The cost of a good education emerged as a major concern in a survey carried out by Hindustan Times and Ipsos Indica Research in March, as part of the Mumbai First initiative.
Seventy-four per cent of the respondents said they had paid a donation while admitting their child to school; 46 per cent said the donations and school fees were too high.
While the overall survey touched upon many subjects, the questions on education were put to those who listed it among their top two priorities.
“It is not a healthy picture; it is very unfortunate that the education system has become so commercialised,” said Basanti Roy, former divisional secretary of the state education board’s Mumbai division. “Education should not be the privilege of a particular class.”
While it is illegal for schools to charge capitation fees for a seat at the time of admission, it is an unspoken understanding that the parents will give a “donation” to the school if they want their child to be admitted. “Every locality has only a few good schools, which is why they can hold parents to ransom,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of the Parent-Teacher Associations’ United Forum. “But, to some extent, the parents are also at fault because they are very particular about where they want their child to go to school.”
Meanwhile, over the past year, several private unaided schools have raised their annual fees by up to 60 per cent despite the government forbidding this. On March 4, it issued an order saying schools would not be allowed to raise their fees above what they had charged for the academic year 2008-2009, pending a final decision on the matter.
“Unaided schools say they have to charge high fees because they don’t get government aid, but they are just making excuses,” said Dinesh Dubey, a parent who filed a police complaint against Ryan International group of schools. He claimed that St Xavier’s School, which is part of the group, had demanded a donation in exchange for the admission of his younger son.
Unaided schools say they need to pay their teachers and also deal with inflation and rising costs, which is why they have to increase their fees every year. Amid numerous parents’ protests, the government last June appointed the Kumud Bansal Committee to look into the issue of fee hikes.
The committee submitted its report in October but the state is yet to frame a policy on fee hikes in private unaided schools.