In Delhi, a pressing issue is surfacing in private schools as around 20% of seats earmarked for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and disadvantaged groups persistently remain unfilled each year. Despite the Delhi High Court recently raising the income eligibility for the EWS quota from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, experts remain dubious about the impact of this change on the number of vacant seats.
For the current academic year, a staggering 6,500 out of 35,000 EWS seats remain vacant across 2,001 private schools. This reflects a significant implementation challenge for the Right to Education Act (RTE), which mandates a 25% reservation for the EWS category.
Concentration of Demand
The demand for these seats is chiefly concentrated in the top 100 schools, while other private schools, particularly those with monthly fees ranging between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500, find it tough to attract EWS applicants despite the government's reimbursement incentives.
Challenges in the execution of the RTE have led to reduced admissions in the general category as a manoeuvre to avoid obligations. Schools create obstacles, such as demanding documents that parents may not be able to furnish. Moreover, the number of available EWS seats has seen a decrease from 50,000 in 2018-19 to 35,000 this year.
While activists have welcomed the court's decision, they remain apprehensive about the practical impact considering the rising costs of private school education, including fees, uniforms, books, as well as the requirement for additional tuition.