New Delhi: Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal says he hopes the burden of 25 per cent school quota for the poor will not be passed onto other parents. He assures that the government and schools will work out a way to fund the additional expenditure.
Speaking to Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, Sibal said that the government is in no financial position to ensure high quality education to all the children in government schools and that burden has to be shared. He said the government is
trying to get the private schools to be inclusive in their approach, and have 25 per cent from class I to class VIII.
Here is the transcript of the show:
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. A reservation for weakened and disadvantage children, in private and unaided schools - a step forward or an unfortunate mistake. That's the key issue I should discuss today with the Minister of Human Resources Development, Mr Kapil Sibal.
Mr Sibal let me start by trying to understand your thinking, in your eyes what is the justification for requiring private schools, to make reservations up to 25 per cent for weak and disadvantage children.
Kapil Sibal: You know, when originally this thought came to us, there was a CABE committee that was set up and that time Mr Arjun Singh was the HRD minister. We talk to a cross section of civil society and the one argument was the all school should be nationalised, in other words there should be no private schools. Another extreme argument was, we must give enormous impetus to privatisation of school. Ultimately, after years of deliberation we thought, we can't look at both extremes, we must look at in a situation where we try and integrate the disadvantage communities into existing school.
Karan Thapar: So this social integration, the motivation behind this?
Kapil Sibal: Yes, social integration is the motivating factor.
Karan Thapar: Social integration is a noble motive, particularly in a country like India that divided by cast and class. But people turned around and ask, why is it, the same integration isn't happening in health. For instance, health is as important as education, private unaided hospitals aren't required to make reservations for the poor, and school are?
Kapil Sibal: Take for example Apollo, now Apollo is required to make reservations. Apollo has no aid from the government except it has got land at very subsidised rate.
Karan Thapar: A very critical bit of aid...
Kapil Sibal: Which is true of all schools in Delhi.
Karan Thapar: But it's true of all hospitals? Hospitals have got no land.
Kapil Sibal: So it is true for all schools in Delhi. They all are aided and therefore that argument doesn't exist.
Karan Thapar: Just a moment, it hasn't been applying to school up till now. It has... could be applied to hospitals. You haven't applied to the hospitals, why?
Kapil Sibal: Well, it will then to apply to hospitals.
Karan Thapar: Is this something that the government is considering because you are inclusive a gender looks limited.
Kapil Sibal: If the private management will be against this inclusive agenda, on the ground that we take no money. The issue may well come up, it may well come up. You got lands at subsidies rates and that logics apply to hospitals and it may apply to schools as well. I think we should move beyond this.
Karan Thapar: Absolutely, but I am trying to understand the motivation your saying. The motive is social integration
Kapil Sibal: Correct.
Karan Thapar: But when people point out when health is not affected the same way by the same motive... But there are many hospitals where the requirement of poor doesn't apply.
Kapil Sibal: Hardly Karan, give me a hospital in Delhi which is...
Karan Thapar: I don't want to name hospitals but there are many. We know them as well.
Kapil Sibal: Well very few.
Karan Thapar: But there are?
Kapil Sibal: May be.
Karan Thapar: Is this therefore an area where social welfare and integration will soon be applied as well?.
Kapil Sibal: Well, I don't know about the health sector. It for the health minister to determine, as far as the education sector is concern, we are firm, this agenda must be move forward.
Karan Thapar: Now critics turned around and say that actually what the government is doing, is to full fill its obligation to provide it's free and compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years old, at the cost of private school. Instead of fulfilling obligation its self, its uploding it to private school.
Kapil Sibal: It's not true, quit frankly Karan, if you look at the economic situation of our country. We have already set up apart 2lakh 31 thousand crore on free and compulsory education over a five year period. I think this is the maximum that any government in the history of India is given. But this is still not enough.
Karan Thapar: It's not just its enough, close associates to you like Vinod Raina, member of the National Advisor Committee to the Right to Education Act have publicly said that, infact it is grossly undefined . He pointed put that you are getting 50 per cent what you want.
Kapil Sibal: I agree. Karan that precisely the point I am making, so the government is in no financial position, to ensure high quality education to all our children in government school alone.
