As schools begin admissions for the coming academic year, exorbitant fee and rampant hikes in it are a major cause for concern among parents, finds a new online poll.
As many as 64% parents said that they have witnessed more than a 10% hike in school fees, frequently. And even though it’s illegal, significant amounts are charged under different heads other than the tuition fee.
The poll recorded the response of over 13,000 parents online. It was carried out by Local Circles, a citizen engagement platform and its results were released on Wednesday evening.
“The issue of school fees is a highly emotive one as it deals with the future of not only children but also that of the country,” read the statement released by Local Circles. “The normal rules of economy do not apply on school fees as consumers/parents have a very little flexibility to change or shift, once they have chosen a particular school,” it added.
Frustrated by the profiteering by schools, 81% of the parents demanded establishing a regulatory body for private school fee at the national level, although states like Maharashtra already have a school fee regulation act in place.
“The fee regulation act is not being implemented properly even though it’s been more than a year since it’s enforcement. State government authorities are hand-in-glove with school managements,” said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education, a non government organisation fighting against arbitrary fee hikes for the last several years.
Adding that schools are increasing from 20% to 50% across India, Jain said, “Schools are given land on a concessional basis, even electricity and water are at a lower rate but even then there are unjustified fee hikes.”
So on what basis should schools charge fees?
Around 41 % voted that the fee hikes should be linked to inflation which is currently in the range of 6-7 % per annum. Another 20 % parents said that the hike should be capped at 10% in a year and 15 % said it should be linked to hike in salary by the pay commission.
Despite profiteering, most schools are set up as charitable trusts or societies. Around 73% parents voted that schools with an objective of reaping profits should be required to set up as private companies instead. “Many schools today are running like businesses so they should be recognised as the same and not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of a charity institution,” said Arundhati Roy, president, Parent Teachers Association (PTA) United Forum.
Taking a note of the growing discontent among parents, the CBSE is mulling dividing the fee into basic and premium. Basics will cover necessities, while premium will include optional features such as horse riding, swimming and others. Close to 77% parents said that they prefer this system.
In an earlier poll, 81% parents had demanded that schools be asked to declare yearly financials on the school’s website along with the fee structure. This suggestion was incorporated by the CBSE board.
Some citizen inputs on what can be done by CBSE and MHRD to make school fee increase more reasonable and transparent :
1. The regulator should be responsible for preventing any undue fee hike by private schools
2. A part of their job should be to assess if the fees charged by a school is set on the basis of the infrastructure and services being provided
3. MHRD should also make suitable legislation to give authority to the regulator to close the schools which do not adhere to the guidelines issued by the regulator
4. A special anti-graft squad should be put together for schools