Published: 06th April 2018
Education 2.0: Parents pay the price as private schools hike fees arbitrarily in Chennai
While some parents allege that the Goods and Services Tax has led to the surge in fees, schools dismiss this claim and called the hike a ‘routine’ one
K Ravi* is a salaried employee of a private firm in the city. For the last few days he has been under immense pressure, not over his work, but over his daughter’s education. He had received intimation that the fee was to be hiked substantially for the upcoming year and since then, he has been wondering what he can do to ensure that he can pay his child’s school fee. Ravi is one of many parents in the city who are feeling the heat, not because of the summer but rather because private schools in the city have hiked their fees. The surge in school fees ranges from Rs 6,000 to over `30,000 per annum in some case. Schools are tight-lipped about why the fee is being increased so drastically.
“My daughter’s school fee has been increased from `1.1 lakh to about `1.4 lakh,” said M Ashwin*, a parent of a class 7 student at a private school in South Chennai. “They have not given us any reason for the increase but if at all someone asks, they say it is because they are building a sports arena. This sports arena has not been completed so long. In the process, the children have not been playing for the last one year. It is ridiculous.”Further, parents said they hesitated to question the fee hike as they thought their children might then be subjected to ill-treatment by the staff and teachers in schools.
Paramount concern: The surge in school fees ranges from Rs 6,000 to over 30,000 per annum in some case
While some parents allege that the Goods and Services Tax has led to the surge in fees, schools dismiss this claim and called the hike a ‘routine’ one. “The fee hike is done every year in accordance with the guidelines set by the Fee Determination Committee,” said Principal of a well-known private school on the condition of anonymity. “The hike has little to do with the Goods and Services Tax. I don’t see schools using that as a reason to increase the fees.”
She added that the fee structure is set by the Tamil Nadu Private Schools Fee Determination Committee and hence schools cannot violate what the committee lays down as the rate of increase for the stipulated period. “Every three years every school has to approach the committee and based on the expenditure of the school and facilities, the committee sets a limit by which the school can hike the fees every year,” she explained. “Generally it is not more than 10% but it differs from school to school and board to board.”Last year, the fee committee under Justice TV Masilamani met for the first time in April and had reportedly discussed various issues like the logistics needed for the fee fixation process and enhancing the staff strength for the huge task.
The committee had said it would provide every school with the chance to present their facts and records before fixing the fee. It has the power to determine the fee to be collected by private schools and hear complaints with regards to collection of the fee in excess of the fee determined by it. However, when Express approached the committee to find out if schools were following the diktat issued by them, they said that there were schools which were flouting the rules. “There are some schools that are charging amounts that are above the prescribed limit,” said an official of the committee on the condition of anonymity.
“There are schools which are supposed to charge `9,000 as the fees but they charge `18,000 in the name of some trust or other facilities. They do this without the knowledge of the committee and if parents feel that the school is charging an exorbitant fee that is not justified or in line with the guidelines of the committee, they can approach the committee and complain. The committee will definitely look into it and take action.”
The official added that schools should not force parents to pay the entire amount in one go. He said it is mandatory for the fee to be split over three terms and for parents to be given the option of paying it before every term. He did, however, say that if a parent voluntarily wants to pay the fee at one time, that is permissible. Those from lesser privileged backgrounds are feeling the pinch more than anyone else. Many of them put a lot on the line just to ensure their children can go to a reputed private school and receive good education. The hope is that their children will not have to lead the lives that they did. However, with such a spike in fees, it makes it very hard for parents to keep their children in such schools.
“I am getting very worried now,” said Rahul Kumar*, who works as a driver for a family and is sending his son to a private school in the suburbs for education. “The school has not intimated us about a hike as yet but I heard from many people that the fee is being hiked steeply this year; so I am very uneasy. I wanted my son to get a good education; but, if it continues like this, I will have to send him back to my village to study because the city schools are too expensive.”For parents whose children are graduating from Montessori school to LKG too, the fee figure is a looming nightmare. (*Names are changed)