November 17, 2010

CAG heat on 25 Delhi schools for fee hike

Parents protesting against the sudden hike in tuition fee across private schools in Delhi on account of the Sixth Pay Commission have been vindicated.

A tell-all audit report of 25 unaided schools submitted recently by the Comptroller Audit General of India (CAG) corroborates the gnawing suspicion among parents that the fee hike was indeed unjustified.

According to the report - that was submitted to the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary of Education and the Lieutenant Governor in the first week of November - several sought- after institutions should not have footed the bill of salary arrears to the parents as they had adequate reserve funds to pay the increased remuneration of teachers.

Thirteen out of the 25 institutions audited by CAG were found guilty of burdening parents and these include prestigious names (see box) such as Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram, Amity International School, Saket, Air Force Bal Bharti School, Lodhi Road, Mount Carmel School, Anand Niketan, St. Xavier's School, Raj Niwas Marg, Sadhu Vaswani School, Presentation Convent Sr. Sec School, St.Mary's School, Mayur Vihar and G. D. Goenka School, Vasant Kunj.

There are a total of 1,211 private schools in Delhi. The 25 schools were randomly selected covering six districts of the Capital and have been audited for the period from April 2006 to March 2009. The audit, which has been conducted in the context of a Recent Public Interest Litigation filed with the Delhi High Court on the issue of fee hike, is a first of many to come.

CAG report finds the hike unjustified

The report states: "All these (13) schools had free reserves, which as per directions, should have been utilised first to pay the salary arrears from January 2006 to August 2008.

However, the school management first collected tuition fee from students to the maximum permissible extent and then utilised their free reserves… to meet balance liability. These schools, thus, unauthorisedly collected ` 13.08 crore and placed avoidable burden on parents." Delhi Public School, RK Puram, for instance, collected salary arrears over Rs 2.5 crore even though it had a reserve fund of more than Rs 15 crore at its disposal as of March 2008.

Summer Fields School in Kailash Colony, on the other hand, had its students pay arrears of up to Rs 95 lakh when it had close to Rs 5 crore in its reserve fund.

"I was there at the time of the audit and the observations made by the CAG are completely correct. I, too, had objected to a fee increase when the school had adequate funds to meet the hike in salaries.

"Parents were being footed the bill to meet the needs of the owners. But education today has become a commercial commodity," said a former principal of popular school in South Delhi, who did not wish to be identified.

The Principals of Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram, St.Xavier's School and Amity International School, Saket, could not be reached despite repeated attempts. D. M Sharma, director, GD Goenka, did not wish to comment on the issue as he was out of town.

The CAG, however, has also pinned the responsibility of such gross violation on the Delhi government. "The (education) department did not fulfill its obligation to get the accounts of unaided school duly audited… due to weak governance by the DOE the schools continued to enhance fees despite having surplus funds," the report states.

November 14, 2010

Parents to drag AP to court

Nov. 13: Annoyed that the state government has done nothing to control the high fees being charged by private schools, parents’ associations have decided to file a contempt of court case against the government, as the Andhra Pradesh High Court has ruled in favour of fee regulation in private schools in August this year.

Parents’ associations of CBSE, ICSE, Central Schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas joined hands on Saturday to form the AP Parents Associations’ Coordination Committee (APPACC), a broader platform to fight against indiscriminate fee hikes. 

The committee vowed not to pay the increased fees till the state government comes out with a regulatory mechanism, and dared school managements to remove children from the rolls for non-payment of fees.

The APPACC has even said it will involve political parties and students’ unions and intensify the agitation. “Private schools are openly flouting the norms and continue to raise fees. There are cases where the school management has harassed parents and their children for not paying the hiked fee. Since a number of private schools are owned and run by bigwigs and friends and relatives of politicians, the government is not pursuing the case ardently,” alleged Mr Azher Mohiuddin, the president of the APPACC.

He also alleged that the school managements have been bribing ministers and officials in the school education department, which is the reason for the delay in bringing in a fee regulatory mechanism despite the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s orders.

November 11, 2010

Schools turn events into marketing stunts

HYDERABAD: The once small-scale school events have metamorphosed into mega events, creeping out of school campuses into stadiums and auditoriums, galleries or even hotels. Be it the school's annual day or an anniversary blast, the budgets of these celebrations are now in the range of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per annum. 

From renting sports stadiums to flaunting a few local celebrities and public figures in functions including annual days, the schools are ready to do it all to market themselves to future parents. In the past few months alone, a city school has organised a function at Gachibowli stadium spending Rs 55,000 even as another school is currently planning to book the same location for its 15 year anniversary to be held soon, the budget for which is estimated to be Rs 75,000. Another such event in the city was a musical event organised by a private school spending Rs 35,000 with professional singers from the city participating in it. 

But even as the managements are having a blast with these publicity functions meant to attract more students to their schools, it is the parents who are feeling the pinch with the managements seeking "contributions'' from students. Schools collect Rs 200 to Rs 1,000 per student to conduct these mega events. 

"Right at the beginning of the academic year, the fee collected is based on the expenditure of the school to hold such events too. The 10 to 30 per cent fee hike which is thrust upon the parents every year is the direct result of such events conducted by the school," a parent said. 

Parents also alleged that while splurging money on public functions, the schools do not take care of the interests of the students. "From Sanskrit Divas to Hindi Diwas the students are made to participate in all events in the school and we are forced to spend on costumes and food," said a parent. 

With schools actively celebrating every event , right from "Global Handwash Day" to "Say no to Drugs Campaign" on the roads, holding rallies to attract attention more to their brand than to the cause, the parents remain a disgruntled lot. 

