HC has asked CBSE to fix not more than 20 days for vacation classes
With government holidays and strikes taking away a fair share of instructional days from schools pressed hard to complete syllabus of Classes XI to XII, the Kerala High Court has stayed the orders of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the government restraining schools from conducting classes during summer vacations and had asked the CBSE to fix days, though not more than 20, for such vacation classes.
Justice Anil K Narendran had asked the CBSE to decide applications of the schools willing to hold vacation classes for students of class IX to XII after duly considering the infrastructural facilities in the school like water for drinking, in toilets etc during the extreme heat.
Justice Narendran has passed a series of interim directions in a batch of writ petitions challenging May 30, 2016; April 22, 2017; and February 24, 2018 orders of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the consequential orders of the Director of Public Instructions passed on March 31 this year restraining all schools from holding extra classes for standard XI to XII during summer vacations.
The commission had passed the order on the ground that vacation classes subject children to extreme weather conditions and takes away their time to engage in socializing, extra-curricular activities etc.
The schools had challenged the order of the state commission through Advocate Santhosh Mathew saying it had no authority to pass such an order and the DPI’s order was also without authority of law.
The high court has passed following interim directions:
During the arguments, the schools had contended that the classes are being conducted in summer vacations since the CBSE is conducting public board examinations for Class XI to XII and after completing a portion of the syllabus, model examinations have to be conducted in January, 2019. They said if the classes are not conducted in summer vacations, the students will be out to great hardship.
The schools also contended that they have adequate facilities in their schools to conduct these classes and the parent-teacher association also has no objection to the same and some schools have already applied before the CBSE for permission to conduct these classes.
The CBSE told the high court that schools affiliated with it will require about 220 instructional days in order to complete the syllabus of various subjects. As per the statistics available with the board, in the state of Kerala, due to strike and closure of schools due to monsoon festivals and other holidays, the number of instructional working days is only 166 and this supports the cause of the schools for conducting classes in the months of April and May so that the students can complete the syllabus.
The CBSE also submitted that it has not prescribed the duration period of vacation and in most of the states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where there is heat wave, the concerned district magistrate issues order for closure of schools when the mercury is well beyond 42 degrees Celsius.
The counsel for the State, however, contended that DPI had in 2005 restrained summer vacation classes. It also pointed out that the state Commission has received numerous complaints alleging that by conducting summer vacation classes the students are subjected to extreme weather conditions where the schools do not have adequate facilities like sufficient drinking facilities and adequate water in the toilets.
The Commission had passed the order against holding of vacation classes after receiving an e-mail from one Subhash K G complaining about vacation classes being conducted by some unaided schools in Pattambi region. It had then initiated an inquiry into the complaint treating it as suo motu petition and passed the restraining order while noting that subjecting children to formal education throughout the year will seriously affect their opportunities for informal learning, to develop life skills, socializing with others and developing their inborn talent.
The high court noted that in case titled Sebastian T Joseph and another v The Kerala State Commission for protection of child rights and others it had held that if at all any power is conferred on the commission for protection of child rights the same is only recommendatory in nature.
Referring to various provisions of the right to education Act, the court noted that it was amply clear that provisions for norms and standard of education made thereunder are intended for schools imparting elementary education for children upto the age of 14 years.
The court also noted that DPI had issued a circular prohibiting classes during summer vacations in all schools, including CBSE schools, on December 2, 2005 but this was followed by a circular on May 2, 2015 wherein certain provisions were made for conduct of vacation classes for students in standard 9th and 10th. However, in view of the state Commission order of March 28, 2017 the DPI issued another circular dated April 28, 2017 ordering that no vacation class should be conducted in any school.
The high court held that the state Commission cannot exercise its power under section 31 of the Right to Education Act in respect of school children other than those undergoing elementary education.
It also said that only for the reason that the CBSE schools are established on the strength of an NOC granted by the state government, it cannot be said that such schools are covered under the provisions of Kerala Education Rules which prescribe period of summer vacations.