How true? And how justified this criticism?

Everywhere school fees are rising. Why not? That’s how school managements justify the fee hikes in the face of rising costs. While this doesn’t make use in our dailies, in Delhi the school fee hike is a raging public debate.

Delhi is a capital city of fractured egos. Government servants and the rising middle class traders and shopkeepers and the floating population of various segments pin their hopes on one thing: education. And in a city that sees the rise and fall of individual fortunes, dime a dozen, almost everyday, the changing political fortunes see the changing fortunes of today’s nobody to tomorrow’s envied lot, the rise and fall of officials is also routine.

In this mosaic of every-changing education seems to offer a glimmer of hope. Hence the fierce fight for a place in the sun. The pretentious titles like public schools around in all corners of the city. And the public schools in the eye of many parents are private fortunes of school prompters.

There are good, bad and indifferent schools. But all carry the envious label of public schools. They are now in the eye of a storm. The school fees are nightmares to many. But then there are two sides to the coin. The schools have to put up buildings, pay hefty fees for teachers and provide infrastructure.

So money is needed. Who else the most ambitious parents only could shell out the funds. Hence the day to day grumbles on this subject.

Now, the Hindustan Times had come out with a poll.

While education for all remains a chimera enshrined in the Directive Principles of State Policy, the arbitrary fee hikes by private schools are pushing the right to education out of the reach of all.

Plagued by the frequent fee hikes and with no forum to appeal to for redressal, parents of children studying in private schools got some relief with the action against 16 erring schools by the Delhi Government’s Educational Directorate.

An exclusive Hindustan Times – MODE survey published revealed that as many as 86 percent of the sample group found the fee hike unjustified. The study group included 331 respondents, 115 being the parents of children studying in 16 schools identified by the Delhi Government’s Education Directorate as violating rules on collection and use of funds and 216 were parents of children studying in private schools other than these 16.

Almost all the respondents felt that some sort of government control was required to bring the errant schools to heel with the idea of having a government appointed nominee on the school boards appealing to them. While calling the fee hike unjustified, 69 percent of the total group also felt that the fee charged was no commensurate with the facilities provided in the schools. Seventy percent of the respondents whose children study in the 16 schools found violating the regulations also felt that the facilities provided in the schools did not measure up to the standard they expected considering the fee charged.

The 16 schools found to be violating the regulations governing collections and use of funds include the most highly rated public schools of the Capital, like Delhi Public School, R.K.Puram, Modern School, Vasant Vihar, Hans Raj Model School, Punjabi Bagh, Springdale’s Public School, Pusa Road and Dhaula Kuan, Rukmani Devi Public School, Pitampura, New Era Public School, Mayapuri, Apeejay Public, Pitampura, Mont Fort Coeducational School, Ashok Vihar, Bal Bharati Public School, Ganga Ram Hospital Marg, Ryan Public School, Mayur Vihar, St. Francis de Sales School, Janak Puri, Prabhu Dayal Public School, Shalimar Bagh and several DAV Schools.

The fee hike had been announced by these schools, ostensibly citing the recommendations of the fifth Pay Commission. The sudden hike was said to be only to pay for the increase in the teacher’s salaries.

While appreciating the steps taken by the Delhi Government to deal with the errant schools, the respondents also felt that the bid was merely a publicity stunt.

Fifty two percent of the entire sample group felt that the Delhi Government has taken adequate steps to deal with these schools and a marginally smaller percentage, 48% of the 216 respondents who were directly affected by the fee hikes, agreed. The Delhi Government, taking cognizance of the public outcry, constituted inspection teams which went to 16 randomly chosen schools and found them to be violating the norms laid down in the Delhi School Education Act. Thereafter, show cause notices were issued to them that action would be taken against them if they did not comply with the directive.

But as many as 58 percent felt that the Delhi Government’s directive was no more than a publicity stunt. Only 31 percent felt that the Government’s efforts to discipline the schools were sincere. This feeling of having been given a placebo is reinforced by the fact that no follow-up action has been taken subsequent to the show cause notices.

A whopping 93 percent of the total respondents felt that the government should exercise stricter control over the schools. Eighty-nine percent of them felt that this control could be exercised by appointing government nominees in the schools.

Advocating stringent action be taken against the 16 schools violating the norms, 74 percent of the entire sample group, said they should be de-recognized, while 68 percent of the 216 respondents whose wards study in the 16 schools agreed. Asked whether the government should grade the schools according to the facilities provided by them, 49 percent replied in the affirmative, 43 percent in the negative and 8 percent could not say either way.

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