Parents pointed out that there are some schools which hold mega events thoughout the year for publicity. These schools which have branches across the city and conduct at least 10 events in a month, starting from inter school painting competitions and debate competitions to stamp exhibitions, most of which are held in public venues like galleries. 

Meanwhile, students said that they often feel compelled to participate in the events. "In our school all the trips are currently study tours and it is mandatory for us to attend them. We are also supposed to participate in all the festivals be it Janmashtami or Dasara and these functions are held in Ravindra Bharati and not the school premises," said a student. 

Parents say with the state government not introducing a fee regulation act even after the High Court directed them to bring relief to the parents by regulating fees, they would have to continue funding school functions. 

(Times of India | Hyderabad | Page5 | 11.11.2010)

November 08, 2010

Parents protest fee inaction

Nov. 7: The issue of escalating fees in private schools has become a matter of concern, with these schools fleecing parents with their arbitrary fee hikes every year. In this context, various parents’ associations are up in arms against the state government over the inordinate delay in setting up a ‘Fee Regulatory Authority’ for private schools. 

These associations, such as Hyderabad Schools Parents’ Association and DPS Parents Association have now decided to take action by launching agitation programmes from next week, demanding the implementation of AP High Court orders on fee regulation. 

On August 27 this year, the High Court had made it clear that the government has the right to regulate fee structures in private schools. But more than two months since the judgement was delivered, little has been done in this regard. 

The government, which expressed its inability to regulate fees in private schools citing stay orders from the HC over the fee regulation orders issued in August 2009, has persisted with inaction even after those orders were vacated by the court exactly a year after they were issued. Since the stay orders were in force till August 27, the schools hiked their fees again in June this year at the beginning of the new academic year. Despite the parents lodging several complaints about the unreasonable fee hike, the government remained a mute spectator. 

However, government officials said they were still examining a copy of the judgement and that it would take some time before they came out with a suitable action plan.

October 21, 2010

School Deregulation: An Erosion of trust

In its most recent report on the education sector, IDFC SSKI quotes Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal as saying: “We cannot have companies listed on the stock exchange to run educational institutions and pay dividends to shareholdefrom the fees parents pay. We cannot allow education to be subject to risk factors.” But it’s happening, whether it’s a listed company or, in several cases, a non-profit trust.

In its steadfast, principled intentions, the trust model works. Paul Machado, principal of Campion School , a private ICSE board school in South Mumbai, is against privatisation of education, as he feels it is not a commercial activity. “Our charitable trust collects tuition fees to maintain the institute,” he says, adding that he fails to understand why some schools would need to outsource their management and operations. “These are the loopholes in the system that lead to corruption,” he says.

But there are others who say it is naïve to believe in the trust model anymore. Madhav Chavan of Pratham likens the current non-profit trust structure in schools to prohibition: it encourages illegal trade and manufacturing, people still drink, and the only loss is that of tax revenues for the state. “It’s hypocrisy to say schools can’t make profits,” says Chavan.
“Everyone ultimately makes money except the government.”

It’s why many educationists say deregulate the sector and do away with the non-profit trust structure. Allow management companies to bring in private capital, which can enable more and better schools. “It is better to regulate schools by allowing them to be profit-making,” says Chavan.

This, he says, will make the system more transparent and draw in private capital.One of the ways the government can regulate schools is through the recent quota system, wherein all schools are required to enrol 25% of students from the weaker sections.

Money in the Classroom

Earlier this month, Career Point Infosystems , a Kota-based tutorial service provider, had a dream debut on the bourses. Its shares more than doubled on listing, and the company raised 115 crore from its initial public offer (IPO). The overwhelming investor response was as much a comment on Career Point’s old business, tutorials, as it was on its new business, schools.

The concept of schools as a business is at odds with the government’s stated position on the issue. Saying schools shouldn’t be run like a business, the government mandated a ‘trust’ structure for all schools from kindergarten till class 12, or K-12 schools. So, only non-profit trusts can operate schools; and if a trust has a surplus, it has to reinvest it in the school it runs. At least on paper.

In reality, there are ways and ways to take money out of a school. The surplus of a trust can’t flow out, but money can flow out on the pretext of payments — real or fictitious — for services provided to the school. “It’s been happening all these years,” says Madhav Chavan, CEO and president of Pratham Education Foundation, a voluntary organisation focused on educating underprivileged children in India.

Increasingly, it’s getting organised. Companies and investoare hooking up to devise business models that are legal, but are morally ambivalent in the present construct of the law. The essence of these business models is companies providing services to schools — for example, leasing a building or managing its operations — in return for a fee. That fee is negotiated between the trust and the company; in dealings that are not at arm’s length, this arrangement makes a mockery of the trust structure.

For companies and investors, it is making available an increasing chunk of the schools segment — $20 billion, and growing at 14% a year, according to Kaizen private equity’s education report. Suddenly, schools have become big business. In 2010, till August, private equity funds had invested $168 million into the sector through 14 deals, according to VC Circle, an investment research firm tracking private equity, M&A and venture capital (See table: Going to School).

It’s a stable business, as children tend to continue in one school till they graduate. And it offeterrific growth. “Only 40% to 50% of the 360 million population below the age of 20 is enrolled in a primary or secondary school. In higher education, just 10% are,” says Rashi Prasad, associate director — strategic and commercial intelligence, transaction services at KPMG India. Sorting out the farce of trusts or allowing for-profit schools is another debate, one that is unlikely to be resolved soon given its sensitive nature (See box: An Erosion of Trust).

Meanwhile, companies are nudging their way past the regulatory network using two business models. They are also tapping two other business models in which there is no ambiguity on their presence.

