Image source: The News Minute

Twenty eight students studying in Class 10 of Arooja Little Star School at Moolamkuzhi in Kochi, were in the news recently as they could not write their board exams. The school, which was unaffiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), had made the students and parents believe that they would be able to write the board exam through an arrangement with an affiliated school. But with that plan failing, the students have now been left in the lurch. The incident came as a shocker for many. However, it has managed to remind the state once again that there are more than 2,000 such schools in Kerala which function without any recognition from either the state government or any of the other education boards.

According to estimates by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) and the All Kerala Self-Financing Private Schools Association, there are around 2,000-2,400 unrecognised and unaffiliated schools in Kerala. A majority of them follow the CBSE syllabus, while the others follow the Kerala state board syllabus or Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). The Kerala High Court had recently slammed the CBSE stating that the board should be more responsible and should know what is happening in the schools in Kerala. Education experts however say that the state government should also be held accountable for allowing unrecognised and unaffiliated schools to flourish.

In order for a school to apply for affiliation to any board, schools should first get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state government. “Technically speaking, it is illegal for schools without affiliation to take lessons upto Class 10. Such schools can only admit students upto Class 8. But on the other hand, in order to apply for affiliation to CBSE, the schools must have students upto Class 8. If the schools are in the process of affiliation, they can conduct classes for Classes 9 and 10 only if it’s an emergency and affiliation has not come through. And it is in such circumstances, that such schools make arrangements with other affiliated schools making the students write board exams from those schools,” Ibrahim Khan, president of Kerala CBSE Schools’ Management Association explains.

Ibrahim however cautions that in such cases, the schools should get affiliation within one or two years. “Some schools, who don’t get affiliation as they do not meet the quality standards, continue to take classes and make students write board exams through the arrangement with affiliated schools. This is illegal, the affiliated schools involved in this can even lose their affiliation. But unfortunately, there are no mechanisms to check all these discrepancies,” he says.

“The state government is primarily responsible for the state of affairs,” says Shajir, state secretary of All India Save Education Committee, “After the implementation of the Right to Education Act, there are instructions that strict action should be taken against schools not eligible for recognition. But here, the government takes a mild stand on such schools. The schools are not given recognition and the government does not act if they continue to function. This shows the lack of will.”

Meanwhile, according to the members of the association for private schools in Kerala, the criteria laid down by the government is tough for schools to implement.

“For instance, it is mandated that schools should have 2 acre and 85 cents of land, and at least 350 students to get recognition from the state government. But let people look around and decide for themselves how many government schools here abide by this rule,” says Ramadas Kathiroor, president of All Kerala Self-Financing Private Schools Association.

Many allege that the existence of unrecognised schools is beneficial to recognised, aided and government schools, and that is the reason for the state government’s lenient attitude to illegal schools.

“It is often the regular schools who benefit out of this. The unrecognised schools are like feeder institutions for the recognised schools. There is a nexus between both these kinds of schools, by which the affiliated schools can show larger numbers and avail funds,” says Dr D Dhanuraj, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), a think tank based in Kochi.

Experts also suggest that the need of the hour is a government policy that will offer protection to thousands of students and teachers associated with these schools.

“It is impractical to close down all these schools, as that will affect students and those whose livelihoods depend on it. What is needed is a government policy which offers some level of protection to these schools. The government can even make provisions to absorb students of unrecognised schools to regular schools when they enter high school,”  says Dhanuraj.

Meanwhile, giving relief to the students of Arooja Little Star School, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday said that they can write the remaining three exams that are to be held this month, on condition that the results will be published only after the final verdict comes in the ongoing case.

This news article was published in The News Minute on March 3, 2020. Click here to read

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