The bold initiative taken by the Gujarat Government to regulate the fee structure of private schools can be a path-breaking step for the entire nation
Jaywant Pandya from Karnawati
Schooling is necessary but schools have become a luxury, especially the private schools. It is welcome to have one’s child education at a private school but school fee is matter of big worry. According to one Mumbai- based tabloid, seventy students of a school were expelled by the management. Reason? Due to parents’ opposition to school fee hike.
According to national sample survey in 2015, education cost from Primary education to Post-Graduation has soared by 175 per cent. In Mumbai, as per one estimate, pre schooling fee is higher than MBA fee! As per a report, one school charged Rs. 4.55 lakh as fee till last year, which was raised to Rs. 7 lakh this year! On the other hand, middle class person’s salary or SME’s revenue gets increased generally from 5 to 10 percent yearly with which he has to run household. MBA fee in private college is Rs.5-7 lakhs per year. Fee of one Nursery School in Mumbai was Rs 45,000 in year 2009. This was raised to Rs 93,000 this year. Parents also have started a missed call and WhatsApp campaign to gain support for agitation against the school fee hike.
According to the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011, a private school can propose a fee hike six months before the academic year and must seek nod from the Parents Teachers Association’s (PTA) executive body before implementing it. According to parents, one of the major drawbacks is that even though the act prohibits schools from hiking fees more than once in two years, it does not put any cap on the hike. They want the act to define upper limits for the hikes.
But this problem is not limited to Maharashtra only. It is pan Bharat problem. Privatisation of education gives more option to parents, but in the name of facilities, schools demand sky-touching fees. Let’s talk about Karnawati. Private schools here charge fees ranging from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 5.5 Lakh! Issue is not only fee, but schools demand donation/capitation fee. They force students to buy uniform, books and other things from certain specified shops/show rooms. Recently a school ordered students to wear only Adidas brand shoes!
Even after this scenario, according to Legatum Prosperity Index, Bharat is nowhere near top ten countries in education field. Bharat ranks at 92 which is far behind the other developing countries such as Phillipines (76), Malaysia (51), Sri Lanka (59).
If school education is such costly, how can we expect students to have higher education? There is RTE act for poor children. But its implementation is very poor. Schools don’t obey this rule. As per report of last year, parents complained that eight schools of Rajkot denied admission to 26 children. In Karnawati, parents strongly protested against admission given in schools which are at long distance from home. According to this law, children applicable under RTE must be given admission in the school which is 6 KM away from their homes. But 7,000 children were given admission in schools which were more than 6 km away from their homes. One resident of Asarwa, Karnawati has his child’s admission in school 25 KM away from home!
But Gujarat Government has made a bold initiative regarding school fee. It passed Gujarat Self Financed Schools (Regulation Of Fees) Bill, 2017 on March 30. Under this law, all Primary, Secondary and Higher Secondary schools affiliated under CBSE, International Board, ICSE Board and State Board will be covered. The State Government decided maximum ceiling fee that schools can charge. For primary it is Rs. 15,000, for Secondary it is Rs 25,000 and for Higher Secondary i.e. std 11 and 12, it is Rs 27,000.
While tabling bill, education minister Shree Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said, “Donations are being forced beyond imagination. Schools decide which brand of shoes to buy and from which shop. The sale outlets of these brands are set up within the school compound and the parents are forced to buy uniforms, water bags, shoes, school bags, etc. If rules under this new law are not followed ,there is a provision for fines ranging from Rs 5-10 lakh and cancellation of affiliation.
When contacted on phone, Education Minister Shree Chudasama said, “This bill is not against private schools, but at the same time, any system can’t be run uncontrolled. How can a parent having Rs. 5,000 to 10 ,000 monthly income afford paying fee of Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh?”
Under this legislation, a Fee Regulatory Committees will also be formed in four zones of Gujarat that will keep a tab on the school fees. Committee will be headed by retired District Judge. Gujarat Government is firm to implement this new Law from this academic session itself.
However, school administrators are opposing this law. Some of them have challenged this law in Gujarat High court. They argue that fee decided by the government is very low. The Government has not considered the education given with quality and facilities, salaries paid to teachers and other staffers. But those who are aware of education sector know better that teachers in private schools have one salary on paper and other given actually. Apparently, they want to pressure the government as well as parents as academic session has been started from June. Under this law, there is a prohibition on charging any donation or capitation fee. If any parent pays donation voluntarily, he/she has to inform Fee Regulation Committee.
Shree Bhaskarbhai Patel, spokesman of Gujarat State School Management Association says, “It is very clear. Education is in concurrent list in constitution. What type of education should be there, rules regarding teachers, school fee are subject to Government decision. Private schools have crossed limits regarding fees. Education has become business instead of service or mission. So restrictions are necessary.” Bhaskarbhai thinks that this law is applicable to schools falling under CBSE also.
Dr Akshay Aggarwal has his broad opinion on education. Talking from Canada, former Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Technical University (GTU) says, “Education has been commercialized all over the country. 90 percent education is in hands of private managers. Education has become very costly for poor and middle class children. Very few children come forward for getting education in good schools but they go abroad for better prospects. Many children have to strive for good education. In present situation, government regulation was the only solution. We have our dress torn and we wear it with darn. This will not lead to better production of citizens. We have to think about education system from very roots. We have to make policies which reflect our country’s ancient heritage and culture instead of coping foreign policies.”
Good thing is that Central Government is mulling over Gujarat model to slash school fees across India. According to a report of CNBC Awaaz, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar has asked for the details of the Gujarat Self-Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Bill 2017. n