School fee hikes: Maharashtra sets up 9-member panel to review fee act
A government resolution (GR) issued on Saturday evening states that this panel will suggest changes or amendments to the fee act within 15 days, to plug loopholes in the act, that allow indiscriminate increases in fees.mumbai Updated: May 21, 2017 01:20 IST
Following parents’ protests and complaints against Maharashtra schools indulging in exorbitant fee-hikes for the coming academic session, the state school education department has set up a nine-member expert panel to probe into the complaints and iron out flaws in the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of School) Fee Act, 2011.
A government resolution (GR) issued on Saturday evening states that this panel will suggest changes or amendments to the fee act within 15 days, to plug loopholes in the act, that allow indiscriminate increases in fees.
In addition to education officials and members of the fee revision committee, the expert panel will include parent representatives and school managements. Involving parents in the decision-making process, will help in coming up with well-informed and practical reforms, said activists.
In the last two months, there has been a national outcry against schools charging exorbitant fees. In Maharashtra, parents staged protests and approached the court against several schools for flouting the act.
Although the fee act has been in effect from December 2014, and appellate authorities to intervene in school fee rows were formed in April 2016, at least 10 to 15 schools in Mumbai have indulged in unjustified fee hikes for the academic year 2017-18. These hikes are often undertaken without the consent of the parent-teacher association (PTA), flouting the provisions of the fee act.
“The fee act is being implemented poorly; education officials are not penalising schools for violating its provisions. So it’s a good idea to review the act and strengthen it,” said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education, a parents and teachers body.
One of the major lapses is that even though the act prohibits schools from hiking fees more than once in two years, it does not put any cap on the hike. Parents want the act to define upper limits for the hikes.
It is silent on schools collecting hefty sums for uniforms, stationery, security deposit and other extra-curricular activities. “My son’s school charges Rs 40,000 annually for school supplies,” said parent from a Malad school that increased fees by 10% to 12% in March without a PTA nod.
Additionally, the school fee act empowers the parent-teacher associations’ (PTA) executive panel to fix fees on the behalf of the parents. But activists said that PTA is not a statutory body, and hence should not be given such powers.