New Delhi: Between 16,000 and 20,000 excess students were admitted to Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) each year between 2017 and 2020 because they came with recommendations from the union education minister and Members of Parliament (MPs), data accessed by ThePrint has shown.
These admissions are considered in excess as they were above the fixed number of seats these central government schools have. The recommendations were made under special quotas, which have been scrapped by the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), the governing body for KVs across the country.
The KVs have a capacity to admit around 1.2 lakh students every year under their regular admission process. KVS officials told ThePrint that they were overwhelmed because of these additional admissions, and hence, after doing away with the special admission quota allotted to the education minister last year, the quota for MPs was also scrapped last Tuesday.
KVS data from academic years 2017-18 to 2021-22, accessed by ThePrint, shows that 16,624 additional admissions took place in these schools across India in 2017-18 under the MP and education minister quotas combined. This number stood at 17,158 in 2018-19, 16,263 in 2019-20 and 19,572 in 2020-21.
In 2021, the education minister’s quota was scrapped. A total of 7,301 additional admissions took place in KVs that year under the MP quota.
While each MP was allowed to recommend names of 10 students from their constituencies, the education minister’s quota was a discretionary one used differently by each individual holding that portfolio (earlier, minister for human resource development).
The maximum number of admissions under the education minister’s quota in the last five years was in 2020-21, when Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ held the post, according to KVS data. In that academic year, 12,295 admissions were granted under the minister’s quota.
Sources in the education ministry told ThePrint that just before demitting office, Pokhriyal had recommended admissions for nearly 16,000 children for the 2021-22 academic year. However, the quota had been scrapped by then.
The data shows that different education ministers used the quota differently. In 2017-18, 8,978 admissions took place under the minister’s quota, while the number was 9,012 in 2018-19. This was under Prakash Javadekar’s tenure, when he helmed what was then called the human resource development (HRD) ministry.
In the 2019-20 academic year, the numbers of admissions under this quota stood at 9,411, and in 2020-21, it climbed up to 12,295. Pokhriyal took charge as the education minister in June 2019, and continued till July 2021.
“The reason we had to stop these special quota admissions is because they were over and above the sanctioned strength of admissions. For example, if the sanctioned strength of admission in a school is 100, we had to add 20 extra students under the quota and stretch the strength to 120, which would in turn overburden classrooms,” a KVS official who did not wish to be named told ThePrint.
“Now that the quota has been scrapped, we will not have these large numbers of additional admissions. These would have impacted the quality of results in the future. The step that we have now taken will save us in the future,” he added.
ThePrint sought comments on the matter from Javadekar and Pokhriyal via email, but did not get a response. This report will be updated when they respond.
Discussion over MP quota in Parliament
The MP quota in KV admissions was discussed in the recently concluded Parliament session after Congress Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari argued that the quota of 10 students is not enough.
“Each of us represents 15-20 lakh people and each constituency has at least 35-40 lakh people…I want to humbly submit that it creates a lot of inconvenience for us, because those who are denied get angry with us. I have a request — either you enhance the quota from 10 to 50 or do away with it,” he had said last month.
To this, Pradhan suggested working towards scrapping the quota if the House agrees.
“The number of seats in the quota was even smaller earlier, and there has also been some allotment from the central minister’s office. The court also made some comments on it and it’s a weird situation. Education is a state subject but these schools are open also to facilitate the education for the children of government employees whose jobs are transferable…But if the House has a view on it, we will look into it. This House can take a view and the Speaker can give us directions,” Pradhan had said.
Following this, Speaker Om Birla had suggested an all-party meeting to decide over the issue.
The education minister’s quota was abolished once before as well, during Kapil Sibal’s tenure as HRD minister. However, it was restored when Smriti Irani took over as the HRD minister in 2014, before being scrapped again in 2021.
Relieved, say some MPs
Members of Parliament ThePrint spoke to had mixed reactions to the scrapping of the quota. While some said they were “relieved” as they used to get an overwhelming number of admission requests and it was very difficult to oblige everyone, others said the decision would affect the poor.
“This is a good decision as we could only recommend 10 children and I used to get requests from thousands. So others always used to feel disappointed. If we had the power to recommend more it would have been a different issue, but it’s better not to have this discretionary quota, which is limited in its scope,” said a BJP MP who did not wish to be named.
“Many used to think that we were recommending only those who are related to us or are close to us, which is in fact not the case. But that’s what the perception had become,” he added.
Another MP from Bihar echoed the sentiment. “KV admission requests became very difficult to entertain for us… We were only allowed to recommend 10 names but we got hundreds of requests and turning them down was a tough task,” this MP said.
However, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi criticised the decision, saying it would affect the poor. “Used to receive hundreds of requests for MP quota allocation of 10, mostly from those homes which were poor and needy, many single mothers, police personnel. It is a crying shame that this has been scrapped too,” she tweeted Wednesday.
How regular admissions take place in KVs
The process of regular admissions in KVs is different for different classes. For Class 1, admissions happen through a lottery system. The schools take out an advertisement mentioning the number of seats available, and whether wards of non-government employees are eligible for admission. Once this advertisement is released, parents register their children on the website, and wait for the lottery system results. KVs also reserve seats for children from SC/ST/OBC as well as differently abled categories.
Admissions for classes 2 to 8 happen on the basis of a ‘priority category’ system, which means priority is given to wards of central government employees. For Class 9, there is a test and a merit list is prepared, on the basis of which admissions take place.
According to official documents of the KVS, the sanctioned strength of each classroom in KVs is 40 students, which is allowed to be stretched to 50 to accommodate students whose parents are central government employees and get transferred in the middle of the academic year.
The sanctioned strength was however being stretched to even 60 in some cases because of the special quota allotted to MPs and education ministers. There are also special quotas for children of armed forces personnel, KVS employees, bravery award winners, and children who have won national accolades, among other categories. KVS officials, however, said that most of the additional admissions took place under the MPs’ and education minister’s quota.
Why are KVs popular?
KVs are sought-after as they are central government schools that charge low fees for what is seen as quality education. Monthly tuition fee in KV schools ranges from Rs 200 to Rs 400 per month.
The Class 12 board results of KV schools are also among the best for government schools. In 2021, the Class 12 pass percentage for most KVs was nearly 100 per cent.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)