Private school managements in Karnataka are gearing up to challenge in court the state government’s order mandating private schools to reduce tuition fees by 30 percent while abstaining from charging additional fees under any other heads. Announcing the decision on Friday afternoon, the state’s primary and secondary education minister, Suresh Kumar also ruled out any hike in tuition fees as schools will now follow the academic year 2019-20 fee structure. The order is applicable across all educational boards.
Shocked by the government’s decision, Nooraine Fazal of the Right to Learn, a coalition of schools across Central and international boards and CEO, Inventure Academy, said, “The order obstructs the education of students whose parents want quality education and have the ability to pay for it. We will fight the order and overturn it just like we got the government’s earlier order banning online classes (in June last year) overturned.”
Calling the order ‘illogical’, D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary, Associated Management of Primary and Secondary School (KAMS) having 4000 private schools as its members said, “Schools across the state are already bearing up to 20 percent revenue loss due to the lack of entry-level admissions in pre-primary classes as well as student migrations across all classes. With the government mandating 30 percent reduction in tuition fees and barring schools from introducing the 15 percent annual increments, the actual reductions will be more than 50 percent. The financial strain will now force schools to cut teacher salaries. It is an unfortunate that despite being well aware of the reality, the education ministry made this announcement just to garner political sympathy.”
News reports about the possibility of 25-30 percent reduction in school fees were doing the rounds since January 15 when the state’s education commissioner held discussions with school associations as well as the Karnataka Parents’ Association Co-ordination Committee. Bengaluru-based parents had filed an online petition (on January 23) against the state government’s delay in announcing fee reductions and the state’s parents associations had threatened protests beginning January 30 if their demands for a reduction in fees were delayed any further.
Unsurprisingly parent associations across the state have welcomed the decision. “We are very happy about the government’s order on fee reduction and that it will be applicable to all educational boards. However, it is important that the government now follow up with schools regarding proper implementation of the order and take punitive action against those violating it. Else, this order will remain only on paper like the other government orders issued earlier,” said Mohamed Shakeel, president, Voice of Parents Karnataka Association.
Skepticism among parents stems from the government’s inaction against schools violating earlier government resolutions (GRs). While the GR (dated April 24, 2020) mandated schools to charge tuition fees only, another GR (dated April 28, 2020) asked schools to allow parents voluntary fee payments in instalments. Yet another circular (issued September 5, 2020) asked schools to collect fees for one term only. With no clear-cut order from the government, fee waivers depended as per the school managements’ discretion leading to greater confusion regarding school fees.
Parent associations have been decrying the “unjustified” fees charged by schools all through the academic year 2020-21 in the absence of regular schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Accusing schools of overcharging in the garb of fixed costs like staff salaries, parent forums maintained that school salary expenditures during this time were merely 37.5 percent or even less due to several teaching and non-teaching staff being terminated during the lockdown period. Parents have also been against paying ‘term fee’ and ‘special development fees’ for extracurricular activities. The latest government order bars schools from taking fees under both these heads.
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