How much can you pay for primary education?

ADMISSION WOES

How much can you pay for primary education?

It was a Herculean task for Uma Ramachandran (name changed) to get her three-year-old son, Adhithya admitted to Class 1. While some schools demanded he do a written test, others asked her to pay exorbitant fees. “One school located in a prime locality in Bangalore South asked me to pay Rs 1 lakh as admission fees. In addition to this, the annual fee was around Rs Rs 35,000. This was unreasonable,’’ she says.
After applying to all the schools in her neighbourhood, she was finally able to get her son admitted to a school that did not charge an admission fee. “I am happy now. I didn’t have to burn my pockets, and the school is close by. But I had to spend many sleepless nights, initially. The present school charges an annual tuition fee of Rs 35,000 including uniforms, shoes and books,’’ she added.

Spiralling fees

Not all are as lucky as Uma. For instance, Soundarya V (name changed) had to pay hefty admission fees. “There are not many good neighbourhood schools. In one school I enquired, they asked me to pay Rs 1.25 lakh though it included tuition fees, admission fees and transport charges. This amount was too much for us. When we enquired in another school, they asked us to pay Rs 50,000 which was refundable. We will get back the amount when the child leaves the school. Including this, the total amount comes up to Rs 92,000. In another school, it was Rs 64,000,’’ said this resident of K R Puram.

Soundarya was in a fix. Falling under the lower income group, it was difficult for her to pay the admission fees. “I really can’t pay Rs 1.25 lakh. So, I managed to collect money and paid Rs 64,000.  Worse, the school said they had only two seats. I was scared that if I delayed any longer my son would fail to gain admission. So, I hurriedly got him admitted,’’ she explained.

It was a different story when she paid the amount. “The school asked me whether I would be able to pay the fees for the coming years as it amounted to Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000.

“But do I have any choice now?” she asks.

Interestingly, some schools do not ask for admission fees from parents. Instead they ask their “involvement” or “contribution” to the school development. For instance, some years ago, Vinutha P (name changed) could not get her son admitted to a reputed school despite him being perfectly qualified to get in. She says, “I had tried to get my son admitted to a prominent school in Bangalore. The admission form that I had to fill up had a column which asked, ‘How will you contribute to the school’s development’. I left it blank as I first wanted to know how the school would contribute to my son’s development. My son was not even called for an interview. I checked with a few of my friends whose children had been called for an interview and found out that they had mentioned about contributing to the school by way of funds, books, sports equipment, etc in the column I had left blank.

Schools’ view

Even as the parents poured their hearts out on admissions, the schools argued that it was difficult to retain quality teaching staff and maintain the school if there were no adequate funds.

“Having a prime location in Bangalore itself will cost a huge amount. In addition, a single classroom infrastructure costs us a lot. For instance, we have to ensure a good ambience, that there are no sharp edges, that there is enough ventilation, digital boards, etc. which all runs into lakhs. If parents want good facilities then it will definitely cost more,’’ a school principal, said on conditions of anonymity.
“Managing a school is not easy. How will you recover any money you’ve invested if there is no grant-in-aid facility? We will have to pool in private players. When they invest they definitely look for returns unless it’s a charitable trust. It’s just like any other industry,’’ she said matter-of-factly.
Principals admitted that an exorbitant amount should not be charged from parents just to meet the school expense. “Admission covers infrastructure, rent and teachers’ salary. Retention of teachers is the biggest challenge. If we do not pay well teachers will look for some other school,’’ they said.

Principal of another school added: “The school should not overcharge.  We need to strike a balance between the infrastructure and quality of teaching staff. Most schools pay the teachers more than the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission,’’ he said, adding that after the Right To Education (RTE) came into force, schools do not take “donations”.
What will happen to meritorious students who come under the lower income group? Will they not get admissions? “Of course they will,” the principals echoed. “We will give scholarships and reduce the fees for such students. These are the students who will bring laurels to us,’’ they said.

Principal of Gear Innovative International School, M Srinivasan added: “If any child studying in my school loses a sole earning member of the family, then we don’t charge any fees for the child till he finishes his schooling.’’ However, he added that at the time of admission, the school considers the merit and background of the child. “We have compassion for such students,’’ he added.

Expert speak

According to Krishna Iyer K S, General Secretary, Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka, “The donation menance has come down in the last five years in Bangalore and the schools have a fixed fee structure. There is a Supreme Court direction, which states that the state government should appoint a committee. They will issue notices to every school to submit their expenditure and design fee structure. In 2009, Tamil Nadu recognised the fee structure in each and every unaided school.

Once the fee structure is fixed, it will be intact for three years. If the schools want a hike, then they have to submit a genuine reason before the fee committee.  However, the fee structure differs from school to school. The court also states that the economic status of the parents should be taken into consideration while fixing the fees. If a school is located in a place where there are more people under the lower income group, then the fee should be fixed.”

Primary and secondary education minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri said: “Parents can complain to the respective DDPIs or Block Education Officers if there is a problem. Presently, we cannot do much about the CBSE or ICSE as the matter is in court. However, the complaints filed by parents against these schools will be sent to the respective boards.”  

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