IN a welcome move, the School Fee Fixation Committee constituted by the state government has declined the request from some prominent private schools to hike their fees. The assessment of the accounts of these schools by the committee reveals that they already charge fees disproportionate to their operational costs. One of the missionary schools in Srinagar has received an amount of Rs 3.84 crore in school fees in 2014-15 besides other income of Rs 2.60 crore. The school has already received a fees of Rs 3.84 crore and Rs 3.18 for 2013 and 2014 respectively. The committee has termed this undue profiteering on the part of the schools. There are hundreds of other schools who similarly profit by charging exorbitant fees from the parents. The hike is arbitrary, done for the sake of it and for the benefit of the owners. And the parents have no choice but to cough it up. In case of some established schools, not only is the hike appalling, the existing fee structure is also untenable. They occupy the prize government property on the claim that they are charitable institutions and provide education to the poor sections of the society, which is all a lie. These schools almost exclusively serve the states bureaucratic and business elite. Now despite their massive fees have these schools made any redeeming difference to the state of education in the state? The answer cannot but be a Big No.
The past two decades have witnessed a phenomenal growth of the private schools in the Valley. They have sprouted all over the place, from the deep countryside to the congested urban areas, even in lanes and bylanes.
The history of private schools in Valley goes far back. Missionary schools were the first to introduce education in Valley more than a century ago, followeqd long after by some local schools. Post-1947 this was followed by the schools set up by Jamaat-I-Islami. And then came the deluge. Schools run by a whole array of interests and individuals sprung up in the Valley with a predominant majority of them in the primary bracket.
But educationally have they changed anything? Or for that matter, a larger question could be if any one of these schools has become a worthwhile educational institution which at least matches the quality of the missionary schools in their heyday and when they were really charitable in their mission. The answer again is in the negative. Private schools have tried to act as more disciplined and rigorous academic counterparts of the Government schools: regular class work, less holidays and more extra-curricular activities have been their hallmark.
But is it enough? Havent these schools failed in what should have been the core of their responsibility. Do they really provide an outstanding and empowering education, as one is supposed to expect from them. From the looks of it, the private school enterprise in Valley is more about running an unimaginative business than the delivery of a quality education. And they get away easily with this because a majority of the parents in Kashmir arent sufficiently conscious of the murky nature of the operation. In a private school they take the quality of education for granted. It is this context that we need to take private schools to task and make them to account not only for the arbitrary fee hikes but also for the poor quality of the education they impart.
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