The list of public grievances against private educational establishments is long: The schools charge exorbitant fees, sell stationary, textbooks and uniform items from within the school premises to rake in profits; stuff many students in a single classroom, and so on. In most of the schools, students need to be readmitted each academic year when they are upgraded to higher grades. With a view to checking such anomalies, the Supreme Court ruled last year in May, directing the concerned government bodies—Department of Education and Ministry of Education in particular—to take stringent action against schools engaged in such activities.
Among other things, the ruling had strongly directed the schools to not charge more than Rs 25 for an admission form and Rs 100 for examination fee. Stepping on the same verdict, the Department of Education had issued Private and Boarding School Directive, which prohibits schools from raising tuition fees for three years, and does not allow them to charge admission fees each year. But hardly any of these initiatives have seen the light of day.
Private schools are found to be flouting the directive and the SC’s order; some of them charging admission fees double the previous year’s figure. A school monitoring team led by Kathmandu’s District Education Officer recently found Daffodil School and Meridian International School to have charged Rs 31,260 and Rs 22,150 respectively for admission. To hoodwink the monitoring team, these schools had reportedly concealed the fee chart of previous years. Likewise, Paragon Public School, Pathshala Nepal and Shuvatara School were found to have charged each student Rs 500 for an admission form. We don’t mean to single out these schools, but it is hard to believe they are the only ones disregarding government directives and indulging in irregularities.
According to a news report, a school management rakes in as much as Rs 100,000 in commissions from publications whose books they sell. All this despite the fact that Ministry of Education and Department of Education have consistently issued warnings to the schools to abide by the directive and threatening them of punitive actions if they are found to be evading it.
Private schools’ disregard of government regulations has not only tarnished their own reputation, but also invited protests from different student bodies. It has given an excuse for CPN-Maoist’s student body to enforce school shutdowns in various parts of the country in this crucial period of a new academic session. Nepal National Independent Student Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) has shut all private schools in Tansen and a couple of them in Nawalparasi.
It’s a given that private schools have contributed to the development of the country’s education. They have held back a significant number of children from well-off families in the country, who otherwise would have gone to neighboring countries in search of better schools. But their high fees and other expenses have deprived a large number of poor children of quality education. If strictly implemented, we believe Private and Boarding School Directive can help to make quality education accessible to the poor as well.
While Department of Education needs to widen its monitoring and bring the guilty to book, private schools should cooperate with the government. There is no other way than to abide by SC’s verdict and DoE’s regulation.