The Manage Model
In what is the most common model, companies provide services related to the day-to-day running of schools to those that don’t have the capabilities or resources. So, companies train and supply teacheto schools, manage transportation, supply textbooks and uniforms, and design curricula, among other things. They call themselves ‘school management companies’.
Most school management companies provide one or a few of these services to a school. Then, there are some that provide end-to-end services like K-12 Techno Services in Andhra Pradesh. K-12 earns a management fee, which is a proportion of revenues the school earns from students. In just eight months of operations, K-12 Techno has earned 22% on its investment. When 32-year-old Maguluri Srikanth started the company, he struck gold without even taking off. Mr Srikanth placed a small advertisement in a local newspaper asking schools to contact him if they needed help running their institutions. The response was stunning. “Within three days, 190 private schools in Andhra called us,” says Mr Srikanth.

Today, K-12 manages 64 institutions — 53 schools (till class X) under the brand name Gowtham Model Schools, and 10 junior colleges (grades 11 and 12) and one international school under the brand name Orchids. “In two months, we will engage with 20 more institutions,” says a proud Mr Srikanth. It took Mr Srikanth and his family two yeato build their business model. They got help, strategic and financial, from two venture capital (VC) funds, Sequoia Capital and Song Investment Advisors. The two VCs invested 68.5 crore in K-12 in January. “It took us two yeato get Sequoia and Song on board,” says Mr Srikanth.

KP Balaraj, managing director of Sequoia, refuses to elaborate on the business model. “We have spent a lot of time on this and want our competitoto come up with their own model,” is all he says. Another company that has got into the school management business is, which began as an online-education company four yeaago. It’s a highly profitable business, says founder and CEO K Ganesh. “After the initial years, once the classrooms get filled up, schools give a profit margin of 50%,” says Mr Ganesh.

TutorVista conducts its schools business through the brand name Manipal K-12 Education, in which the holding company of the Manipal Education and Medical Group is an investor. Manipal K-12 taps schools in two ways. One, it provides computers, projectoand technical equipment to 3,000 schools, including four in Nepal. Two, it manages schools — currently, 13 in Hyderabad, Pune, Manesar (in Haryana), Mangalore, Bangalore and Manipal.

In the past four years, TutorVista has raised $37.25 million, in three rounds, from Sequoia, Lightspeed Venture Partners , the Pearson Group, and the Manipal Education and Medical Group. The company is in the process of raising another $50 million, says Ganesh, most of which will go into its schools business.

The Build Model
Then, there’s the lease model: construct a school building, lease it out to a non-profit trust, and collect the rentals. Take Career Point. While it manages schools, its fully-owned subsidiary, Career Point Infra, provides construction services for building schools. Since it builds and manages, Career Point is effectively running schools. Had it done so under the trust structure, it wouldn’t have been able to take out profits.

But by becoming a service provider, while retaining the trust format, it is able to capitalise on the growth and profitability the K- 12 segment offers. And the 115 crore raised through the IPO give it funds to scale up. “We raised funds to get into formal education and increase our pan-India presence,” says Pramod Maheshwari, managing director of Career Point.
Like TutorVista, Career Point started off as a tutorial services provider in 1993. It provides coaching for entrance exams. The company has 33 study centres across 12 states in northern, central and eastern India. It has covered about 200,000 students though its tutorial and school- management services. In 2007, Career Point raised external funds for the first time, with Volrado Ventures, an Indian venture capital Fund managed by the Enam Group, investing 5 crore.
In 2009, Franklin Templeton Private Equity invested 50 crore. This January, NS Raghavan, one of the seven foundeof Infosys Technologies , put in 10 crore. “There’s a huge demand-supply gap in education,” says Maheshwari. “It’s a huge opportunity for companies.”

Career Point, which posted revenues of 68 crore in 2009-10, is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for both schools and colleges. So, the company can be an architect: help clients with concept planning and location survey. It can be a consultant: conduct a project feasibility study and advise clients on getting government approvals. It can be a builder: construct the building. And it can be a manager: manage the educational institution.

The lease model needs capital. It’s a bit like a real estate company building an office complex, leasing it out, and recovering the investment over seven to 10 years. Another listed company taking a similar route as Career Point is Everonn Education . Three months ago, Everonn sold 23% stake to Nikhil Gandhi, group chairman of SKIL Infrastructure, for 225 crore. “We are looking to enter the K-12 schools segment and are looking for partnewho will put in money,” says P Kishore, managing director of Everonn.

On his part, Gandhi had been waiting for a launching pad into education for the past 15 years. His attempts at starting an education knowledge park around 1992, in Mumbai’s outskirts, were thwarted by the government, which didn’t give him regulatory approvals. A few months ago, Gandhi spotted his opportunity. “Everonn has domain knowledge and has reached scale,” says Gandhi. “We wanted to leverage their strength with our infrastructure company to build schools.”
SKIL will provide Everonn infrastructure support to build schools, while Everonn will manage them for the non-profit trusts. “Over the next four years, I will have the opportunity to invest $4 billion more,” says Gandhi. He has plans to tie up with premier foreign universities and to scale up the Everonn schools business.

The For-profit Model
Education is a state subject. So, though the central government advocates a non-profit and trust model, the final call rests with the states. Haryana, for instance, allows for-profit schools that follow the ‘international baccalaureate’ curriculum. That led Prashant Jain to diversify from exporting marble to running a school in Gurgaon, Haryana. Through his holding company, Sarla Holdings, Mr Jain floated Pathways World School , a for-profit IB curriculum school. And he found takers. Pathways has received an investment of $30 million from the $225-million Reliance Private Equity, fund. ”We liked this sector very much as its growth is far higher than that of the economy,” says Reliance PE CEO Ramesh Venkat.
Mr Jain, who is a director in the school, says Pathways earns an operating margin of about 55%. Adds Mr Venkat: “We expect a return on investment of 25-30%. We see a waiting period of four to five yeafor an exit opportunity.”

