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And now it’s the turn of school fees

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Meera Srinivasan

CHENNAI: Many families with children debating the issue of price rise and its impact may have to be prepared for more financial pressure, as many schools have increased the fees significantly.

Some schools have already intimated parents about this increase, attributing them to reasons such as purchase of furniture and change in textbooks.

A few other schools have gone ahead and increased their fees by a few thousands, without justifying the hike.

“My son’s fee has gone up by Rs.2,000 per term. The circular sent home only has this information. It is probably for a new block or something…,” says a school student’s parent in South Chennai.

Autonomy

Joint Secretary and Regional Officer of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) N. Nagraju said schools affiliated to the Board had autonomy in deciding their fee structures. “The increase should be commensurate with the facilities,” he said.

Schools were also expected to submit audit reports for affiliation and recognition, he added.

Lack of transparency?

Parents complained not just about the increase, but also about the lack of information. “We need to know where the money is going,” said a member of the PTA of a school in central Chennai.

A few schools acknowledge the need for more transparency. An office-bearer of the Principals of Matriculation Schools Association said all matriculation schools were urged to convene PTA meetings at least four times a year, to inform parents about the expenses incurred.

Matriculation schools, too, are not governed by specific rules regarding the fee structure.

“The Chittibabu Committee that worked on evolving norms for fees structure merely recommends that we be reasonable,” a senior Principal said.

With the ITES sector and other opportunities such as online tutoring offering huge pay packets, retention of good teachers is becoming a challenge for most schools.

Retention of quality teachers

Principal of Bala Vidya Mandir S. S. Nadan says schools would have to raise the fee every year or once in two years to ensure that teachers are paid well.

Bala Vidya Mandir follows a scientific system of calculating the increase, which is also made known to parents. The school, which follows the practice of increasing the fee once in two years, calculates the increase like this — the total expense for the last two years plus a 10 per cent hike for inflation is divided by two, and again divided by 1,250 (school strength). This is again divided by 3 to arrive at the fee per term.

“According to me, raising fees more than nine per cent per year has a profit motive behind it. Anything less than nine per cent is bad budgeting,” Mr. Nadan said.

Teachers’ salaries, maintenance and repair work form a major chunk of the expenses incurred, he said.

Schools may have increased the amount a little more in anticipation of the sixth Pay Commission, it is learnt.

“I think today’s middle class parents do not spend as much on education in proportion to their income as parents did 10 years ago , Schools cannot but increase the fee if good teachers are to be retained. Education, for parents, should figure higher in their list of priorities,” Mr. Nadan said.

Not so fine

Other than the routine fee, some schools charge fines for various reasons. For instance, many schools levy fines from students who missed their first day of the new academic year.

“Not all schools are here to just give quality education. Many are here to do some good business,” remarked a parent.

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