Private school mal-practices

Kashmir Times. Dated: 4/12/2018 7:24:42 PM

To check mal-practices requires a scientific assessment of quality of education and narrowing the gap between govt schools and private schools

Kathua Deputy Commissioner's recent order banning arbitrary admission fee hike by private schools in the district as well as imposing a ban on sale of books, uniforms and stationery may be a well intentioned move to stop mal-practices by private schools running their enterprises like commercial teaching shops but makes little sense. The problem is neither limited to Kathua and is of far greater proportions as to be tackled with such reckless bans. There is much that is ailing with the system of private schools including exorbitant and exploitative fee structures, arbitrary fee hikes, prescription of expensive and sub-standard books, exorbitantly priced uniforms as well as the malpractice of changing uniforms without any valid reason and without giving reasonable time for change, monetarily burdening the parents and causing much inconvenience to them and their wards. Private school managements have been left free for far too long to do as they please in the absence of regulating mechanisms for their functioning. This is a country wide phenomenon and Jammu and Kashmir is no exception. There has been a constant tussle between school managements and governments over the existence of an accountability mechanism to regulate the private schools. Attempts in the past have failed not only because the private schools resist any attempts of intrusion into their educational enterprises but also because the measures adopted by the government were just as arbitrary and knee jerk. While it is true that majority of these schools have been started with the simple motive of making quick and easy profits, laws and rules that impose a blanket system of controlling the fee structures are impracticable in view of the varying standards of education imparted in these schools and the quality of infrastructure they offer. A ham handed approach of dictating fee structures and fee hikes will be un-fair and impracticable without factoring in the quality of education which requires a scientific assessment first of all on finding scientific ways in which quality is to be measured and how a hierarchal system of reasonable fee structures and fee hike is to be devised, keeping both the business interests and the interests of parents in mind.
The primary focus should be on checking mal-practices within the schools to ensure that assurances of quality education are not compromised by hiring unqualified and inefficient teachers at lower wages, by unannounced overhead charges or by burdening parents through overhead charges, prescription of books and uniforms that are unnecessary. It makes little sense banning their sale in schools when the entire business of sale of books, stationary and uniforms has been commercialized with the entry of specific publishing houses and shops that operate on commission basis. Besides, such a ban runs contrary to a Delhi high court ruling last year that removed the ban on sale and purchase of school books and uniforms in schools for similar reasons. Many schools which get land on lease from government and other benefits on conditions of providing quota for the underprivileged persons are not doing that or resorting to malpractices in fulfilling these norms.
It is also important to question the reasons into why private schools are mushrooming across the country and have become a law unto themselves without being held accountable. The monopoly they hold over the education system has been permitted by a flawed and inefficient education system. The prime reason is the failure of the government funded educational institutions. Their standards have deteriorated rather than improving which is why affluent people and even some of the poor, keen on better education for their children, opt for private schools. As per the Right to Education, the state is constitutionally mandated to look after the education of all children till they attain 14 years of age. There is need to fulfill this ambition by providing not just quantity but also quality institutes for all. Instead, lackadaisical approach, callousness and lack of interest have allowed the disparities between the government schools and private schools to grow. If the mal-practices of the private schools have to be checked, the focus of the governments should be on improving the conditions of public schools to ensure that the aims of universalisation of education are met through devising systems that offer equal opportunities of education for all. The answer does not lie only in controlling and monitoring fee structures of private schools but in discouraging commercializing of education system.



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