The public-private partnership Model
Some states are inviting private companies to bid for tendeto run public schools on the PPP model. The state government asks private companies to bid for a project on the premise that any viability gap funding — the period between setting up the school and starting operations, till it can break even — will be borne by the government. The organisation that quotes the lowest viability gap wins the bid. The government provides the land, and the private player builds and runs the school on a 25-to-30-year lease.

In July 2010, the Rajasthan government invited bids for 50 schools. One of the shortlisted candidates is IL&FS Education and Technology Services (IETS), the education arm of IL&FS, the infrastructure and financial services company. IETS provides content and teacher training, and upgrades school infrastructure. RCM Reddy, managing director of IETS, defines his business as one that will cater to the needs of students, from pre-primary to graduate levels and everything in between. “Next year, we will enter into managing schools,” says Mr Reddy. But unlike the others, Mr Reddy is playing safe, choosing the PPP model. “This is the only way to get out of any uncertainty in this area,” he says.

This January, India Equity Partneinvested 170 crore for a 28% equity stake in IETS. “We are introducing them to other companies to form alliances or go in for acquisitions,” says KK Iyer, managing director of IEP. Both the investor and IETS are very clear about where they’re going, though. “Education companies command an attractive valuation in the market,” says Mr Reddy. Iyer feels an IPO is the most obvious exit in this sector. “In three to four years’ time, the company should be large enough for an IPO.”

Opportunities aside, the regulatory risks in the schools business are real. Admits Balaraj of Sequoia: “There is significant regulatory risk and business-model risk.” He feels a lot of capital will be invested in the education sector in the hope that regulatory risks will get sorted out. “This may not happen in the near future,” adds KPMG’s Prasad. Not all avenues of investment in the education space are unsafe. In verticals like pre-schools, vocational training, coaching classes, e-learning and test preparatory classes, regulations allow education companies to run as commercial entities. SAIF Partners, a foreign private equity firm, takes this distinction seriously.

“As foreign investors, we want to subscribe to the letter and spirit of the law, and our focus is vocational training,” says Vibhor Mehra, principal, SAIF Partners. But elsewhere, companies, private equity playeand, increasingly, small investoare laughing their way to the bank by going to school.

October 06, 2010

Parents to certify fitness of school buses

HYDERABAD: The transport department has made it mandatory that both parents’ committee and the school management should jointly verify fitness of school vehicles every month. The decision was taken after recent instances of mishaps involving school and college buses.

The provision was included by the transport department as guidelines issued for educational institution vehicles. After verification, both of them are expected to record their findings in a separate register meant for this purpose. Besides, a separate complaint book shall be made available by the principal. The principal concerned should also go check it at the end of every month and take necessary action.

Principal secretary (Transport department) SP Singh said a school/college bus should carry a list which mentions the names of students, their class, residential address and route plan. “The bus driver should not be more than 60 years of age. Managements should maintain a health card for each driver which must contain details of his eyesight, blood pressure and sugar level in each quarter,’’ SP Singh said in a order.

From now on, it is mandatory for the school management to appoint a driver only after confirming whether he has a genuine driver licence by cross-checking with Regional Transport Authority (RTA) officials. Every bus should have its name, address, telephone or mobile number printed on the rear of the vehicle. Doors should be fitted with a safe locking system.

Officials said these guidelines would be implemented after 30 days with suggestions and objections from various stake holders taken into consideration.

September 20, 2010

Sad demise of our Vice Chairman

Its very unfortunate to note the sad demise of our Vice Chairman Justice YV Narayana today.
DPaS joins the entire family of DPS Hyderabad & Secunderabad in expressing deepest condoloences to his family & prays God to give them strength to recover faster from this tragedic moment.

September 14, 2010

Things U.S. Students Can Learn from Students in India

While there are certainly many ways the education system can be improved in India, there are still a great many things Western countries can learn from Indian students' zeal for learning. The Wall Street Journal features a running series of articles called India Realtime, which is described as "the daily pulse of the world's largest democracy." A contributor to this series recently wrote an article that praised Indian students' passion and drive for learning and outlined a few ways that the United States and other Western countries could learn from India when it comes to education.

The writer emphasizes that the three primary ways that the U.S. education system can learn from the Indian education system are: putting students' free time to better use, nurturing mentorship and collective decision-making when it comes to their students' future, and setting up stricter guidelines for college admissions.

  1. In the U.S., it is very common for high school students to procrastinate their homework until the last minute and show little interest in core classes in high school. Instead, U.S. students tend to focus on the social aspects of school. Parents could combat this attitude in their children, but because many U.S. parents spend long hours at work and are tired at the end of the day, they have a tendency to allow their children to spend their time playing video games, text messaging their friends, instant messaging on their computer or watching television. In India, parents have a tendency to direct their children to prioritize their studies, rather than emphasizing leisure time.

  2. In school, U.S. students who apply themselves to do well in school in math and science are called nerds and are often socially ostracized; students who do well in sports, however, are often considered the most popular. However, in India, the educational culture praises students for succeeding in the more challenging subjects of math, science and technology.

  3. U.S. students could also benefit from more parental involvement in their children's future. In the U.S. there is a tendency for parents to allow their child to go their own way and figure out what they want to do with their life on their own. In India, parents play a much bigger role in helping their children map out a plan for their life and will go the extra mile to help their child achieve everything that they can academically so that they have a greater chance at entering a successful career.
Finally, the U.S. has an abundance of colleges and universities and some of them do not take a whole lot of effort on the student's part to get into. A student could get by making unimpressive grades and still get into several different colleges. In India, the number of universities available is small compared to the large number of students trying to get into them, and students must work very, very hard to get into one of them. This drives Indian students to work much harder to succeed in school than American students.

