India is going through its worst economic crisis in a century. Over 12 crore Indians have lost their jobs. According to a survey, nearly 84% of households have suffered a loss in monthly income. For a family with a single earning member, the average expenditure on private schooling (for two children), constitutes 20% of household income. At a time when parents are reeling from salary cuts or job loss, the pressure to pay hiked school fees has made things worse. These days especially after long lockdown, parents have approached various state governments to regulate the fees hike by private schools. These schools will not be allowed to increase fees during the coronavirus lockdown without government approval and only the tuition fee can be charged till the time schools reopen. For instance, in Maharashtra, fee hikes have to be approved by the Parent-Teacher Association. Even once approved by the PTA, if (at least) 25% of parents oppose the hike, they can approach the Fee Revision Committee. There is a need for parents to have a greater voice in fixing fees and regulating fee hikes.
However, issues with fees are just the tip of the iceberg. Private schools openly hold screening processes such as interviews and admissions, which is forbidden by the Right to Education Act. It is also commonplace for parents in private schools to be coerced into buying supplies such as textbooks and uniforms from a specified vendor despite the fact that private school regulations in multiple states make it a punishable offense. There is always an argument that the private schools in India charge unreasonable fees as they provide extra facilities and services to the students. Some of the private schools teach swimming, horse riding, computers, music, and much more to primary school students. The private schools also prepare their students to face challenges in life. There is an all-round development of the students in the private schools, hence the fees charged by them are high. But how much excessive the fees should be for such facilities is yet oblivious.
India has 100 million students enrolled as compared to the US or the UK that have 5.1million and 504,000 private school students respectively.
Evidence of increasing enrolment in private schools in rural India- from 18.7% in 2006 to 25.6% in 2011 and declining enrolment in government schools.
The share of private schools enrolment at the primary level is 30.6% and 37.1% in upper primary levels. Secondary education accounts for 54.4% at the junior secondary level and 60.3% at the senior/higher secondary level.
69 million students study in 247,843 private schools at the elementary level making the average number of students per school at 280. India has more than 339,000 private K-12 schools, growing in the last five years at a CAGR of 4%.
Around 130,000 additional private schools will be required by 2022 given the current trends. Private schools enrolment in the top 20 states accounts for nearly 55% share of enrolment at the secondary/higher secondary level. Still, education and educational institutes are given less priority by the BJP government. India needs many government schools that can match to private schools; these schools need good teachers and infrastructure. Private schools are not affordable to many middle-class families. Even if they somehow manage to get admission in these schools; they fail to cope up with fees and other curricular activities that need constant funding. And those students who are failing to pay the fees on time are being dropped from even online classes. Several parents have been approaching the government with requests for fee waivers during the lockdown period.
Besides many schools have deficits in their balance sheets for multiple years. Schools have already been drawing on development fees and annual charges to pay salaries to their teachers. This will put several schools in jeopardy and it may become very difficult to revive these institutions that are already in critical care. While taking such measures the government also needs to come with a slew of measures to save private schools.
As per laws, private organizations cannot open schools in India. The schools have to be operated by a society that has been created in accordance with the Societies Act of 1860 or by a trust that has been organized as per the Public Trust Act of individual states. A private entity willing to set up a school in India can also set up a company as prescribed by Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956. All these legislations ensure that a school is set up as a non-profit making body. Making a profit from private schools in India is illegal. The sad part of it is, there are so many private schools, which are funded by private organizational/Individual and mostly the black money gets converted to white. A lot of profit is being generated from it. The government provides concession at many levels for private schools when private schools provide free education for physically challenged students/economically backward students. This is one way where the private school uses it to there advantage and get this thing done. Private schools get loans at very low interest, due to the fact that it has to be a non-profit organization (but at the end profit is generated).
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