For the last one year, Maharashtra has been lobbying the Centre to extend the benefits of its flagship education schemes to the private-aided schools in the state. Through letters and meetings with the Central government officials as well as the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the state government has been raising the issue of broadening the scope of the schemes, which are by and large run exclusively at government schools. The state believes that it will ensure a wider reach of various welfare and developmental programmes and help the state improve its performance in education.
Maharashtra is among the few states in the country with more students enrolled in private-aided schools than government-run and private unaided institutes. Of 2.26 crore school-going children in the state, 45.3% are catered by aided schools, compared to 28.3% and 25.9% of children studying in unaided and government schools, respectively. Nationally, the share of aided school enrolment is a mere 10.2%, with Maharashtra accounting for more than one-third of these students.
PM Schools for Rising India
The state had first raised this issue while selecting schools for PM Schools for Rising India (PM SHRI), a centrally sponsored scheme to showcase implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, in December last year. As part of the scheme, the state was required to select two government schools, one primary and another secondary, each from 408 talukas and municipalities that run schools in Maharashtra.
However, the state education department, in two letters to the Centre, pointed out that only 159 of these local bodies have secondary schools with adequate enrollment. The state suggested choosing 100% aided secondary schools in place of government schools in the remaining 259 bodies. However, the plea wasn’t approved and the government only picked government schools for the scheme.
Inclusion of aided schools in Central schemes
More recently, the state education minister Deepak Kesarkar batted for the inclusion of aided schools, along with other issues in Central schemes in his interaction with the PM and union education minister during their visit to the state last month. The state is yet to receive a response on the issue.
Javed Alam Khan, a researcher at the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, said that expanding education schemes to aided schools won’t be useful unless the government increases allocation for the sector. “The public spending on education is inadequate as it is. The aided schools can be included in the scheme components aimed at improving their capacity,” he said.