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Undeterred by the Supreme Education Council (SEC) rhetoric about disciplining private schools into becoming centres of quality learning, the managements of these institutions continue
to behave like mercenaries.
The more the SEC talks of tightening the noose around their necks, the more the managements of these schools seem to be encouraged to take hapless parents for a ride on the slightest pretext.
The school regulator mostly talks of controlling the tuition fee structures of private schools, but clever as they are, the managements of these institutions come up with newer ways to hoodwink the SEC and fleece the hapless parent.
A glaring example is how some private schools sell textbooks and notebooks (the latter with their names and emblems printed on the cover) at exorbitant rates and there are some that even vend socks and uniforms to students for profiteering. As a parent of a student of a private school that forced his two children to buy pairs of white socks, each for QR10, put it: “I can buy the same socks from the market for QR2 a pair.”
The SEC has done nothing so far to prevent these school managements from behaving like greedy traders and taking undue advantage of parents’ helplessness.
The SEC talks of accrediting private schools and has specified certain criteria based on which the accreditation is to be issued, but in actual practice that does not seem to be happening anytime soon while private schools continue to operate the way they have been.
And although these criteria were announced more than three years ago and the deadline of 2012 was given, the SEC itself admits many schools haven’t complied so far. The result is that the SEC is forced to relent and allow the ‘lazy’ schools more time.
These criteria are about school infrastructure and the quality of teachers. How much more time the SEC is going to allow these schools to upgrade their facilities and recruit quality teaching staff is anybody’s guess.
Many private schools continue to employ teachers who are educated housewives with no experience in teaching, due to the fact that they have to pay them pittance and avoid visa-related hassles.
The SEC says it will begin licensing private schoolteachers after scrutinising their credentials. That also doesn’t seem to be happening.
The school regulator has not made it clear as to what action is to be taken against those private schools that eventually fail to comply with the SEC requirements at the end of the ‘final’ deadline whenever that is likely to be.
Will they be given more time to rectify their situation or be closed down? If so, what happens to their students and staff?
Then, there are schools that follow the same curriculum but their fee slabs vary, with one charging much more than the other.
This is particularly true of Indian schools that follow the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) curriculum, but their fee slabs are vastly different. So on what basis should a parent decide to send his child to one school and not to the other — the fees? If a school charges a high fee, is there a guarantee that it indeed imparts quality education? If so, why does this happen that more students of a school whose fees are lower, figure on the merit list each year?
There are some schools that carry brand names and the fee they charge are based on their brands.
Above all, the most important issue is that of the participation of community members and parents in the managements of private schools.
Parents and community members are conspicuous by their absence in the managements of these schools and those who are part of the managements are a chosen few and they are ‘promoters’ who have launched the schools purely as businesses.
Private schools so far only have teacher-parent associations and their roles are restricted to monthly meetings devoted to discussing their children’s performance.
The SEC, no doubt, has plans to remedy this situation. It, however, needs to strike at the root of this management malaise and press for necessary legislation that would make it mandatory for private schools to have trusts comprising promoters as well as community members and parents, to help curb their commercial orientation and turn them into true centres of education.
Many private schools are run by businessmen and their only motto is to make money, so it is hoped that SEC would take steps to curb this tendency sooner rather than later.