While the U.S. education system has many strengths, there is still a lot it can learn from India.

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

August 28, 2010

A victory to Parents

Today is a day of pride for every parent in Andhra Pradesh in particular & to many parents across India. You’re very well aware of the fact that Hyderabad Schools Parents Association (HSPA) the apex body (formed by Parents Associations of various schools in Greater Hyderabad. HSPA today has supporters from over 46 schools from across the segments & affiliated to boards like CBSE, ICSE, IB & State Board) for parents across, has taken up the fight against commercialization in education & you always supported in various forms in taking up activities for rightful demands of parents for over an year now.

We successfully managed to get GoAPs support under leadership of our ex CM Late Dr YS Rajashekar Reddy a GO (MS91) to safe guard the interests for which we were on roads many a times. Due to various reasons, this GO didn’t see proper light & has been suspended by HC of AP due to the cases filed by many school managements, which turned out to be big setback for our struggle. The battle field moved to High Court once again in April, 2010. This time over 20schools came forward & filed writs against AP Government & challenged the GO MS91, which was argued for over 6days by over 20 odd lawyers (read as senior counsels). HSPA had support from a legal team headed by Sri CV Mohan Reddy, Sri S Srinivas & Sri DV Siva Prasad to take on the mammoth fight against power, money & what not ?

This morning the same bench (Justice G Raghuram & Justice Naushad Ali) has passed a historic judgment upholding the GO MS91 with their suggestions to change modify for betterment of this society. Brief details of the same are as below

» State has the power to regulate fee structure of private schools
» GO MS-91 is not illegal (which means it stays valid and in force)
» Capitation fee act of 1983 applies in full force to private schools also
» Para 3 & 4 are quashed
» Para 5(2) is quashed
» Para 6 is quashed
» Para 1c(4) is quashed
» Para 1c(6) is illegal
» Para 1b stands valid and is not interfered with

This is no less a historic win to all of us & we wouldn’t have been today with this joy & pleasure if not for your support. However mind you, the fight is still on & we now need to put pressure on government to come out clean once again, make the committee (Navin Mittal committee) sit down discuss with all the parties & come out with a scientific formula which would make sure schools would not get into profiteering as has been their habit over years now.

Time is now to get it right or atleast a step towards that. Are you game for it?

When the protests started early last year (2009), none of the parents or parent associations who were leading, had an idea as to how to achieve what is required. But the attitude of them, focus & enormous support from across, brought us all together. Now were just a few inches away to reach our goal, let’s unite with more vigor & push for our rightful demand, for a better society tomorrow.

It’s your victory, spread & share with all your contacts.
Hyderabad Schools Parents Association
A Federation of All Greater Hyderabad Schools’ Parents Associations
Committed to curb commercialization of Education!!
How long can YOU continue to absorb Yearly Fee-hike??

August 07, 2010

CIC: Private schools too under RTI act

NEW DELHI: Private recognized schools cannot claim exemption from disclosing information to Education Directorate under Right to Information Act, a full bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held, thus virtually bringing them under the ambit of the transparency law.

‘‘The issues relating to management and regulation of schools responsible for promotion of education are so important for development that it cannot be left at whims and caprices of private bodies, whether funded or not by the Government,’’ the bench said in its order deciding on disclosure of service records of a teacher employed at a private school.

Bindu Khanna, a teacher at Pinnacle School at Panchsheel Enclave, had filed an RTI application with Education Directorate seeking to know her service records. But despite orders of the Directorate to provide the details, the school maintained that it was a private body and hence outside RTI purview. It cited sections of the law which exempt the disclosure of personal information.

The Commission said various clauses of Delhi School Education Rules, 1973 say that ‘‘all records’’ of a private recognized school are open to inspection by any officer authorized by the Director or the appropriate authority at any time.

The records provided to education department by the schools can be accessed by an RTI applicant, it said. ‘‘Information which a public authority is entitled to access, under any law, from private body, is ‘information’ as defined under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act and has to be furnished,’’ the Commission said in its order rejecting the claims of the school. Quoting a high court order in this regard, the bench said the term ‘third party’ includes not only the public authority but also any private body.

July 23, 2010

School buses double up as marriage coaches

Some managements running maxi cabs and luxury tourist cabs for transporting students
Special camps being organised to ensure safe transportation of students, maintenance of buses

Hyderabad: Several school and college managements have now found a new way to make quick money by operating their buses to private functions on the sly.

Two buses of Ascentia Global School, Madhapur and Nizam Institute of Engineering, Gachibowli were seized by the Transport Department last week for operating their buses for marriage parties, according to Secunderabad Regional Transport Officer V. Sundar. The managements were levied a penalty of Rs. 2,000 each. Educational institution buses are given subsidies in terms of road tax and they are not supposed to operate buses for private functions even during holidays.

But it was found that many institutions were violating the Motor Vehicles Act and operating their buses as contract carriages, he said. This apart, many managements in violation of MV Act had purchased maxi cabs and luxury tourist cabs to operate them as school buses.

As per the Act, a school bus should have safety grills outside the windows, provision for first aid box, an attendant to help students board and alight buses, etc., but such provisions lack in maxi cabs.

The objective behind purchasing maxi cabs is to use them for their personal use during holidays and beyond school hours since using a school or college bus would not be feasible. Last week, a maxi cab belonging to St. Andrew's School was seized for operating it as a school bus, said Mr. Sundar. A special drive was launched last week and already 14 school buses belonging to Narayana School, Pallavi Model School, Delhi Public School, Grahambell School and others were seized for different violations, including employing drivers lacking valid driving licenses.

