Rs 2 lakh fees for LKG sparks debate

Rs 2 lakh fees for LKG sparks debate

Bishop Cottons Boys' School, Residency Road, found itself in the eye of a storm when a picture of its fee structure for lower kindergarten students went viral on social media. The fees add up to Rs 2.02 lakh, and prompted social media to discuss a host of questions.

The infrastructure and building fund contributions add up to Rs  1.05 lakh.

Says Deena Rebeiro, mother of two, "Why are students being made to pay both infrastructure development fee and towards the building fund? What is the difference between the two?" A question many on social media asked: If students are made to invest in school infrastructure, shouldn't they get a share of profits later, as investors?

"I have no idea how schools are legally allowed to charge four to five times the tuition fees for infrastructure," she fumes.

Dr V P Niranjanaradhya, fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, says, "The Supreme Court has said that unless you actually undertake construction of a new building, you can't collect money from parents. We need to check whether the school is doing something of this sort, and whether they even have the space for that."

The fee structure seems violative of the larger legal framework and the core values of the Indian Constitution, he observes.  "Education should be treated as a social good. Such an unreasonable fee structure for LKG is denial of opportunity for people from marginalised or low-income sections," he says.

The Karnataka Education Act lays down that fees collected from children should be towards salaries and to some extent, the cost of instructional material.  "I don't think the institution in question complies with this," he notes.

Says V Pradeep Kumar, author and career consultant, says, "Many schools with this kind of a name and standing charge about Rs 1 lakh." High-income parents may be able to afford the fee, but it may not be justified in terms of what children get in return, he observes. "There has to be personalised learning at this level. If 30 students are put in a class, what is the justification for what they charge?" he asks. Sruthy, an MNC professional, says the quality of education is unfortunately linked with the fees an institution charges.

The school refused to comment on the controversy.

What the law says
A Supreme Court verdict (in the TMA Pai Foundation vs  the State of Karnataka and Others, 2002) says education  cannot be a profession or trade in the sense the words  are used in Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.  That is the primary article governing the right to "practise any profession, or to carry out any occupation,  trade or business."

Schools, therefore, must be a charitable activity regulated  by the State. Private schools can have surpluses,  but not profits. No surplus can be taken out of the institutions  or invested elsewhere.  But with no enforcement, and politicians running educational  institutions, these principles are widely violated.

D Shashi Kumar,  General Secretary,  Associated Managements  of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka says, "The school is old and reputed.  What they charge  is not a cause of dispute;  for the facilities they  provide, such a fee is reasonable.  But components  cause us concern, like  charging for robotics for  a LKG student. We have  not communicated any concerns to the school.  That is the government's  responsibility."

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