Karan Thapar: This is why you are pushing them into private school?
Kapil Sibal: No, not pushing them into. Now that burden has to be shared, it is not pushing anybody. And what we are trying to do is, get the private schools also be inclusive in their approach and have 25 per cent move from class one upwards to class eight over a period of 18 years.
Karan Thapar: I wasn't very much to talk about the implications and the consequences of what you called the very 'sharing of the burden', those were your words.
Kapil Sibal: It shouldn't be the burden. The objective should be inclusive.
Karan Thapar: Except that the phrase you used 'share the burden'?
Kapil Sibal: Yeah, burned of the government not the private sector to ensure that we get quality education to our children.
Karan Thapar: Let's first, however, continue to look at the philosophy behind what you done. People turn around and say that the short of school that are affected probable constitute around four to five per cent of the total school in the country, may be share more. But it is very insignificant amount and its impact on universal education will be marginal. Yet what you are doing is you are denying these school the right to be, the sort of school they want to be.
Kapil Sibal: But you know, that's precisely where I am really astounded at that argument. In other words, if a five years old child enters in class one of the disadvantage community, it will destroy the character of the school, is an argument that I think a fully insane person will never make.
Karan Thapar: Well, the point is this, the schools that take no money from the government have the right to determine who they admit on what, on what grounds they admit them, how they then teach them. All of those are areas where you will now be enforcing your own thinking on the school.
Kapil Sibal: That's not true. That doesn't apply to the reservation, infact it applies to all admission of all children. There is now under the law, no screening, so that is impacted even by the others students. There is no screening; the school cannot determine who they want to admit or who they don't want to admit. As long as there is a class of students, who have to be admitted without discrimination. So that applies to both the disadvantaged as well as the others who are not disadvantaged.
Karan Thapar: Let me point out one of the problems that people have with admitting without any consideration of performance or ability. Children from a different class into a school, where 75 per cent comes form a very different background. You are possibly creating within that school two worlds. Is that wise and sagacious for either lot?
Kapil Sibal: That's the mind set of the institution. I think that the children who are five years old, whether they belong to the disadvantaged community or the advantaged community, have no prejudices, look at life together without those prejudices. I think it is very unfortunate for anybody to say that they come form different background therefore they will not integrate. Infact a child at five comes from no background, he is still to discover the world.
Karan Thapar: Many would want to agree with you but would turn around and say that reality is often different from idealism. For instance, you are pushing these children who take up reservation places in schools like Modern School and DPS, to live in two worlds simultaneously, by day they will be in elite schools, at night they will go to lower middle class home, sometimes God forbid, even to servant.... Is that wise for the child?
Kapil Sibal: That's not true Karan. I had students admitted from disadvantaged communities when the reservation policies were not in the place, into elite school and there is no two different worlds you are talking about.
Karan Thapar: So you are saying to me that, you are confident, you are not going to create struggle within the child. It sense a physiological crisis when by day he is in lead school and at night he goes home to a very different environment.
Kapil Sibal: Children are very wise, they understand that they come from an environment and they have a great opportunity. Now they must now move towards the another environment to make their family.....
Karan Thapar: What about the fact that, the sort of the schools into which they will now getting on a reserved basis, have extracurricular activities. They set projects for homework, they set projects for holiday time, which requires enormous amount of resources. Rich parents can afford to pay for them. What will happen to the poor children?
Kapil Sibal: I'll tell you Karan the school it self, if it's committed to implement this, will find ways and means to do it. I mean the ingenuinity of Indian school system is so enormous that these will not be impediments in the way of progress.
Karan Thapar: You are actually saying to me, is that there is no sense in which the concern I am expressing. Many people say that you might be creating two schools within a school. Secondly you might be creating physiological trauma within the child itself. Both these concerns you are saying that exaggerating?
Kapil Sibal: I am not saying that they are exaggerating or not exaggerating. But I think we are committed to do certain things, we can do it with the least amount of dislocation. And I am sure that the institutions that have come on board will succeed, and most institutes have come to me and said we will support this.
Karan Thapar: Alright, a lot of the burden on ensuring that this dislocation, we are talking about, hasn't happened, lies with the school authorities. And lot of it has to do with financial resources, so let me ask you, who will pay the tab for 25 per cent reservation when it begins, the government or the school?