Over Rs. 3 lakh was recovered as penalties from the managements, he informed.
“Special camps are being conducted in schools on maintenance of school buses and safe transportation of students. Two such camps were conducted at Delhi Public School and Meridian School on Saturday,” said Joint Transport Commissioner B. Venkateswarlu.

July 20, 2010

School admission only through draw of lots

HYDERABAD: From the next academic year, it's luck and not merit that would get your child admission in reputed private schools in the state. The state government has decided that a draw of lots will replace screening tests in private schools as Right to Education Act (RTA) banishes these admission tests. According to officials from the department of secondary education, the schools which do not admit students on the basis of a draw of lots, will be fined Rs 25,000 in the first instance and Rs 50,000 in the second. "The draw of lots will have to be done before the district magistrate. No school will be allowed to conduct admissions without using the random sampling or lottery system," said Dr D Sambashiva Rao, principal secretary, secondary education, adding that the system is already in place in other states.

According to the new rules, admitting students without lottery system would be punishable under 13 (2b) of the RTE act. While the state government said that the system would give all students equal opportunity to take admission in schools, the management representatives of schools said that the decision infringes on the schools' authority to choose their students. They added that it would also deny seats to students who are genuinely interested in taking admission. "If admissions are done by a draw of lots, many conventions, like giving admission to siblings in the same school, would have to change. Parents will be more worried than ever during admission time if the rule is implemented," a management representative said. The management representatives are planning to ask the state government to devise some other method to conduct admissions in the coming academic year.

Meanwhile, parents from the city said that merit should be the criteria for admission into private schools. "There are parents who might want their children to study in specific schools. If admissions are done through a draw of lots they might be denied this opportunity. Besides parents are also worried that they will have to get their children admitted in neighbourhood schools as per the Act," a parent said.

Until recently, for admission into primary classes, students were being screened by oral examination and in upper primary and high school classes admissions were being done through written tests. Parents, however, said that admissions to the 25 per cent reserved seats under RTE Act should be done through the lottery method.

Meanwhile, trying to put the parents' doubts to rest, officials from secondary education department said the system is meant to put an end to donation and capitation fee in the state.

July 12, 2010

Parents association plans protest against school fee hike

ALLAHABAD: With schools reopened, parents and guardians under the banner of Abhiwawak Ekta Samiti are planning to re-start the agitation to protest against fee hike in schools of the city.

Covenor of the Samiti, Vijay Kumar Gupta said from July 24, the Samiti would organise boycott of classes in the city to make the people aware about their demands and elicit support for the movement. Besides, the samiti will put up posters and banners on the issue.

Gupta said the issue has remained unresolved owing to the fact that the state government has failed to introduce any regulations on fee hike. The samiti will also put up hoardings at prominent crossings in the city to highlight the failure of the state government in providing relief to parents and guardians, he added.

Besides, a delegation of the Abhiwawak Ekta Samiti will meet the district authorities and urge them to ask the schools to reduce the cost of admission forms and the fine charged for late fees.

Gupta expressed disappointment at the fact that the assurance given by the school authorities regarding permitting parents to buy books from outside has not been implemented.

June 21, 2010

Need of the hour : Law to check arbitrary fee hike in un-aided schools across India

- Ashok Agarwal, lawyer & civil rights activist

After the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Order of 11.05.2010 dismissing Special Leave Petitions of several Unaided Private Schools of the State of Tamil Nadu challenging the Madras High Court Judgment of 09.04.2010 upholding the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2009 (in short, Tamil Nadu Act, 2009) and The Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Rules, 2009, the Central Government now in public interest must bring a national law immediately on the lines of Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 to check the menace of commercialization of education in unaided private schools all over the country and to protect the hapless parents and students from exploitation. The Apex Court has once again re-affirmed the law of the land that the capitation fee, exorbitant fee, profiteering, commercialization of education and exploitation of parents/students by the unaided private schools are impermissible in law and the Government has not only the powers but also the duty to regulate fee in these schools to prevent commercialization of education.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has delivered a landmark Judgment on 09.04.2010 dismissing all the writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 by holding that the scheme of the Act is in consonance with the law laid down by the Apex Court, and it by and large strikes a balance between the autonomy of the institutions and measures to be taken to prevent commercialization of education. “There are sufficient guidelines in the statute for either approving or fixing the fees. The procedure prescribed provides for appropriate opportunity to the managements. The Committee is headed by a retired High Court Judge. The minority institutions have also to maintain non-exploitative terms as held in P.A.Inamdar’s case. The impugned Act, therefore, cannot be said to be in any way in violation of Articles 19(1) (g) and 26 and 30 of the Constitution of India”, said the Hon’ble Judges.

The Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 was enacted in the backdrop of the fact that in the State of Tamil Nadu, there were about 5500 Nursery/Primary Schools, 4100 Matriculation Schools, 38 Anglo Indian Schools and 500 State Board Schools of Tamil Medium totaling to 10, 148 schools which were unaided. There was no uniformity in their fee structure and on the face of it large numbers of them were charging very high fees, which could not be justified. The Madras High Court while deciding the case has also taken note of the fact that the Government has placed on record considerable material showing that private schools charging exorbitant fees. The High Court has further taken note of the fact that large number of representations have been made by the Parents’ Associations all throughout the State against charging of high fees by particular schools and the news reports of agitation by parents at different places. It was, therefore, felt necessary to regulate their fees.

