WITH private sector schools already subject to a host of curbs on their autonomy—this is best exemplified by the Right to Education law—a new Supreme Court judgment, that private schools in Delhi have to seek clearance from the state government before firing an employee, just constricts their room for functioning efficiently. The Times of India reports that the SC has upheld section 8 (2) of the Delhi School Education Act, 1973, that requires all recognised schools to obtain the government’s approval before sacking a member of either the teaching or non-teaching staff. The judgment, coming in the backdrop of frequent stand-offs between the government and private schools over admissions, management quota caps and fees, is likely to put the two at loggerheads again.
While schools’ autonomy is one issue, the SC order, by making it difficult for schools to terminate even underperforming teachers, hampers the quality of education. As subsequent Annual Status of Education Reports (ASER) from the NGO Pratham have shown, with poor learning levels in government schools, parents have been increasingly turning to private schools, including the so-called budget ones. And why shouldn’t they—2014 ASER findings show that in Delhi, 80% students at the primary level in private school could read Standard I level texts while only 55% in government schools could do so. One of the striking features of government schools is that teachers have no accountability—this shows in the higher incidence of teacher absenteeism in government schools. The judgment might end up supporting the government-school-like atmosphere of zero-accountability in private schools.