Understanding the fee structure in private schools, and the government silence

Last week the J&K government issued an order directing private schools to charge only tuition fee from students on monthly basis instead of quarterly basis for the lockdown period. It stated that a view regarding charging of transport fee shall be taken separately.

The order was issued in wake of the complaints from the parents against private schools for resorting to undue profit making amid the ongoing COID-19 pandemic situation.

However, the private schools were prompt in responding to the complaints and the allegations, and diluted the issue by raising concern about the private school teachers working in these schools.

The government hurriedly got convinced and issued the order that only tuition fee should be charged from the students. For a common man or a parent, the tuition fee is the money charged from students against the classes taken by the school teachers in the classrooms and now online in view of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Going through single page government order, one gets convinced that the officials at the helm of affairs have no understanding of the tuition fee charged by the private schools.

But there is lot more to this than meets the eye. The tuition fee charged by the private schools does not only include the academic portion dealt by the teachers, it includes, electricity charges, heating charges, cooling charges and the anonymous charges categorized under the separate head called “other fee”. The term ‘other fee’ has never been explained to parents by any private schools till date.

And unfortunately, the government recently authorized the private schools to collect the fee for all these facilities (heating, cooling, electricity, computer, etc) which were not used by the students.

The government while authorizing the private schools to collect the tuition fee issued an order wherein it was mentioned that the “the requests of private school associations were discussed at length and considered by this department.” But the real concerns of the parents were not addressed by the department. Government should have specifically mentioned in its order that the term “tuition fee” should include the fee charged for the teachers taking the offline and online classes of the students.

Taking such hasty decisions without taking parent community on board has always exposed the hidden soft corner of government towards private school or in other words its compulsion to be soft towards private schools.

I have enough evidences to prove the compulsions of the school education department to be have soft corner or ignore the wrong doings of private schools particularly the top notch schools functioning in city and district headquarters.

Few years ago, a file was put up in Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) by proprietor of an elite school in Srinagar. After going through it the officer did not sign the file and asked school management to fulfil certain criteria. Annoyed with the behavior of the officer who raised queries and pin pointed shortcomings, the management used their influence and lobbied against the officer in civil secretariat, Srinagar and demanded his immediate transfer. Surprisingly, the officer was transferred without giving any chance to explain his position. Within next few days the file was signed and approved.

Now coming back to the understanding of the fee structure of the private schools, the government should make it mandatory for the private schools to segregate the tuition fee from other charges collected from parents every month.

There should be a proper mechanism in it and every decision about any hike or concession should be taken while taking parent body on board.

Over the past years, the question has remained unanswered that when and how the J&K government will make the private schools accountable. For government, accountability of private schools should not mean to allow collection of fee on monthly basis instead of quarterly basis or delay in collection of transport fee.

On the basis of our experience from past many years, it is evident that government has failed to bring accountability in the private schools. But, let the society wake up to understand the design of fee structure and bring accountability to private schools.

It has been observed from past years that the private schools portray the teachers as worst victims to gain the public sympathy. But, the J&K government has decided to provide one time financial assistance to private school teachers out of State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) who got impacted due to COVID-19 lockdown. The decision was taken by J&K Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu in a meeting he chaired to review the functioning of education sector.

Now that government has come to teh rescue of the affected private school teachers but who will safeguard the parents will have to be seen.