December 11, 2011

School fee hike: Absence of clear law fuels confusion

MUMBAI: A debate on school fees has been raging in the city for the past few years, with parents protesting against steep hikes and school administrations arguing for them citing rising salaries and expenses. Educationists and parents complain the absence of a clear law on fee regulation has added to the all-round confusion.

After a prolonged period of deliberation, the state government finally began releasing a series of government resolutions (GRs) in late 2010 to implement the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (regulation of collection of fee) Bill, 2011. But on every occasion its instructions were challenged in courts either by private unaided schools or parents.

"Rules mandate that we get the PTA's approval before hiking fees. At the same time, another rule asks us to pay our teachers as per the Sixth Pay Commission and pay them arrears for the past few years," asked Lalitha Hariharan, principal of Rizvi Springfield High School in Bandra (West). "In such a situation, how are schools supposed to generate money?" Many principals said that with no other source of income, schools have to depend on fees to make ends meet.

Over the last two years, there have been many instances where parents protested against schools hiking fees. "It's not just once or twice but time and again. The same schools have been pulled up for increasing their fees. Most times parents are helpless because the schools threaten to expel their children. How is it that the government is not taking any action against such schools?" said Arundhati Chavan, president of the Parent-Teachers' Association United Forum.

"The education department has shown no seriousness in this matter. For years, it caved in to bullying by schools," said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education. Jain argued that after filing a PIL against 19 International Baccalaureate (IB) schools last year, the education department did not follow the order given by the Bombay high court. "The court had asked for balance sheets of all 19 schools but the state could only provide three balance sheets. Those documents showed how IB schools make crores in profits every year," he said.

Jain said that his forum would file a fresh PIL next week against 50 schools for charging capitation fees and for commercialisation of education.

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