In what can be seen as an attempt to mandate upgradation of UDISE+ portal, the project director for Samagra Shiksha Maharashtra Primary Education Council has ordered that salaries of teachers from schools that have failed to complete the data entry process must be held with immediate effect, according to a report by Hindustan Times. The directive asks all government and aided schools in the state to complete updating the Unified District Information System for Education Plus or UDISE+ online portal by November 30.
UDISE+ is a Central repository of district-level school, teacher, and student data from across the country. The Education Ministry’s Department of School Education & Literacy (DoSEL), in the past few months, has issued letters asking all States and Union Territories to accelerate the process of seeding Aadhaar data of students and teachers, in addition to their other personal information, for the UDISE+ portal to facilitate implementation of the Samagra Shiksha Scheme for school education.
The Samagra Shiksha programme also facilitates the implementation of objectives outlined under the Right to Education Act (RTE). The mandate to submit personal information, including Aadhaar, for upgrading the UDISE+ portal, has been challenged in the Kerala High Court by the Democratic Alliance for Knowledge Freedom Society (DAKFS).
How will the data be purportedly used by the government?
As mentioned in the circular issued by the State project director Pradeep Kumar Dange, the UDISE+ data will serve as one of the information sources for preparing annual budgets for the years 2024-25 and 2025-26. The data provided on infrastructural resources and availability of teachers will also be used to determine the funds for different education schemes, the Hindustan Times reported. Dange also pointed out that failing to submit the required data may increase the possibility of students being deprived of several educational facilities and scholarships.
Why it matters:
The government has accelerated the digitisation of education records in India for the creation of an Education Registry, a unified database of information on students, teachers, and institutions across the country. While issues related to access to digital resources for smooth implementation remain unaddressed, the mandate to collect more and more information from students and teachers is also raising privacy concerns among stakeholders.
Five key points to note here:
- The Democratic Alliance for Knowledge Freedom Society in its Kerala High Court petition raised critical questions about the mandate to collect additional information about students and teachers to update the UDISE+ portal. They contend that the Ministry’s actions violate the recently passed Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA). They argue that the extensive collection of personal data, including information such as parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers, religion, and health details, lacks clear mechanisms for obtaining informed consent, thus contravening the DPDPA.
- The petition also highlighted that Aadhaar data is not mandatory for enrollment in schools, as mandated by the Ministry. They cite the Supreme Court’s observation that Aadhaar is not mandatory for benefits under programs like the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and assert that the State’s demand for such data is disproportionate to the program’s purpose.
- Most importantly, the petitioner emphasised that the right to education is not considered a benefit under the Aadhaar Act and that the Right to Education (RTE) Act does not mandate Aadhaar for admissions. Therefore, they contend that there is no legal justification for infringing on children’s right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- The petitioner also highlights that alternative methods for student data collection exist under the RTE Act, such as using birth certificates and records from healthcare sources, without the necessity of Aadhaar. They note that no rules have been issued mandating Aadhaar for data collection under the RTE Act, making alternative methods legally permissible.
- This raises concerns about the unnecessary accumulation of personal data, including Aadhaar data, and its potential dangers. They argue that centralized collection violates the principle of data minimization and increases the risks of data breaches, unauthorized access, misuse, and profiling of students. This, they assert, contradicts provisions of the RTE Act, which emphasizes the importance of local authorities maintaining records of students.
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