To pay, or not to pay

As a result of the pandemic everything was shutdown, schools as well. It resulted in a contest over whether parents should pay school fees or not. This is a hot topic now-a-days. As  principal in a private school, for last two decades, I want to share my thoughts with the parent community.

A) What is Tuition Fees?

According to the dictionary fee is defined as, a payment made to a professional person or to a professional or public body in exchange for advice or services.

I would like to state that according to me one cannot place a price tag on Tuition/Education – it is priceless! Students will always be indebted to their teachers. They can never ‘pay’ them for what they have been taught. A teacher pours her life into the lives of the young children entrusted to her care. Fee paid by parents is only to keep school system functioning, so that teachers and school infrastructure is taken care of.

I would further like to ask the parents regarding the expectations they have from the school, right from the time they drop their child in the school bus to when the child returns. Parents pay tuition fee so that the prescribed curriculum is taught to their child. Tuition fee does not cover the following that the school deals with:

  • Ensuring that the child has the breakfast or lunch.
  • Behavioral issues – Disciplining
  • Health and wellbeing & daily cleanliness habits
  • Emotional outbursts of teenagers
  • Moral behaviour in society
  • Watch for substance abuse or any bad habit
  • Inculcating values
  • Ensuring integrity, punctuality, honesty
  • Empathy by teacher
  • Emotional investment instilling self-esteem and confidence
  • Putting up with your child’s tantrums and moods
  • Counselling in times of mental distress
  • Life skills
  • Being available on phone after school hours
  • Motivating towards learning

The above things are not covered in the school fee as the services you are given are important and cannot be translated into monetary value.

Sad to state, holistic education that schools provide is not valued anymore.

B) Students have not attended their school, that’s why parents refuse to pay fee. Since the system has placed a price tag and a nominal amount is paid to the school, I would like to clear misconception regarding the enrollment of the student. It is valid for a particular grade, or session, class only provided the fees is paid to the educational institution. Schools have rules regarding fee defaulters. A student has not paid school fees, the school is not expected to conduct exams or provide progress card or even Discharge Certificate for the particular academic session. The teachers and the support staff of the school are not ‘daily wagers’. The school has to sustain itself to be able to provide education services whether students attend or not. Their enrollment in a particular school is only considered valid if the prescribed dues are paid to the school from time to time, or as per prescribed schedule.

C) Criticism of school and teachers in front of students has a detrimental impact on the children. School management is abused and degraded. The pedestal that every child places their Principal and Teachers on is dashed to ground. Tomorrow when schools reopen, do you think your child will respect his teachers, and be attentive in classroom, or even be motivated towards learning. A student who watches his parents shout at school authorities will do the same to his teachers in class, and the day is not far when the teacher will be replaced by the parent.

D) School management is responsible for many other expenditure, besides salary of school staff. To be able to function as a registered educational institution, rules and regulations have been put in place by the government for which charges/taxes are paid to various departments, like Labour Department, Municipality, Education Board etc. This besides the monthly utility bills.

Schools cannot vanish during a shutdown, and reappear when conditions return to normal. These schools exist on the same planet as you, and are affected by the conditions around, just like you are.

In my opinion the fact that parents are raising hue and cry over the issue of school fees clearly signifies apathy towards ethical values.

I would like to sum up with an incident. In Value Education class, a teacher asked students whether they would give up their seat for an elderly lady in the bus. A student replied, “My mum would say don’t give up your seat as I have paid the fare for you”. What is of more importance to a parent is clearly seen in this incident.

School managements are not begging for school dues. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as they are the ones who are nation builders. They are the ones who look after your child for the major part of the day. Times are hard, and this too shall pass. But will you be able to look your child’s teacher or principal in the eye?

Dr Ramma Raina Mattoo is Spokesperson, Private Schools’ Association, Jammu