The salient features of the Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 are:

• The Committee constituted under Section 5(1) for the purpose of determination of the fee shall be headed by a retired High Court Judge.
• The Committee has to call upon the private institutions to place before it the proposed fee structure of the institution with all relevant documents and books of accounts for scrutiny within the period to be indicated by the Committee in the given notice.
• After the receipt of the proposal from the concerned institution, the Committee has to verify as to whether the fee proposed by the Private School is justified and it does not amount to profiteering or charging of exorbitant fee.
• In case the Committee is of the view that the fee structure proposed by the institution appears to be correct, taking note of the various facilities provided and that there was no profiteering or collection of exorbitant fee, it has to approve the fee structure.
• In case the Committee is of the view that the fee structure forwarded by the institution is exorbitant and that there is an element of profiteering, the Committee has to determine some other fee.
• While fixing some other fee, the Committee has to follow certain procedures taking into consideration the factors as found mentioned under Section 6(1) as well as Rule 3 of the Rules.
• The determination of the fee as made by the Committee should be intimated to the concerned institution and there upon the institution has got a right to submit their objections within fifteen days.
• The objection so submitted by the institution shall be examined by the Committee. The Committee has to consider it objectively. The Committee was not expected to reject the objection summarily. As per Section 7(4), the Committee shall have the powers to regulate its own procedure in all matters and it shall have all the powers of a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 regarding summoning and attendance of witness and related matters. Therefore, the Committee would be within their powers to get the factors verified in respect of the claim made by the institution, to approve their fee structure, as against the fee determined by the Committee.
• The fee so prescribed would be in operation for a period of three years and at the end of such period, it would be open to the institution to make an application for revision of fees.
• Under Section 3(2) no fee in excess of the fee determined by the Committee shall be collected in a private school and the punishment provided for contravention thereof is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees and the Court may, for any adequate and special reason to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than three years.
• The person convicted shall refund to the pupil from whom the excess fee was collected, such excess fee.

The Madras High Court in Para 21 of the Judgment noted, “The observation of the Supreme Court was against the Government fixing the rigid fee in respect of private institutions. The impugned Act, in no way fixes the rigid fee. It only calls upon the management to forward their fee structure with details as to how they arrive at such a fee structure. The main idea is to see as to whether under the guise of collection of fees they are indirectly collecting the capitation fee or indulging in profiteering. That is why the Act initially uses the term Approval of the fee structure and only in such cases where the committee is of the view that the fee structure proposed is exorbitant and is in the nature of capitation fee or profiteering, it intervenes in the matter and for the purpose of fixing the correct fee, the private institution is given liberty to specify their fee structure, taking into account the expenditure necessary for running the institution as well as its future needs. Thus, it proceeds to determine the fee structure thereafter. In that process, it considers the objections given by the management to the fees proposed by the Committee. The consideration of objections by the Committee cannot be treated as an empty formality. The Committee has to consider the objections made by the institution in an objective manner and if necessary, by inspecting the institution and calling upon the management to produce the records in their possession in respect of various facets and to arrive at a decision as to whether the fee determined by the Committee was the correct one or it requires modification. It cannot be ignored that the committee is a high powered committee headed by a retired High Court Judge”.

The Madras High Court in Para 35 of the Judgment while dealing with the contention of one of the petitioners that the Act runs counter to the policy of ‘common school system’ noted, ‘As can be seen from the judgment in T.M.A. Pai’s case and other cases, the Apex Court has taken cognizance of the fact that private contribution in the field of education is necessary, and Government is not in a position to have sufficient resources for providing education to all. If that is so, it is difficult to bring about a common school system. The Right to Education Act does not prevent private schools. The only thing, which is possible to be realized, is to bring in legislation of fees structure and to check exploitation in private schools, which is sought to be brought about and that being so, the Act cannot be criticized on that score”.

The Madras High Court in Para 36 of the Judgment while commenting on the reservation of 25 percent seats in the private schools for the children belonging to poor strata of society noted, “The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 has made elementary education a fundamental right under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India. The right to free and compulsory elementary education was a long felt need, which has now been given the status of a fundamental right. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which came into force from 1st April 2010 was a consequential legislation to translate the constitutional intent into action. The RTE Act, 2009 provides for 25% seats in private schools for children from poor families and prohibits donation or capitation fee. Though the RTE Act is Central Legislation, its effective implementation lies in the hands of the State Governments. While implementing the RTE Act from 1st April 2010, the Government of India announced that 25 percent reservation for children from economically weaker sections of the society would be operational from Class I with effect from the academic year 2011. The present impugned legislation if examined in the context of Article 21-A of the Constitution of India and RTE Act is also valid”.

It is interesting to note that the parents all over the country have been raising voices against the inaction on the part of the Central and State Governments to check the menace of commercialization of education in unaided private schools. In 1997, on the pretext of 5th Pay Commission Recommendations, the unaided private schools in Delhi increased fee and other charges ranging from 40% to 400%. This gave rise to unrest amongst the middle class parents and the parents organized themselves against the arbitrary fee hike by the unaided private schools. Needless to say that a PIL was filed in 1997 in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court which was decided on 30.10.1998 in favour of the parents. The High Court laid down the criteria and guidelines of fixing a reasonable fee structure in an unaided private school. The High Court also held that the Government is not only empowered but also has a duty to regulate fee of such schools to prevent commercialization of education and exploitation of parents/students. The schools filed appeals before the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the High Court decision which was dismissed on 27.04.2004. The schools took another opportunity through filing a review petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court seeking review of Supreme Court decision of 27.04.2004. Fortunately, the Supreme Court also dismissed the review petition on 07.08.2009 reasserting that the fee has to be justified and not arbitrary and there has also to be accountability and transparency.

