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Thursday 4 June 2020

More of mai-baap sarkar? RS MPs demand cap on private schools’ fees

BJP, SP, MDMK, PMK, INC, TMC MPs in the Rajya Sabha demanded a cap on private schools' fees across the country; critique follows

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New Delhi: A demand to regulate fee charged by private schools was made in Rajya Sabha on Friday with members saying private educational institutions were exploiting hapless parents.

Raising the issue through a Zero Hour mention, Shwait Malik (BJP) said some private businessmen have come into the education industry and converted it into a profit-making business venture. He said “blood-sucking” private schools “exploit” parents first in the name of building fee and then force them to buy books and uniform from the school. He demanded regulation of fee charged by private schools.

Surendra Singh Nagar (SP) said schools in Uttar Pradesh have seen a 150% rise in fee. In 2018, Uttar Pradesh made a law to control private schools but it has not been implemented, he said. The Centre should frame a law to end the exploitation of parents and students by private schools, he added.

Vaiko (MDMK) opposed the drilling for hydrocarbons permitted in Tamil Nadu, saying the “most disastrous and dangerous” activity will destroy fertile land in the Cauvery delta.

Parts of Tamil Nadu will become “desert” when water and chemicals from hydrocarbon wells are discharged on the agriculture land, he said demanding that the Centre withdraw permission to state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Vendata Ltd for drilling wells.

Dola Sen (TMC) opposed corporatisation of Indian Ordnance Factories saying it will eventually lead to privatisation. “The government should reconsider its decision as they are national and strategic assets,” she said.

P Bhattacharya (Congress) said the privatisation of ordnance factories has to be stopped as it is dangerous for the security of the nation.

P Wilson (PMK) raised the issue of OBCs not getting a reservation in medical colleges on seats surrendered by the state for central quota.

Chunibhai Kanjibhai Gohel (BJP) wanted the government to intervene to ensure fishermen get payments for their produce sold to traders within seven days as against 4-5 months currently.

Critique of private school fees regulation

When a similar sentiment had got the better of the government, Raghavan Jagannathan had written in Swarajya, “… capping fees — except as a purely temporary measure — will only push fees underground. What cannot be charged as fees by law will re-emerge as higher admission donations or fees for other kinds of activities – resulting in the same kind of annual outgo for parents. When fees are capped, one can expect the market for school education to adjust in one or more… ways.”

Manoj Kumar Sahoo wrote in The Critical Mirror about the situation resulting from fee regulation in one of the States, “Gujarat’s school fee regulation model failed utterly in effectively implementing declared approved fees within the approved timeline and undue delay occurred.”

“Contemporary education includes co-curricular and sports education which requires heavy investment in well-trained teachers, manageable teacher-pupil ratios and infrastructure. These facilities cannot be provided within the fee ceilings prescribed by the Gujarat Self-Financed Schools Act,” said Dipak Rajguru, president of the Federation of Self-financed Schools Managements Association, Gujarat, to Education World.

Ironically, Atishi Marlena of the AAP, a party that attempted fee regulation in Delhi, raised four pointed questions in an article in FirstPost that fee-regulating governments, as well as parents of school-going children, must answer:

  1. “Why should the government — which has been unable to provide high-quality education in its own schools — have the right to regulate those schools which are more successful at providing it?
  2. Moreover, if a school wishes to provide extra facilities to their students and parents are willing to pay for it, why should a government intervene?
  3. If parents are making a choice to send their children to private schools, should they not choose a school they can afford?
  4. Is it mere populism by the governments when they attempt to regulate fees?”
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