On 24 January, the Supreme Court ruled that any private school in Delhi running on land allotted by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has to take the permission of the Delhi government before hiking the fees.
The court also remarked that if they did not wish to take permission, the schools could, return the land to government. A simple Google search shows that similar protests have taken place in Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bengaluru — in short, in all the major cities in India.
Private schools claim that these protests happen because parents wish to send their children to high-end schools, but do not wish to pay the cost it entails.
However, an Assocham report in 2015 showed that the costs of private school education in the last decade have increased at a pace faster than incomes, showing a 150 percent hike between 2005 and 2015. The report shows that the cost of educating a child in a private school has risen from Rs 55,000 in 2005 to Rs 1,25,000 per annum in 2015.
Under pressure from protests by parents — or under order from courts — several state governments have attempted to regulate the fees of private schools. Prominent among them is Tamil Nadu which passed a fee regulation Act in 2009 setting up district-level fee regulation committees that fix the fees for private schools for a period of three years.
Other States like Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana are at different stages of enacting and implementing fee regulation legislations.
While such laws in the states mentioned above and the Supreme Court judgment may bring relief to parents, it does raise a few legitimate questions: Why should the government — which has been unable to provide high quality education in its own schools — have the right to regulate those schools which are more successful at providing it? Firstly the government should put on efforts to give good facilities to all the government schools and colleges .
Bur If parents are making a choice to send their children to private schools, should they not choose a school they can afford? Is it mere populism by the governments when they attempts to regulate fees? Private schools have strongly resisted any attempts at regulation and have argued that such attempts would lower the standards of education by forcing the schools to cut costs.
Another question that needs to be asked is whether schools or any other educational institution should be allowed to make profits out of the running of the school. After all — it is argued — what would be the incentive of running a private enterprise, if no profit could be made? Governments across the country need to pull up their socks and improve public schools. If high quality is available free of cost, why would anyone pay exorbitant fees for the same?