The Parent-Teacher Association United Forum, a non-government organisation, has been one of the most vocal critics of the state government’s lack of political will to resolve the school fee tussle.
“Here in Maharashtra we are still struggling with the fee hike issue so we wanted to find out the status in other states and how privatisation has affected school education in the country,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of the Forum.
Chavan and team scattered across six states began collecting data from 30 schools in August. The study, completed in October, revealed that unaided schools in Maharashtra charge more fees than unaided schools with the same facilities in five other states__Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
The survey divided the school into three categories based on the fees charged and facilities offered. Schools charging a lower range of fees provided basic facilities, the middle range additional ones, and the higher range schools provided a wider range of activities. The study also revealed that the middle-range (Type 2) had the most active PTAs, in all states. Among the states included in the study, Tamil Nadu was the only one that has passed a law to regulate the fees of unaided schools. Activists and parents in Maharashtra have been lobbying for the state government to do the same by introducing a Bill in the upcoming winter session of the assembly.
“There has to be a political will. The private sector cannot be unregulated,” said Milind Wagh, state secretary of the Forum Against Commercialisation of Education (FACE), a non-governmental organisation. “In Maharashtra the problem of fee hikes seems to be maximum because so many schools have come up as a result of urbanisation and there is a certain affluent section that can pay.” FACE will hold a rally in Nagpur on December 8 to demand a law on regulating fee hikes in private unaided schools.
In Maharashtra, unaided schools challenged a series of government resolutions (GRs) regulating fees, and won the right to determine their own fee structure in the Bombay High Court. In September the HC ruled that the government could only regulate fees by enacting a law.
Such a law is already in place in Tamil Nadu, where fee regulatory committees have placed a ceiling on the amount that unaided schools can charge. Unaided schools challenged Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collcetion of Fee) Act, 2009, in the Madras HC, which upheld the Act. The SC, while hearing the appeal, also upheld the Act.