Fee regulation Act fails to restrict Mumbai schools from hiking fees
Parents said that schools are violating the law by not giving parents prior notice or seeking their approval before increasing the fees. They are hiking fees every year, while the act allows them only once in two years.mumbai Updated: Apr 13, 2017 09:31 IST
At least six to seven schools in Mumbai have hiked their fees, without parents’ consent, in the last two weeks, ahead of the new academic session, 2017-18. This has raised doubts over the effectiveness of Maharashtra’s school fee regulation law, which seeks to limit fee hikes and involve parents in the process to ensure that schools do not increase fees arbitrarily.
The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2011, which has been effective since December, 2014, requires managements of private unaided schools to put forth proposed fees for the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) executive committee’s approval, six months before the start of the new session.
Parents said that schools are violating the law by not giving parents prior notice or seeking their approval before increasing the fees. They are hiking fees every year, while the act allows them only once in two years.
At Terna Orchids School in Ghansoli, parents were asked to pay Rs10,000 (for Class 6 and 7) and Rs15,000 (for Class 8) in addition to their regular fees as the school has hired a special faculty to teach math and science. It will raise their fees from Rs 89,000 to Rs 1, 02, 000 a year. The school has hiked their fees by 10% last year.
Parents alleged that this was done without taking their approval. “We were called for a PTA meeting in which the new initiative was merely discussed. Later on we found that the school took our attendance as consent,” said Rakesh Mundhra, one of the parents fighting the hike. He added that his request to the principal to hold another parent-teacher meet was turned down.
The school justified its actions saying that the money is needed to provide a new initiative to make math and science lively and interesting. “We are calling expert IITians to hold classes for our students. The programme had received a good feedback from parents when we started it on trial basis last year,” said Pratibha Mishra, principal of the school. “We took it forward only after talking to parents.”
Activists said that fee disputes are increasing because the fee act is silent on schools charging fees under different heads. “This is a loophole that is being exploited by schools,” said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education. “Schools are charging exorbitant amounts as security deposit, admission fees and others,” he added.
Another problem is the delay in setting up state-level and divisional fee regulation panels for parents or schools to approach in case of disputes. The divisional panel was formed only last year, while the revision panel became operational last month. As a result, hundreds of fee hike disputes are still pending with them.
An online poll has found that even as schools begin admissions for the coming academic year, exorbitant fees and rampant fee hikes are a major cause for concern among parents. Around 55% parents said that their schools has hiked fees by 11% to 20% for the new academic session.
“The fee increase in many schools has again been quite high this year and parents in different parts of the country have come on to the roads to protest about it,” read the statement released by LocalCircles, an online citizen engagement platform that carried out the survey. “They have also been complaining about the hefty increase in the annual fee charges which schools are not able to justify,” it stated.