Kapil Sibal: We make some calculations on this. And under this act, if the school has not taken any benefits from the government, at all, and will vary from states to state. The government contribution annually will vary from 6000 to 19000, we made a calculation.
Karan Thapar: But, is that sufficient to cover the fee the school charges?
Kapil Sibal: It may not be sufficient. Now in the twelfth plan, what we are trying to do it, even for the disadvantage children from private schools. We want the government to subsidised their uniform and the text books, but that's the proposal in the twelfth plan. I quote it passes though.
Karan Thapar: And if it may not happens for five years?
Kapil Sibal: It may not. The other thing that we want and we want the school management to do. If they have their surpluses or reserves, may be part of that can be spent here. But if not that then you have many corporations who are committed to corporate social responsibilities with 2 per cent of their entire turn over for corporate responsibility. Schools can actually tap those resources, so that there is no burden on parents.
Karan Thapar: If I understand you correctly, there are three ways in which you can see the cost of reservation being defied. One, you will be paying between 6 and 19 thousands, but you admit that may not be full fee of most schools. Secondly, you are saying that schools could sum up their surpluses; thirdly you are saying that, they can raise funds. But in every sense you are now imposing additional burden on schools. The concern is this, if those schools, in meeting the additional burden pass it on to 75 per cent, who are paying fees. Then you are adding to the cost of parents who already paying something which they cannot afford?
Kapil Sibal: I don't think that will happen. I think there is ways of raise finance which shouldn't be a problem. Let me ask you a simple question Karan, we rather belong to the rather well to do section to the community. When we buy a gas cylinder, we buy at subsidised rates, don't we? Infact the prise of gas is much higher and many things we buy, as members of the more affluent are giving to us on subsidies rate, which we shouldn't get. And that money we save if part of that money spent on the child who is disadvantage education, what's wrong in that?
Karan Thapar: So, you are saying to me that the people who get gas, petrol and diesel subsidies, when actually their affluence don't deserve, it should now not be complaining. Because this is one way making up of subsides, they don't deserve?
Kapil Sibal: No, I am only saying that if you really looking philosophically, at these things. Pluses and minus happens in life.
Karan Thapar: Actually if you want to look it, in terms of pluses and minuses, then answer this for me. Many of their parents who send their children to private school, actually sacrifices to do so. They can't afford it, but they make the sacrifices because they believe that this is important for their child. Now If the school charges more because of the 25 per cent reservation, you are adding to their burden. These parents already pay income tax, education tax.
Kapil Sibal: I have given you three answers for this, how that there would be no burden and cost for that. But apart from that, who are the kinds of Childers who go to modern school. Tell me, is there people who (scrape?) fro money in order to put their children to moderns schools. 90 per cent of them can pay more then 10 times the fee, that they pay for their children. And remember this, when they got to college, these very members of the affluent communities, pays what per month fee of the collage education they get. Rs 200 or 300, so lets....
Karan Thapar: So you are saying that people who are complaining, can easily afford to pay more?
Kapil Sibal: I am only saying, if that argument is meant then we can counter that. But I don't think there be an additional burden, but there are means or way of actually taking care of it.
Karan Thapar: Second argument that you are making, is very important to the audience listening to you now. You saying to me, that you don't believe that there would be additional burden to parents ............
Kapil Sibal: I don't think, but there are ways and means and we will be working with the schools in order to do that.
Karan Thapar: Can you go step further and give an assure to such parents who are listening to you. There will not be additional burden?
Kapil Sibal: I can tell the parents, there will be ways and means to deal with this issue as long as their mind set, is this we are in this together. We are talking about the children of India, not the children of the disadvantage or the children of the advantage. It's the future of India all stake holders must participate.
Karan Thapar: But the important thing, you are saying to these parents is, there will be no additional cost.
Kapil Sibal: You are putting it, I said, we will try our level best that no body is penalised for it.
Karan Thapar: What are the chances of succeeding?
Kapil Sibal: Again. You know this is not the cricket match that there is an end to it. It's a work in progress, we will live and learn and we will try and help everybody.
