REINING THEM IN

A judicial intervention, may, finally lead to the creation of a mechanism to regulate the fees of private schools, which is burning a big hole in the pockets of middle-class parents.

BHOPAL : After the orders of the High Court, the state government, finally, may establish a Private Schools Fee Regularity Authority.

Amazingly, although around 35 lakh students are studying in private schools in the state, the government seems to be hardly bothered about them and their parents. It is no secret that private schools are money-spinners for their owners and parents are being forced to shell out huge amounts to get their wards educated in them.

There was a time when government schools were the main – in fact, the only – centres of education. Private schools were few and far between. Even today, almost 70 percent of the bureaucrats, scientists, engineers and doctors are the alumni of the government schools.

But gradually, the elite section of the society started sending their children to private schools. The middle class, the lower middle class and now even the lower class has followed suit, leading to a boom in the private school industry. And private schools have mushroomed everywhere.

In the meantime, the government school have lost their prestige. Although they charge no fees and provide mid-day meals, free uniforms and cycles (for girls) scholarships and many other facilities to the students but they have no takers.

All urban parents select one private school or the other to educate their wards, depending on their pockets. Those of ample means send their children to elite schools located at hill stations and metropolises or even abroad. After 1985, Soyabean ushered in prosperity in farming households of the state and even villagers started sending their children to private schools.

These schools have discovered brilliant ideas to loot the parents. They charge sports fess even though they have no sports ground and no sports teacher. A library fee is charged in schools which are being run in residential flats. And why the parents should pay Building Fees, when the building belongs to the owner of the school is anybody’s guess. Then there is the ubiquitous ‘donation’ for which no receipt is issued. There are also computer fees, lab fees and so on to pay. In short, the parents are fleeced.

In the last budget session of the Vidhan Sabha, the BJP MLAs alleged that private schools were charging exorbitant fees and demanded that the government should regulate the fees of these schools.

One of the BJP MLAs demanded that the government schools in villages should be closed and instead schools should be opened in nearby towns with free transportation facilities. The MLAs raised the issue of high dropout rates in government schools and the increasing intake of private schools.

“We don’t want to regulate the fees of private schools but a regularity body will be established as directed by the High Court”, school education minister Vijay Shah told the Vidhan Sabha on July 28. The minister said that the government would not allow commercialisation of the education system in the state. He claimed that the arbitrary increase in fees of schools would be prevented. He informed that in the winter session, the government will table a bill regarding private schools fee regulatory body.

More basic reforms needed

The government should open a CBSE school in each district and an ICSE school in all big cities. Anganwadis should be converted into government nursery schools and proper formative education should be given to kids in the age group 3-6 years who are attending the Anganwadis. TV sets should be installed in all Anganwadis. Kids will learn better with audio-visual teaching aids. Last year from my Local Area Development Fund, I gave an audio-visual (TV and pen drive) system of learning to Kalyanpur primary school of Rahatgarh block of my constituency. The progress of the students of that school was astonishing and this year, I am planning to give such aids to more schools in my constituency.     I have also written a letter to the Union HRD minister requesting him to establish very low fee CBSE schools for middle income group in every district. Each school should have the capacity of 2400 students and the fees should be Rs 200-300 per month.

 Though it might be difficult for the central government to open full-fledged new schools in all districts of India due to economic reasons, the government can come up with the idea of acquiring the old government schools which are having acres of land in heart of cities of  districts and can provide the minimum capital requirement. If central government starts 550 schools all over India, it will benefit 13,20,000 students of middle income group all over India. These students will help India become the next super power. My experience is that most of the toppers belong to middle income families. I have met many parents who have been forced to withdraw their wards from CBSE schools due to economic reasons.

There is a need for focussing on the quality of teachers. I don’t want to comment  on the present scene but suffice it to say that if we want to have good quality teachers at primary level, they should be paid better salaries. Over all, the quality of primary education in government schools is not very appreciable. The Right to Education is creating more divide than equality.

 The Act says that children of 6-14 years age-group are covered under RTE and schools in the neighbourhood boundary of 1 km and extended boundary of 3-5 kms will give admissions to them.  But most of the private schools starts admission from 3 yrs onwards and are located in clusters and that also where new towns are developing.

 It means all admissions in private schools under RTE might be of  children of around 3 years of age, leaving the children of 3-6 years age-groups high and dry. Something more has to be done to improve the Act.  I have also launched an awards scheme under which I give an award of Rs 5000 to students who clear grade 10 examination scoring 80 per cent or higher marks.

I have been emphasising on the need for a law to regulate the fees of the private school.   Finally, it is going to happen shortly. Deepak Joshi, MoS for school education.

Fee regulation is the need of the hour but before fixing the fee structure, the authorities will have to segregate the schools on the basis of their quality i.e. the facilities available. Ajay Sharma,  Principal, DP.

Campion School is following the guidelines laid down by the high court. There is no need for the government to regulate the fees of private schools. Athnas Lakra, Principal, Campion School

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