To Regulate or Not to Regulate?
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To Regulate or Not to Regulate?

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The Delhi High Court’s latest directive on playschools in the national capital has once again underlined the absence of guidelines and regulation in the booming pre-school sector. In a rap to the Delhi government for having failed to ensure 25 per cent reservation to poor children in play schools running on land allotted at concessional rates, the Delhi High Court has now directed the Directorate of Education (DoE) to ensure that all schools, which have been allotted land, abide by the provision.

Pre-schools, until now, had managed to escape the provisions of the Right To Education Act (RTE). Under the RTE Act, it is not mandatory for the state to provide for the care of the children until the age of 6 years when most social, emotional and cognitive skills are formed. The Act states: “Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years — The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.”

While this directive heeds well for inclusion in early childhood education, more crucially, it also paves way for regulation in the hitherto unregulated sector. The need for regulating the pre-school sector stems from their mushrooming in the metros and tier II and tier III cities. Research reports estimate that the preschool business is expected to touch Rs. 13,300 crore by 2015-16, out of which branded preschools are expected to contribute about Rs 4,500 crore. Similarly, the number of preschools in India will reach the 33,000 mark by the end of 2015, reporting a growth of 26 per cent annually.

Even more notable is the fact that the organised sector comprises 17 per cent of the industry, with the penetration rate expected to rise to 25 per cent by 2015, due to the rapid growth of preschools in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities. It is in this backdrop that exercising control over preschools becomes both a challenge and a necessity. Pre-schools today exist in abundance and their number is only growing. With no rules in place to set up and run a pre-school, it does not take much investment and trained resource for doing so. As a result, these so-called schools can be found anywhere from verandahs to terraces to backyards and one-room sets. Quality of education and safety for the children enrolled here (between two and six years – the most crucial stage of for a child’s development) is not paid much heed.

The court directive, experts believe, now puts the onus of regulating the pre-school sector on the government. Though land has not been given to all existing pre-schools at concessional rates, the government cannot afford to frame different policies for different schools (who have received land at a concession and those who have not). As a consequence, the pre-schools sector could soon see some regulation. We believe it’s about time.

DigitalLEARNING IMPACT

In the November issue of digitalLEARNING, we had argued that in view of the flourishing pre-school sector across cities and towns of India, they need to be regulated. As part of the special feature on pre- schools, we also spoke to different stakeholders to get their views on regulating this burgeoning sector. (Read full story here)

Most believe that there was need for pre-schools to be regulated, till the point that it does not act as a disincentive.The HC directive may have stopped short of addressing the larger issue of regulation; it is a much-needed beginning in the direction nevertheless. Tell us what you feel on the matter. We look forward to your views and suggestions.

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