Karan Thapar: Problem about living and learning is, people learn at their cost. They are paying more....
Kapil Sibal: Oh come on Karan, let's be clear the gap between poor and rich, is enormous, the anger is enormous. We must move forward and we must have an inclusive society in which all must participate.
Karan Thapar: Why are some schools exempted from reservation while others have to face up to it, when in fact they are identical schools and have identical students. Mr Sibal, why are boarding schools exempted from reservation, when day schools are not? People turn around and say, that the message being sent around is that they are prepared to allow poor students to sit in classrooms with us but not sleep in the same dormitories.
Kapil Sibal: I think boarding schools are entirely different categories of schools and when we framed these legislations, we never had that in mind.
Karan Thapar: No, but why are they entirely different?
Kapil Sibal: I am just saying. Most boarding schools in this country start either from class 6, class 7 or class 8. Few of them are outside of the purview of this act, because this act applies only to students up to age 14, which is class 8. And if a student starts at class 6, you have to have an entry test for them on all kinds of and the ecosystem of a boarding school is entirely different. For the moment, we are limiting this act to day-scholars and day schools and not to boarding schools. As and when we feel they should come under the purview of this act, and methodologies are in place for doing that, we will think about it. But at the moment, it is not on the agenda.
Karan Thapar: But you may think about including boarding schools...
Kapil Sibal: As and when we feel...
Karan Thapar: Some people turn around and say that Kapil Sibal has exempted boarding schools because he has friends who come from...
Kapil Sibal: Oh come on... this act was framed when I was not the minister. This act was finalised when I was not the minister. So therefore, nobody can say that. I am only taking forward the legislation of a government.
Karan Thapar: So there is no way anyone can claim that friends of Kapil with influence and attachments prevailed in this incident...
Kapil Sibal: This Act was finalised way before I became a minister.
Karan Thapar: So this is an unfair charge.
Kapil Sibal: No, nobody has charged it. I am hearing it for the first time.
Karan Thapar: Let's come to another possible anomaly in your Act. Your Act envisages reservation up to class 8. What happens after class 8?
Kapil Sibal: Well we don't have the money quite frankly and it's difficult for us to move forward.
Karan Thapar: So education for the poor stops at 8 even if the child is good and doing well.
Kapil Sibal: I personally think, that by the time, after 8 years, because it will take 8 years for the class 1 student to reach class 8... I think the whole situation of India would have changed.
Karan Thapar: But if it hasn't?
Kapil Sibal: We will then deal with it. May be after 8 years, we will rethink the next step.
Karan Thapar: But at the moment, the situation facing a poor student all the way to class 8 is that if he wants to study further, he either has to find the money...
Kapil Sibal: Karan, the government is going to be there... and the government is going to make sure that the children of disadvantaged community continue to get private school education.
Karan Thapar: Can I say why this sounds like a hollow assurance because it took the government 65 years to make education free and compulsory.
Kapil Sibal: Karan, don't make that argument... This is something that UPA I decided to do and the UPA I delivered on its promises. So it took us only a few years. We have delivered before, and we will deliver in future.
Karan Thapar: One last question. Critical people connected with you like Vinod Raina, who is a member of the National Advisory Council of the RTE has gone on record to say that the government is nowhere near adequately funded to push through free and compulsory education.
Kapil Sibal: Well that's true. The government does not have the money. All the aspirations of the people... eight million children are out of school... in fact, this is only part of a national effort, and a national commitment.
Karan Thapar: So when will we have the money to fulfil the commitment we make...
Kapil Sibal: When the output in industries is more and when the economy has a growth rate of 9-10 per cent.
Karan Thapar: All of which isn't happening because you aren't pushing the reforms well.
Kapil Sibal: Well well well... let's start with the reform of education sector.
Karan Thapar: So you are saying to me and this is a critical assurance you are giving me that good poor student who does 8 years and then wants to carry on will not be handicapped by the fact that the reservations have stopped at that point of time.
Kapil Sibal: I am very sure that will never happen.
Karan Thapar: You are sure that in eight years time, you will not have to bite your lip.
Kapil Sibal: I am sure.
Karan Thapar: Kapil Sibal, a pleasure talking to you.