Creeping destruction of private schools

EducationWorld May 2019 | Editorial

The sinister conspiracy of the neta-babu brotherhood to destroy private education — and primary-secondary private schools in particular — is becoming painfully obvious.

On March 30, the education ministry of the Karnataka state government issued a notification directing all 20,581 private schools statewide to pay government prescribed minimum wages to their teachers and administrative staff. According to the notification, private unaided primary-secondary schools in the state (the salaries and wages of private aided schools are paid by government) should pay a minimum salary of Rs.25,800 per month to primary school teachers, Rs.33,450 to high school teachers, and Rs.21,400 and Rs.17,000 to first and second division clerks.
Unsurprisingly, this out-of-the-blue diktat, which is certain to upset the budgets of Karnataka’s private unaided schools, has aroused the indignation of their promoters and managements, particularly of the state’s estimated 14,000 private budget schools (PBS) established to educate children of low-income households in which there is rising aversion to state government schools defined by crumbling buildings, vernacular medium education, and chronic teacher absenteeism.

Reacting to this latest violation of the fundamental right conferred by Article 30 (1) of the Constitution upon minorities — expanded to all citizens by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement in T.M.A Foundation vs. Union of India (2002) — PBS managements grouped under the banners of the Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka and the Karnataka Association of CBSE Schools, have warned that they will be obliged to raise tuition fees. This warning has raised the hackles of parents and their representative organisations.

In this connection, it’s pertinent to note that under the pressure of middle class parents who for the reasons stated above shun free-of-charge government schools like the plague, almost all state governments, including Karnataka, have imposed ceilings on tuition fees chargeable by private schools. With the state government’s latest minimum wages firman to schools certain to inflate their wage bills and expenditure even as their managements are restrained from increasing tuition fees, private schools are trapped between a rock and hard place. Another round of exhausting battles in the courts is in the offing.

Instead of expending their energy on improving rock-bottom learning outcomes in the country’s 1.20 million free-of-charge government schools, the major preoccupation of the educracy across the country seems to be regulation of private independent schools. This mind-set, which if not revised could prove to be highly injurious for the estimated 160 million children enrolled in PBS and independent schools, needs urgent investigation and correction.

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