Scientific system key to resolving fee dispute

- Post Report

Mar 18, 2016-

With the commencement of admissions in private schools, the never ending tussle between the government authorities and private schools operators over the setting of tuition fees have begun once more. Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Education endorsed the Private Schools Directive which aims to regulate tuition fees with the provision that every school has to get their fee approved by two-third majority of an assembly made up of the guardians of the students.

A fee structure that has not been approved by guardians will not be endorsed by the government authority,  and schools are required to receive an endorsement of the fee structure from the District Education Office a month before admissions start. The directive also enforces that the salary of private schools teachers are on par with the government standard, admission fees not more than a month of tuition and that the fees for are publicly printed for all concerned through a citizen charter.

It has set five categories of expenses, of which 60 percent are segregated for the salary of teachers, 9.5 percent towards the cost of scholarships, 14 percent towards rent and bank interests, 9.5 percent to be had as profit and 7 percent for the cost for equipments. The Directive has made it mandatory for all schools to have separate labs, meeting halls, computer halls and teacher’s rooms and that the school building is earthquake resistant. Schools must have their own land, and if not, should have at least five years of a lease-agreement with the land owners. As per the Directive all the private schools should meet the criteria within three years. “Those schools which cannot meet the criteria can go for mergers or closure,” says the Directive.

While the Department of Education remains adamant that the Directive has to be implemented at any cost, the umbrella bodies of the private schools argue that they will have to shutter up their schools if it is implemented. Further, Private and Boarding Schools Association (Pabson) and N-Pabsan have been strongly lobbying against the directive, claiming the DoE did not consult with them while finalising it. “We were invited for the discussion in the initial days but the final draft was made without our consultation,” said Karna Bahadur Shahi, chairperson of N-Pabsan. 

The private school operators claim that it is not possible to endorse the tuition fee through the two-third majority as finding consensus among hundreds of guardians is not possible. They say they are ready to endorse the fee structure from the School Management Committee which has representatives from the DoE, parents, teachers and the owner.  “To make it inclusive we can nominate the representatives of the guardians from the voting process,” said Pabsan chair Lachhe Bahadur KC. The government officials however, claim that the DoE has no intention to trap private schools, saying the Directive was endorsed after having thorough discussions with the representatives of Pabson and N-Pabsan along with guardians, teachers and students organisations.

“The directive aims at controlling the malpractice in the private education sector. Those who are working fairly need not fear from it,” said Baikuntha Aryal spokesperson at DoE, adding the state has every right to curb the malpractice. 

This is not the first time that such a dispute has erupted. Back in 2013, the Pabson and N-Pabsan refused to implement the Private and Institutional Schools Directives 2012 though it was signed by their representatives. That directive had also set standards for classrooms, ceilings on advertisements and the number of schools in a particular area. It had barred more than 15 basic and 10 secondary schools from operating in one ward in the metropolitan city, a maximum of 10 basic and 5 secondary schools in each ward of a sub-metropolitan city. Yet, with private school operators not on board, the Directive could not be implemented as desired.

“The private schools are saying the directive is not practical without even implementing it,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, Chairperson of Guardian Association Nepal, asking the private schools to first go in implementation before rejecting it. He says that the indicators set by the present directive are scientific as it ensures around 10 percent profit for the school operators. 

“DoE is the facilitator for both private and public schools,” said Aryal. “We can go for revisions if there are genuine problems, but it has to be taken into implementation first.”

Published: 18-03-2016 08:25

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