In 2008, on the pretext of 6th Pay Commission Recommendations, the unaided private schools all over the country hiked fee and other charges exorbitantly and arbitrarily while Central and State Governments were just mute spectators to the same. This time, the parents all over the country organized themselves to a larger extent and openly protested against the schools and the Governments. The parents associations in many parts of the country approached their respective High Courts by way of filing writ petitions. The agitation by the parents led some States to constitute committees to look into the issue of the arbitrary fee hike. The Government of Delhi constituted S.L Bansal Committee, the State of Maharashtra constituted Kumud Bansal Committee and the State of Goa constituted D.P. Pednekar Committee. It is respectfully submitted that all these Committees in the absence of examining the financial records of each school to determine whether the fee hike was justified or not by applying the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Modern School case, just ended up in making unsound and illogical solutions.

The Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 is providing solution to a larger extent. However, the application of the said Act is limited to the State of Tamil Nadu. In all other States, practically, there are no laws to deal with the fee hike problems. All India Parents Association (AIPA) has since long been demanding a Central Law to deal with the issue of commercialization in unaided private schools but the Central Government has not taken any step in this regard so far. The public interest demands that the Central Government must immediately enact a Central Law may be on the lines of the Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 to check the rampant commercialization of education in unaided private schools all over the country. We need of have a uniform law for all over the country as the problem of exploitation of parents and students by the unaided private schools all over the country is more or less the same. We hope and expect that Shri Kapil Sibal, Union Education Minister will rise to the occasion and sincerely take up this matter on urgent basis.

Last but not the least, we should not forget that while fighting against the exploitation of the parents/students by the unaided private schools, we have to continue our fight for the up-gradation of the standard of education in very Government School all over the country to the level of Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools).

June 19, 2010

Good news & Congratulations to school authorities

Yesterday morning RTA had a surprise check on the fleet of DPS Secunderabad school buses & we understand they've given clean chit. This checking was done live on NTV & its good news for all to note that the school authorities are maintaining highest standards of safety for the buses which ferry hundreds of school children everyday from across the city. 

Parents congratulate's the school management, authorities & the staff for ensuring such standards & we look forward for such examples in every aspect in the functioning of school.

June 13, 2010

DEO warns schools on abnormal fee

Hyderabad: The District Education Officer (DEO), Hyderabad has warned the school managements not to collect abnormal fee from students and insist on buying school dress, textbooks and shoes from the school only.

In a statement here, the DEO said several complaints have come from parents that schools were collecting abnormal fee and they were also insisting on buying books and school dress from the school itself.
Complaints were also received about some schools making school transportation compulsory.

She said all school management should adhere to government norms or else affiliation would be withdrawn.
She said parents can bring such violations to the notice of officials immediately.

June 11, 2010

June 08, 2010

DPS Hyderabad & Secunderabad schools re-opening

DPS Hyderabad & Secunderabad schools would now be re-opened on Monday the 14th June, 2010 for Classes 1 to 10, as per the school website & also the SMS sent yesterday to parents.

May 26, 2010

DPS-MIS nursery student found dead in school bus

Qatar Tribune | Front Page | May 18, 2010

And Imagine what support & reactions happen in such a sad incident, elsewhere in th world ? Read the reports there after .... hope to see such reactions from parents in India as well !

Life is not the same, after that. It has to change or people change from their positions !

May 17, 2010

State fails to control private school fees

Hyderabad, May 15: In the absence of any government regulation, private schools have hiked their fees by 50 per cent to 100 per cent ahead of the new academic year. Caught between the poor standards in government schools and the high fees in private schools, parents from the lower-income and middle-income groups are worried.

The Tamil Nadu government came out with a regulated fee structure for over 10,000 private schools last week. The Andhra Pradesh government, however, is still mired in “legal issues” and with the admission season in full swing ahead of the new academic year in June, parents are wondering just how to cope with the additional financial burden.

The tuition fee apart, schools demand “donations” in order to admit students. The amount ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 for nursery admission.
At first it was major cities such as Vijayawada, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Nellore, Hyderabad and Tirupati that saw private schools increase their fees, but now schools in districts such as Nizamabad, Warangal and Prakasam too are collecting a donation of Rs 5,000 for nursery admission and a monthly tuition fee ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. The transportation fee has also gone up. Schools in Hyderabad charge Rs 6,000 per annum for transport. Considering that schools work only for ten months in a year, parents will have to shell out Rs 600 per month for transport alone. Schools in Warangal, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Krishna have decided to charge Rs 400 per annum.

After silently putting up with successive fee hikes, parents and students last year took to the streets and demanded a rollback in the fees. They formed parents' associations in schools and strongly resisted the fee hike.

The government was forced to constitute a committee under pressure from the parents. The five-member committee comprising then Hyderabad collector, Mr Navin Mittal, and commissioner of Intermediate education, Mr Lov Agarwal, submitted a report to the government making certain recommendations on fee regulation. But, the recommendations created a furore.

The committee had recommended a uniform upper cap of Rs 24,000 per annum for students of primary classes and Rs 30,000 for high school students across the state. Parents described these “mindless recommendations” as a majority of schools in the state were actually charging less than the amount prescribed by the committee. The recommendations were prompting schools to further hike the fee, they said. The government then decided not to fix a uniform fee structure for all schools and said that it will apply only to major schools which charge huge fees. But that too did not happen as the schools approached the High Court and secured a stay on the government order.

“There are about seven to eight petitions filed in the High Court against the government order. We have to examine all of them and submit the government’s argument urging the court to vacate the stay order. It will take some time. We have already asked the advocate-general to initiate the process to ensure that we will come out with a clear policy on fee regulation on the lines of the Tamil Nadu government,” said minister for secondary education, Mr D. Manikya Vara Prasada Rao.