Centre plans law to rein in errant private institutions

The proposed law also prohibits ads not based on fact.

Provisions in the law, to be proposed by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, may be applicable to all schools and intermediate colleges. The law will also focus on regulating private institutions.

The current national policy, while encouraging public-private-partnership, is against commercialisation of higher education. The Supreme Court has also, through successive pronouncements, cautioned against commercialisation of education.

“Notwithstanding the current national policy and pronouncements of the apex court, it is a matter of concern that some private school managements have been resorting to unfair practices,” a ministry official said.

The unfair practices range from demanding donations for making admissions, overcharging of fees, not issuing written receipts for payments made by students and withholding of certificates and other documents of pupils who decide after their admission to migrate to other schools.

The proposed Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Schools and intermediate Colleges Bill, 2011, will prevent any institution from accepting any fee or charges  without issuing receipt.

It will prohibit donation or capitation fee sought, either directly or indirectly, by the schools and intermediate colleges besides stipulating that no capitation fee be offered by those seeking admission.

There have been reports about some schools and intermediate colleges are not adhering to syllabi that they disclose to the public. There were instances where the level of quality of education provided was not in keeping with the promises made through prospectus and other publications of the school.

The proposed legislation makes it mandatory for every institution to publish its prospectus in print and on website. Such prospectus should contain all relevant information about the institution in respect of its physical, academic and human resource infrastructure and other facilities relating to the quality of education and the broad outlines of syllabi as well as relevant instructions.

It will also provide for prohibition of advertisements by institutions which are not based on facts and the making false claims on infrastructure or availability of human resources or on results.

The official said the legislative proposal will provide for civil and criminal penalties and liabilities for violation of any of the provisions of the bill.

However, safeguards will be built into the legislation so that there is no misuse of authority while imposing penalties of a civil nature or prosecution leading to punishment, or unnecessary interference with the autonomy of institutions.

The inherent rationale of the legislation will be to promote transparency through mandatory self disclosure in the prospectus and website, and provide adequate and accessible recourse for remedial action arising out of non-adherence to self disclosed details and norms.

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