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School fees

By The Assam Tribune
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It was in view of the whimsical functioning of many of the State’s private educational institutions, especially schools, that the Government had come up with some rules and regulations to streamline their functioning. That a special Act was enacted and a regulatory panel set up for the purpose goes to show that the educational institutions had indeed been flouting norms, more so in the matter of their fee structure and salaries paid to the teaching and non-teaching staff. Recently, the State Government had put some regulations on the fee structure and it is for the Government to ensure that the rules are adhered to by the school managements. The courts, too, had had to intervene in the matter in recent times. Disturbingly, there have been allegations from the public that despite the law put in place, some schools have already hiked fees without bothering to move the regulatory panel. The Government must monitor the situation closely and pull up the errant schools, if any. The general complaint against the private educational institutions centres around – and justifiably so – an exorbitant fee structure and deprivation of teachers and other employees from adequate salaries and other benefits. To justify the high fee structure, some schools show the existence of sports and recreational facilities which are actually as good as non-existent. These issues have been raised in the State Assembly many times, with even a former Education Minister admitting that the Government failed to rein in the errant private schools that were operating as a law unto themselves.

For a long time, the Assam Non-Government Educational Institution (Regulation and Management) Act 2006 and Rule 2007 was in place even though this piece of legislation was outdated and inadequate to deal with many of the violations by the schools. With the new laws now in place, the Government is under an obligation to implement those in their letter and spirit. We have also seen schools coming up over very small plots of land, and in areas where such institutions are not permissible even under the existing law. Norms concerning land and building, safety measures inside schools, and transportation of students are invariably found to be violated by these institutions with impunity simply because the government authorities remain content to look the other way. It is a fact that the needs of a rapidly growing student population cannot be met by government-run educational institutions and hence the need for private institutions. Many of these institutions are known to offer far better academic prospects for students and this explains the growing preference for such schools among the middle class. But providing quality education, too, cannot be a ground for charging exorbitantly high fees or denying due remuneration to employees. The Government, among other things, should also consider reserving a percentage of seats in private schools for meritorious students from poor families, with fees at par with government schools.

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