Eklavya Model Residential Schools | 15 Nov 2022

For Prelims: Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS), Scheduled Tribes (STs).

For Mains: Initiatives for Promoting the Welfare of Students from Deprived Sections of the Indian Society, Challenges and Solution.

Why in News?

The government is pushing to set up 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) for Scheduled Tribe (ST) students.

What are EMRS?

  • EMRS is a scheme for making model residential schools for STs across India.
    • It started in the year 1997-98.
    • Its nodal ministry is Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
    • The aim of the scheme to build schools at par with the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and Kendriya Vidyalayas with focus on special state-of-the-art facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development.
    • The EMR School follows the CBSE curriculum.
  • In 2018-19, revamping of the EMRS scheme was approved by the Cabinet.
    • Since the new guidelines have been put into place, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs sanctioned 332 of the targeted 452 schools till 2021-22.
    • As of November 2022, a total of 688 schools have been sanctioned, of which 392 are functional.
    • Of the 688, 230 have completed construction and 234 are under construction, with 32 schools still stuck due to land acquisition issues.

What were the Old Guidelines?

  • Although the Union government had sanctioned a certain number of preliminary EMRS, the States and Union Territories were responsible for seeking sanction of new schools as and when they needed it.
  • The funds for these schools were to come from the grants under Article 275(1) and the guidelines mandated that unless States finished constructing the schools sanctioned by the Centre, they would not be entitled to funds for new ones.
  • Apart from the infrastructural requirements of 20-acre plots for each EMRS, the guidelines did not have any criteria of where the EMRS could be set up, leaving it to the discretion of State governments.

What are the New Guidelines?

  • The new guidelines in 2018-19 gave the Union government more power to sanction schools and manage them.
  • A National Education Society for Tribal Students (NESTS) was set up and entrusted with the management of the State Education Society for Tribal Students (SESTS), which would run the EMRS on the ground.
  • The new guidelines set a target of setting up an EMRS in every tribal sub-district and introduced a “population criteria” for setting them up.
    • One EMRS will be set-up per sub-district that has at least a 20,000-odd Scheduled Tribe (ST) population, which must be 50% of the total population in that area.
  • The minimum land requirement for setting up an EMRS was reduced from 20 acres to 15 acres.

What are the Challenges?

  • Requirement of 15-acre Area:
    • As per the Standing Committee Report, requirement of 15-acre area is making the identification and acquisition of land troublesome, especially in hilly areas, leftwing extremism-affected areas and the northeast.
  • Population Criteria:
    • The Standing Committee noted that the population criteria is depriving a scattered tribal population of the benefit of EMRS.
    • Sometimes, when the population criteria are fulfilled, 15-acre plots are not available.
  • Shortage of Teachers:
    • Despite the setting up of the NESTS, there was a shortage of teachers.
    • Though the new guidelines allowed NESTS to suggest measures for teacher recruitment, they never made them mandatory for the States to follow.
      • This led to non-uniformity in the quality of teachers, not enough recruitment in reserved positions, and a large number of schools recruiting teachers contractually, in a bid to save on salary expenses.
    • As of July 2022, all functional EMRS had a teaching strength of just under 4,000 against the 11,340 recommended by NESTS.

Way Forward

  • Guidelines regarding area of land and population criteria should be relaxed so that the less dense tribal populations can also reap the benefit of EMRS scheme.
  • More control of school management should be given to NESTS to overcome the shortage of teachers.
  • Also, mandatory guidelines about teacher recruitment must be issued for the States.

Source: TH