Recently, Amanora School in Pune expelled 486 students for participating in a protest along-side their parents against an illegal fee hike, Hindustan Times reported. The school, on its part, released a statement stating that they are willing to take the students back provided they clear the requisite dues.
This is one of the many incidents that have erupted in the last one year against arbitrary fee hikes in unaided private schools across India. While some parents are running from pillar to post to ensure that education does not become a privilege, the others are bracing themselves for the fee hike in the upcoming 2019-20 academic year.
Private Schools In Numbers
According to Hindustan Times, 24 per cent of all schools in India are private and unaided schools. Seventy-five million children or 38 per cent of all students study in 3,50,000 unaided private schools of India. During the years 2010-2014, the number of students enrolling in government schools fell by 1.16 crore but simultaneously rose by 1.85 crores in private schools.
But why the rush toward private schools in the first place?
One of the many reasons for the preference given to private schools over government schools in India is the violation of guidelines mentioned in the Kothari Education Commission. In 1966, the Commission had recommended that the government must allot 6 per cent of the GDP to the education sector. In reality, not more than 3.8 per cent of the GDP is allocated to this vital sector, according to the data presented in Firstpost.
With less financial resources at their disposal, the government schools find it hard to provide quality education and infrastructure, compelling students to switch to private schools. Leveraging on parents’ desperation to provide quality education to their child, private schools often demand ridiculous amounts of fees.
So why not one rule for all?
Education falls under the concurrent list. It means that both the central and state governments can make decisions for this Sector. Thus, the policy decisions and implementation for the Education sector differs from State to State.
Here are some examples of how different States have dealt with the menace of fee hikes in private schools.
When it comes to the National Capital, unaided private schools in Delhi have the authority to go for an interim fee hike without seeking approval from the Directorate of Education (DoE), reported India Today. This framework was recently enforced after the Delhi High Court quashed the earlier guideline that mandated unaided private schools located on government land to acquire approval before hiking fees.
But to ensure that the schools refrain from commercialising education, the HC also said that fee statements submitted by the private schools must pass through DoE.
You can file a complaint against any violations in Delhi here.
Meanwhile, in India’s second most populous state, Maharashtra, private schools can propose a fee hike only up to 15 per cent once every two years, the Times of India reported. In case of emergencies, the schools can go beyond the 15 per cent mark by providing valid reasons and getting approval from 76 per cent of parents or the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) executive committee.
However, the law does not allow parents to individually complain against a hike before the Divisional Fee Regulatory Committee. The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act gives only the management or the executive committee comprising teachers and PTA representatives the right to challenge a fee hike.
In Tamil Nadu, the State government retains the right to verify and approve fee structures proposed by the private schools to monitor fee hikes.
On the other hand, Karnataka follows a set formula to cap fees for schools. Besides recurring costs, school management can charge an additional fee that differs based on the location. It can range from 70 per cent of the recurring fee in gram and town panchayat limits to about 100 per cent in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike areas.
Schools are also not allowed to hike the fees by more than 15 per cent from the previous academic year. In case of an unjust fee hike, parents can lodge a complaint with the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights as per a report by The Hindu.
In a big relief to parents of school children, the Bihar Assembly passed the Bihar Private Schools (Fee Regulation) Bill, in February 2019, Hindustan Times reported. As per the law, it is mandatory for schools not to increase annual fees by more than 7 per cent. If any school wishes to cross the 7 per cent mark, it must approach the committee six months before the commencement of the new session.
In case of any violation, a substantial penalty will be imposed. The parents, on their part, can complain at the respective office of the Divisional Commissioners within 30 days in case of fee hike above 7 per cent.
From the Central Government
Last June, the Central Government had announced that it is planning to bring in a provision to regulate the arbitrary increase in fees. The announcement came in after Uttar Pradesh tightened the noose around schools demanding high fees. UP government law restricts private schools from raising fees beyond 8 per cent.
“The success of the fee cap in private schools of UP has been closely studied by the central government with an aim to extend it to other states. We have realized that whenever you take all stakeholders into confidence and engage with them, listen and address their concerns, a consensus is reached,” a source told the Times of India.
From National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
On receiving several complaints from parents and individuals against an increase in school fees across India, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a statutory body, is working towards bringing a uniform fee framework for unaided private schools, Hindustan Times reported.
It is likely to propose a 10 per cent yearly cap on the fee hike permissible by unaided private schools with provisions for penalties in case of violation.
To raise voice against fee hike in private schools across India, you can write to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights here.
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(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)