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Updated: June 4, 2010 15:40 IST

The hidden costs of school education

D. V. L. Padma Priya
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LOTS OF CHOICE: It is sometimes difficult to choose one.
The Hindu
LOTS OF CHOICE: It is sometimes difficult to choose one.

Peer pressure and school rules for branded, fancy goods pinch parents' pockets

Which one should one chose - the Barbie school bag or the trolley bag? Branded notebooks or normal ones? Good old canvas shoes or branded shoes?

For the parents of school-going children, it's these otherwise simple decisions which are making them anxious. Take the example of K. Malathi, a software engineer. A mother of 10-year-old twin daughters, she spends close to Rs.10,000 per year per child just on school supplies. “Just the textbooks and notebooks cost close to Rs. 4,000. Almost every year, we have to replace their bags apart from their uniforms and shoes which cost another Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000,” she says.

This year, however, Malathi and others will spend an additional Rs. 2,000 just for footwear. Many schools in the twin cities have made it mandatory for students to purchase branded footwear from the school. “A good canvas shoe costs Rs. 350 - Rs.750. But branded shoes cost anywhere between Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000,” she points out.

While schools continue to hike fees and impose rules on parents, many parents feel they are being held hostage by the peer pressure faced by their children. “My son's friends own expensive bags and branded lunch boxes. He asks us for similar things. He says he is not let into the ‘group' if he can't own similar stuff and we give in to his demands,” confesses Vidyadhari Rao, parent of an eight-year-old.

Aggressive advertising campaigns too have left a hole in the parents' wallets. “My children insist that I buy branded notebooks advertised on the TV. Each branded notebook costs anywhere between Rs.15-Rs.25 while the normal ones cost half of this,” says Krishna Kumar, a government employee.

And hand-me-downs are a complete no-no among school-going children.

“My daughter refused point-blank to wear her elder sister's uniforms and insisted we get her new ones even though they are in good condition,” says another hassled parent.

And the expenses seldom end here. “From parties to school picnics to new pens during exams, school education is an expensive affair,” says Savitha Rajan, a mother of two teenagers.


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