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HT Chandigarh debate: Schools need checks and balances

Tricity residents are of the opinion that schools should not operate with a money-minting mindset. These are supposed to be temples of education, which nurture young minds. Besides, when parents spend exorbitant amounts as fee, they have every right to know where it goes, so balance sheets should be in public domain
PUBLISHED ON JUN 12, 2021 02:43 AM IST
Due to the pandemic, school buildings, water, electricity and numerous other things are not being used, prompting the courts to direct the schools only to charge the tuition fee, say tricity residents. (Illustration: BISWAJIT DEBNATH/HT)

Transparency in dealings

Schools should upload their balance sheets online as it will lead to greater transparency and increases the confidence of parents in the school. All doubts regarding the fees structure and where it is used will be clear to them.

Khushboo Singla, Mohali

Education for all

Transparency in every field is the need of the hour. The very fact that schools are reluctant to upload their balance sheets proves that they have something to conceal. Going public with the financial statements will make the system more transparent and also make parents feel comfortable. Otherwise ‘free and compulsory education for all’ will be a distant dream.

Arti Sood, Chandigarh

Come clean if you have nothing to hide

Due to the pandemic, school buildings, water, electricity and numerous other things are not being used, prompting the courts to direct the schools only to charge the tuition fee. If not comfortable with uploading financial statements online, schools should at least give it to local authorities for evaluation. Schools should show their balance sheets if they have an equitable system and have nothing to hide.

Aashita Sood, via email

Balanced approach

On one hand, parents paying exorbitant private school fee have the right to be informed about the utilisation of funds while on the other, schools, too, have a right to maintain their privacy for administrative purposes. Therefore, a middle way path is the best one to take to take.

Vaibhav Sharma, Chandigarh

Value the teachers’ efforts

In the showdown between parents and school authorities, no one’s talking about the painstaking efforts of teachers, who have been juggling their domestic duties and online classes throughout this difficult time. Reaching out to children and keeping them engaged through the virtual mode is not a very convenient thing to do from home. Teachers spend hours preparing and planning learning strategies for each session. Parents must respect the dedication of teachers and introspect. Certainly, if any, the fee hike is not arbitrary if the schools are successfully creating learning opportunities for children. In this case, uploaded balance sheets is violation of privacy of schools.

Shikha Sondhi, via email

Quality comes at a price

It is ironic that while private schools are being grilled for the exorbitant fee structure, no one’s talking about the quality of education being imparted here. Setting up a private school takes a great deal of effort and planning. Why would anyone undertake such a venture if such is the attitude of people and authorities towards it?

Anju Mohan, Panchkula

Donations, extra charge fair game for these schools

Several private schools have laid off their staff and are also saving on electricity and water consumption charges as classes have been shifted online. The charade under which these schools have been operating is now being questioned by parents, who have the right to know where their money is going. Most of these schools force parents for ‘donations’ and fees under sundry odd heads. I believe private schools should be forced by law to share their balance sheets with public as this is the only way to expose them.

Saihibb Kaura, via email

A welcome move

The order of the high court mandating private unaided schools to upload their balance sheets is a welcome move. Many private schools are not transparent in their financial dealings as they charge exorbitant fees on various heads from the students. Many of these schools have also become conduit for converting black money into white money. The recent order will definitely rein in those schools which have a practice of hiking tuition and other fees every academic year. The uploading of the balance sheets will also provide information at a glance the money being spent by the schools for developing the infrastructure and technology of the schools. But one grey area is that these schools may find ways to window dress their financial dealings and we are not sure whether the balance sheet will be a true one or a fudged one.

Anil Kumar Yadav, Chandigarh

Education is not a business

Chandigarh administration has allotted plots only to charitable trusts for opening schools. Balance sheets have to be made public due to a clause in the Act which requires the utilisation of funds for betterment and development of the unaided educational institution. The fund or profit accrued cannot be used for any personal gain or business enterprise. It is no surprise that these schools are not keen on uploading their balance sheets. The administration should penalise such schools and further conduct an audit of their accounts. The excess fee charged by these schools in the past should be refunded to parents.

Vijay Malia, Chandigarh

Shun the hoodwinking

Private schools in UT have been fleecing parents by charging many ‘add-ons’ on tuition fee even during the pandemic when classes have been shifted online. When their regular expenses are minimal, except the payment of staff salaries, private schools will do well to refund the excess payments unduly charged from parents to avoid being caught off guard. Their refusal to publish their balance sheets has further strengthened the parents case.

