Parents across India, including the Congress-ruled Bangalore are up in arms over the huge pay hike and Hyderabad that has forced parents to hold protests against school managements for unregulated fee hikes during the last three or four months, reported Oorvani Foundation.
While some hapless parent associations are knocking the door of the country’s judiciary, others like Hyderabad School Parents’ Association (HSPA) hit the tech road and received support from parents across India, when they launched a “missed call campaign” last month.
The association gave a call to all parents to dial a number on a given day if they wanted school fee to be regulated and they reportedly received 1.3 lakh calls, of which 17,800 were from Delhi, 14,994 from Maharashtra and 10,550 from Karnataka, reflecting the kind of frustration that parents across the country are probably experiencing.
In Bengaluru, the newly-formed Karnataka School Parents Association (KASPA) has decided to file a public interest litigation in the high court, demanding school fee regulation. They are up in arms against schools for hiking fees by 20-30% every year.
The Delhi Public School, Bangalore South for example used to charge Rs. 45,000 in 2012 for all classes from LKG to Class 12 and now the fee is Rs.72,000 per annum. In addition, they charge Rs.3,300 for so-called computer aided classs-room teaching on projector that was never used even once by teahcers. The money goes to Educamp firm forever.
“We are unhappy over the ways in which schools are manipulating parents by hiking admission and transportation fees every year. The CBSE and ICSE by-laws clearly state that the school management should consult parents through chosen parents’ representatives before revising the fee. But we are not convinced about the selection process of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) itself. Often, parents are unaware of the PTA selection process and are never informed about it,” KASPA vice-president Selvaraj said.
Karnataka, like several other states, has not fixed any fee limit for schools leaving it to their discretion and in 2014, the department of public instruction tried to bring them under rule book but faced stiff resistence from these schools, which owned by political figures including the current deputy speaker.
The management lobby hurled more than 7,000 objections in the form of suggestions from the public and forced it to be shelved.
“The government and the parents consider just the salaries and maintenance cost while calculating the fee, but what about the initial establishment cost?” Dr M Srinivasan, founder-chairperson of GEAR International School in Bengaluru, asks.
If the private school has obtained the land at a concessional rate then, of course, it is even easier for the school to make a substantial profit.
“In Bengaluru, the Bangalore Development Authority reserves land for educational institutions, , but that has not happened in a decade ever since the BJP came to power in Karnataka and the current Congress government is just following the predecessor’s footsteps.
Jayaraman S, a chartered accountant, said the Delhi government sanctions land to private school managements at a relatively cheap Rs 45 lakh per acre unlike in Bengaluru, where the land availability is a big issue. Naturally, Bangalore schools charge higher fee than Delhi, he reasoned out.
This is against the mandatory for educational institutions to be registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act or Indian Trusts Act, meaning they are meant to be non-profit organisations but this has gone for a toss a decade ago in the entire country with court judgements often going in favour of private educational institutions.
In some cases, these schools collect other forms of fee, apart from the tution fee. The DPS Bangalore South, for instance, collects Readmission fee from students to join in Class 11 and it is Rs.25,000 and non-refundable.
even in Mumbai, Private Schools of Maharashtra (PoP SoM) is a group that’s fighting unjustified fee hikes. The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act allows for a 15% fee hike once in two years, but parents allege that schools have been hiking their fee every year.
But in Chennai, the school fee structure was so well-regulated that no parent voices his anger or anguish. "Tamil Nadu was a sort of pioneer when it came to regulating the fee structure in private schools, a model that other states are now trying to replicate," said Oorvani Foundation’s report.
The Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation and Collection of Fees) Act, 2009, paved the way for the establishment of the Private School Fee Fixation Committees, who calculated fees based on the school’s locality, the strength of students, classes of study and status of the school.
But some CBSE and ICSE schools approached the Supreme Court questioning the powers of the Fee Fixation Committee, leading to the issue of an interim order by the Supreme Court in January 2016.
The order said that the power of the committee is limited only to verifying the fee collected by schools and checking if it is commensurate with the facilities provided, though they could not impose any fee ceiling.
Some parents suggested mandatory auditing as many schools spend surplus funds to build astro-field for football playground than passing on the benefits to parents.
For a full report, see Oorvani Foundation/Open Media Initiative page.