said.

The LDF government had opposed the setting up of more CBSE/ICSE schools and had even moved the Supreme Court. The few cases in which it allotted NOCs (34 schools during its five-year tenure) were to the Muslim minority in the Malabar region to fulfil the Sachar committee recommendations.

According to official statistics, there was a decline of 1.21 lakh students on the rolls in government and aided schools during the academic year 2011-12 while the decrease in student strength in 2010-11 was 1.15 lakh students.

Parents brace for higher school fees
Several CBSE/ICSE schools in the state are mulling upto 25 percent hike in school fees following a directive from the state government to make pay scales of employees at par with those of government school staff.

“We inform you that we are forced to hike the tuition fees by 25 per cent from the next academic year to meet the new directions of the government,” read a communication sent by a prominent school in the city.

The directive states that the pay shall start at the minimum scale and employees shall also be eligible for DA and increments as is the case in Government schools.

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