SC Luthra, Chandigarh

Should be open to scutiny

Schools should not function like business entities. Schools, which are considered to be the temples of education, are answerable not only to students and parents but also to the society as a whole. Schools also get tax exemptions and other benefits, so there is no excuse for fleecing the parents. Further more, transparency in financial matters ensures credibility and respect. Private schools should gracefully subject themselves to public scrutiny and accountability.

Usha Verma, Chandigarh

Bring shutters down on school not obeying orders

Education should be given on the basis of no profit, no loss. Private schools should upload their balance sheets and give parents clarity on the fee structure. In case of a hike, parents should be consulted beforehand. Private schools have no right terming it a violation of privacy. The government should bring the shutters down on schools violating the orders.

Sumesh Kumar Badhwar, Mohali

Transparency will benefit all stakeholders

Most private schools this year have cut corners by laying off staff and giving salary cuts to the rest. With most teachers taking the classes from their home, there isn’t any ‘usual’ consumption of utilities, such as water and electricity at school premises. Despite this, schools are still asking for high fees. Schools refused to upload their balance sheets claiming that this would be a violation of their privacy. The right to privacy is available to artificial entities, but the field of education is a charitable initiative so releasing the balance sheets will only bring in transparency and satisfaction to all stakeholders involved. This will also allow the government to evaluate fee structure and make norms more rational.

Samay Seth, via email

Violation of privacy

The high court order to schools to upload balance sheets online is a violation of privacy and privileges of schools. It presumes that private schools are business organisations like any other. Though there is no justification for arbitrary fee hike, and that too during the pandemic, putting the balance sheets in public domain is not fair. We have seen schools exploiting parents through exorbitant fees to expand operations. Without making the schools disclose their balance sheets, a case should be made for putting an end to unnecessary fee hike.

DS Banati, Mohali

Rationalise fee during lockdown

The main duty of schools is to impart education. But it is sad to see that schools are now trying to mint money out of this noble cause. Every financial activity related to a student’s betterment should be conducted transparently. Schools should not object to upload the balance sheet. By uploading the balance sheet, school administration is not only be able to gain the trust of parents but also earn their respect of the rest of the society. This will only help them in the long run. Also, in wake of online classes, schools must set up a reasonable fee structure.

Prabhjot Nagpal, Zirakpur

Cruel to hike fee when economy is scarred

The entry of the corporate sector in the field of education has completely changed the educational system in the country. With the public education system already destroyed, almost all parents started sending their children to fancy schools even though many may not even be able to afford it. The educational institutes set up their own so-called charitable trust and cornered cheap lands under political patronage. With the economy in choppy waters, many parents may have lost their jobs or have lesser earnings than before. In such a scenario, increasing the annual fees is a cruel move.

Suresh Verma, Chandigarh

Schools are pillars of development, profiteering a strict no

Be it government-aided or non-aided educational institutions’, the main aim is to provide education to all. But nowadays educational institutions are just looking at earning maximum profits. The high court has done the right thing by directing schools to upload the balance sheet online. Educational institutes are pillars of development. So they should sacrifice the profit motive and make the balance sheet transparent to gain future benefits and loyalty of parents.

Subhash Nagpal, Zirakpur

A step in the right direction

The HC order to private schools to bring in public domain the balance sheet is a step in the right direction to bring transparency in the transactions of the school since most of the them are set up to earn profits. Parents have every right to know the end use of the hefty fees charged by schools in the name of development fund. Also, some schools get aids from government and keep it under the wraps to avoid scrutiny by tax authorities.

Anil Vinayak, Amritsar

Schools no exception

There is no harm in sharing balance sheet of income and expenditure of private schools. It is not fair to club this as violation of privacy. Further most of the public and private agencies put their annual balance sheet in public domain to have transparency in their working. Apart from this, annual audit of private schools must be done and made mandatory by government approved auditors to ensure transparency in their accounts so that no finger can be raised on their working by anybody.

Col TBS Bedi, Mohali

Don’t forget the students in this tug of war

If schools have any grouse, they are free to seek judicial redressal but any teacher-parent friction will prove detrimental to the growth of students. The fact that schools are business entities run with fees paid by parents who are deemed financiers, proves beyond doubt that these are funded by public that earns every right to scan the balance sheets. Land for schools is earmarked at concessional rates by authorities. Reluctance of school managements to put accounts in public domain gives rise to suspicions on ulterior motives. Private schools’ right to privacy may be moot but absolute secrecy is bad for public dealing.

Lalit Bharadwaj, Panchkula

Work out alternatives

Parents as well as the school faculty should be receptive enough to understand each other’s agony. Schools may upload balance sheets declaring their accountability. If some schools agree to reduce fees but do not agree to upload balance sheets due to privacy concerns, it shall not be dealt with strictness as the main purpose is served by reducing fees. Another way is that all the schools are asked to make their balance sheets, and share them only with the UT education department. The department could access them and take decisions on whether to reduce or not to reduce the fees for each school individually.

