Gujarat govt’s Residential Schools of Excellence project: Diamond firms, religious bodies, private varsities make beeline

Of the over 330 applications that the government received under this initiative, which will be in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), those cleared by the government can then sign an agreement valid for a period of 30 years.

Four leading diamond and real estate firms, prominent religious organisations, philanthropists, private universities, corporates, Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have submitted Expression of Interest (EOI) to the Gujarat government to set up “Residential Schools of Excell-ence” that will offer education, lodging and boarding facilities to students of classes 6 to 12 through Samagra Shiksha-Gujarat Council for School Education as the implementing arm of the state education department.

Of the over 330 applications that the government received under this initiative, which will be in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), those cleared by the government can then sign an agreement valid for a period of 30 years.

Under the Residential Schools of Excellence project, which is part of Mission Schools of Excellence, students from government or grant-in-aid schools will be selected through a state-level entrance examination after Class 5, for admission to Class 6. A district-level merit list will be prepared in order to ensure representation from all districts. The PPP model that requires entire investment on land, Schools of Excellence infrastructure, human resource, logistics and management to run nearly 50 Residential Schools of Excellence offering free residential schooling from Class 6 to 12 to be borne by private project partners, was announced by the state education department through a policy last month.

While most of those who submitted the EOIs to the Gujarat Council of School Education till August 21, are already in the field of education, there are others who have expressed their ‘eagerness’ to be a part of this project..

“The response to the EoI has been unexpectedly overwhelming. Well known organisations like Swaminarayan group, philanthropists like the renowned kathakar Rameshbhai Oza, private universities including Surendranagar University, Ganpat University in Mehsana and PP Savani University in Surat, Grow More group of institutes in Himmatnagar, Gajera group, Pioneer group, and NRIs have applied to be associated with the project,” Education Secretary Vinod Rao told The Indian Express.

Referring to the initiative, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said at a recent function, “These organisations have said that they will provide the land, select teachers and entire infrastructure while the state government will provide them per child expense. Schools set up in this will be equipped with best infrastructure and teaching where children will be selected through an entrance examination. These very well reputed organisations have applied for resident schools that can be said as gurukul. Preparations for the project are in last stage”.

“We have set up a three-level committee for scrutiny and selection of applications. The first scrutinised by the committee of education department officials will be forwarded to the committee headed by secretary education. The shortlisted names then will be forwarded to the Education Minister and Chief Minister for final approval,” said Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. Oza who runs four schools has a huge following among politicians and industrialists.

PP Savani is a Surat based group into diamonds and real estate, whose patron is Vallabhbhai Savani. Vallabhbhai’s son Mahesh recently joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Ganpat University in Mehsana, a private university, has Indian-American businessman and philanthropist Dr Ganpatbhai Patel as its chief patron. The Gajera group is also into diamond business while the socio-religious organisation runs Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul International Schools with branches in nearly 20 cities in and outside Gujarat .

Dr Ganpatbhai Patel, President of Ganpat University, one of the major contenders for the project, while responding through an e-mail told The Indian Express, “We are all set to work hand-in-hand with government of Gujarat. There is a possibility of details and several clarifications in the guidelines (for the project) which will be made by the government in time to come. We are absolutely hopeful and confident as well to run Residential School of Excellence very successfully and set a new benchmark.” The university, that has an existing campus spread over 300 acres in Kherva in Mehasana and also runs a co-education English medium school from Nursery to Class 12 for day scholars, has applied for an intake of 2000 students capacity, as a potential partner for the project.

Once the names of the applicants are approved by the state government, the Education Department through Gujarat Council of School Education will execute an agreement with the project partner effective for 30 years which can be extended by the state government on the expiry of the tenure.

While the entire capital cost will be borne by the project partner, the education department will provide financial assistance for meeting recurring costs through a lump sum amount of Rs 60,000 per child per year decided for the financial year 2021-22 with an annual increase of 7 per cent every year.

A top university functionary told this paper that groups running private universities are showing interest in this initiative and getting into school education “to ensure flow of students to their own universities”, many of which see vacancies because of stiff competition. Of the total around 90 universities in Gujarat around 20 are state-run universities and new private universities are approved by the state government every year.

Sources in the education department revealed that in the initial phase, around 40-50 such schools would be set up under the PPP mode which would be increased further.

The policy laid down by the Education Department for ‘residential schools of excellence’ will also implement recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020.

For instance, while the education department is looking at large campuses to accommodate 2,000 to 10,000 students, the policy aims to create a total capacity of 1 lakh students in these residential schools across classes 6 to 12 within the next three-five years.

The Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) will create a separate curriculum and pedagogy for these schools by adopting best international practices.

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