Knowledge Costs

The appointment, over a month ago, of a retired High Court judge to head a panel to decide a fee structure for private schools could have come as some relief for parents of students driven to desperation by the government’s failure to monitor key aspects of the functioning of these proliferating institutions, some of whom have taken to imposing annual fees ranging from Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000. A bar on recognized private schools from further hikes till the panel comes up with its recommendations has come not a day too soon. The government’s orders on fees for the flood months of September and October, though a relaxed version of an earlier directive, gives the newly-formed panel the discretion to allow or disallow, on a case-wise basis, private schools to charge fees for the period – powers, one trusts, the panel uses scrupulously and judiciously.

Tariffs – as some institutions unabashedly operate as business centres and purely commercial ventures – at times rival those of the highest-ranked schools in Delhi, but without matching performance in academics.

Most of these schools are run directly or indirectly by the kith and kin of top political leaders who have been instrumental in blocking moves to legislate regulations on fees and other issues. Middle-ranked schools that hitherto charged reasonable fees too have been encouraged by this to jump into the race, and now demand admission fees to the tune of Rs 25,000 and monthly tuition fees of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000. This nexus between politicians and managements of private schools has been one of the reasons for the authorities’ reluctance to take cognizance of severe public resentment.

Demands have also been growing for the government to frame legislation on fee structures by placing private schools in graded categories. The law should have strict provisions to curb mercenary and exploitative policies of school managements. Though private schools publish their ‘fee structure’ in local newspapers every year, they do not follow them in actual practice. Authorities concerned need to take note of such irregularities, and bring violators to book.