Priyam Aggarwal, Chandigarh

Immoral for school to operate with motive of profit

Schools are temples of learning which nurture young minds. Unfortunately, privately-run educational establishments have been converted into corporations with a motive of profit. Many other charges are being obtained in addition to fees. The schools also earn huge annual profits by giving franchise to others. It is immoral and illegal. Certainly they should charge for maintenance which includes water, power, staff, buses etc but it should stand social logic and audit. All unaided private schools must make their balance sheets public. Army Welfare Education Society is running a large number of Army Public Schools without any government aid. It will be prudent to direct all private public schools to follow the fee structure of Army Public Schools.

Col SK Aggarwal, Panchkula

Ease the burden on parents

Public auditing of private schools is not justified when other organisations too are not subject to the same. A committee should be made to check the authenticity of the hefty fee taken by the private schools, and its expenditure. Government should intervene as education is the basic right of each child. Government should also provide some grant to all private schools to ease the burden on parents.

Abhilasha Gupta, Mohali

Relief for parents

Article 21(A) of the Indian Constitution gives the right to education to every child between 6-14 years. However, there are cases where private schools charge hefty fees in the name of extra-curriculum activities. The recent decision by the high court to get private schools to upload their balance sheet comes as a great relief to parents. The decision will bring transparency in the functioning of private schools and parents can also raise questions if there is any discrepancy related to fee matters.

Sandeep Rawat, Chandigarh

Schools oppressing parents

Private schools’ opposition to make public their balance sheet proves the financial oppressiveness of parents at hands of schools. It is no secret how much the authorities care for public’s problems. So, not just in Delhi, private schools across India should be subject to maintenance and audit of balance sheets online.

MPS Chadha, Mohali

Corroded temples of education

Schools ought to be the epitome of discipline, uniformity, equality and honesty. However, over the past few years, many of these temples of learning have corroded into money minting entities. Yasmin D Khosla, Panchkula

Should not interfere in schools’ internal matters

Asking private schools to upload their balance sheets is a threat to their privacy. The private schools are independent and have their own systems of fees and other internal matters. The government should not interfere in this task of the private schools.

Saikrit Gulati, Chandigarh

Private schools are money-minting machines

When the private education system was introduced in India, there was a missionary zeal but unfortunately now it is a buyer’s market. To open private schools, the administration provides land, loans, exemption in various taxes and against this their charging reasonable money is a rightful endeavour. But the aim of the owners of these schools is to mint money by exorbitantly charging admission fees, building funds and making it compulsory to buy books/exercise books either from their schools or specifically mentioned shops. They even pay less salary to their staff. In spite of all these infirmities, they do not want to upload their balance sheet to disclose their income and expenditure statement.

SK Khosla, Chandigarh

Experts

In public domain

Private schools run on money collected by students and their activities happen in the public domain. If parents ask, then should be shown the balance sheets. This will also help keep a check on embezzlement.

BL Sharma, former education secretary

Transparency must

Transparency between school and parents is important. Parents need to make sure that the fees being paid by them is utilised properly. Schools should comply with these rules soon and action must be taken against those who don’t comply.

Gurpreet Katwal, PTA president, Mount Carmel School

Need clarity

We have found a few discrepancies in the judgement and will approach the Supreme Court for more clarity on this. Uploading balance sheets online will make school governance harder and affect the studies of students.

HS Mamik, president, Independent Schools Association

Information misuse

Schools don’t have a problem with submitting their balance sheets to the UT education department and CBSE. However, uploading these online may encourage criminal elements to misuse this information.

Girish Sachdeva, Independent Schools Association Executive member

Welfare

Schools have been established as charitable trusts or under Societies Registration Act. Parents are to be treated as equal partners. Schools aren’t supposed to make profit so uploading balance sheets will show if there are excess funds and make a case against annual fee hike.

Pardeep Rapria, RTI activist and lawyer

Reader of the week

Accountability has never done any harm

Education in our society has been rewarded with respect and honour. Unfortunately, the ulterior motive of ‘profiteering’ by the private schools even in these tumultuous times has pushed the stakeholders to rebel. If educational institutions can spend a mighty amount on advertisements and publicity, it is obvious to assess their intentions. Parents are being mercilessly pressed by schools to make the payments with overheads included. Such endeavours may result in massive unschooling thereby altering the edifice of educational governance in the country. Uploading financial statements on their websites may help the schools earn their lost respect that they should have retained and deserved otherwise.

Shammi Bhatia, Dhakoli

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