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Companies warm up to school plan

New Delhi, Oct. 16: Top industry captains like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani have responded to minister Kapil Sibal’s appeal to set up schools in rural areas under a public-private-partnership (PPP) plan and join in the “task of nation building”.

The HRD minister had written to nearly a hundred corporate leaders requesting them to participate in the Centre’s model school scheme as part of their corporate social responsibilities.

The Tata group chairman and Reliance Industries chief are among many corporate heads who have welcomed the plan. “Tata has said he will happily consider the proposal. Ambani said he is interested. So many others have also expressed willingness to participate in the scheme,” a ministry official told The Telegraph.

In the letter sent on September 21, Sibal spoke of the “huge need” for school infrastructure at the secondary (classes IX and X) level as the Right To Education Act had led to an increase in demand for education. The RTE law, which says no child can be held back in a class for poor performance, has resulted in more and more children passing out of the elementary system and eager to ascend to the next level.

“Considering present constraints of finance, the government is coming out with a PPP plan in the secondary schools sector for creation of the infrastructure to provide access,” Sibal had written.

Under the model school scheme, 6,000 schools are to be set up, including 3,500 by the government and the rest under the PPP mode. Each block headquarters will get a model school, which will have trained teachers and all the required facilities.

Each school will have up to 2,500 seats. The Centre will sponsor a maximum of 1,000 students. For the rest of the 1,500-odd seats, the private management can charge as much it decides.

The private entity will have to buy the land for the school and construct the building while state governments will play the role of facilitator in locating the land and building roads. The schools will have classes from VI to XII and be affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education.

“The scheme aims to combine the strength of the public and the private sector to deliver quality education to the children of India… I write to you to invite to join in this task of nation building,” Sibal said in the letter.

The model schools under the PPP model are expected to be set up by the end of next year. A corporate house can set up a maximum of 25 such schools.

The 12th Plan document has projected near universal enrolment (90 per cent) in secondary education over the next five years, up from the current 62 per cent.