Challenges faced by Policymakers in Regulating School Fees :-
- Constitutionally protected freedoms enjoyed by private schools
- Need for making quality education affordable and accessible.
So can private schools arbitrarily hike fees ?
To understand it we need to look at Two subsequent Judgements by Supreme Court :-
- In T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002) :-
The Supreme Court held that regulatory measures imposed on unaided private educational institutions must, in general, ensure the maintenance of proper academic standards, atmosphere and infrastructure and the prevention of mal-administration by the school management.
- In Islamic Academy of Education and Anr. v. State of Karnataka and Ors (2003) :-
Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that these institutions have the autonomy to generate “surplus” which must be used for their betterment and growth. While private schools are ‘entitled to a reasonable surplus for development of education and expansion of the institution, there has to be a balance between autonomy of such institutions and the measures taken to prevent commercialisation of education’.
But there is not much clarity on what the terms “surplus”, “reasonable surplus” or “commercialisation of education” in this judgement.
Therefore Constitutionally protected Private Schools arbitrarily hike in tuition fees along with additional costs such as fees for transport, extra-curricular activities and sports on the name of costs of maintaining a fully functional private school with quality teaching and world-class infrastructure are quite steep.
How Policymakers can overcome this challenge ?
- There have to be a jurisprudential clarity on what private schools can or cannot do, how much “surplus” they can make, or what “commercialisation” actually means.
- Govt need to address the issue of financial mismanagement and misreporting as it was stated In Modern School v. Union of India (2004) judgement, the Supreme Court recommended accounting standards for private schools.
- Regular government supervised audits.
- Generating capacity in State-level Departments of Education.
- Regular inspections and stricter sanctions for fraudulent reporting could be considered.
Mains Level :- As School Fee hike is a much in a debate. Possibly there is a need to know what are the challenges faced by policymakers and how they can improve the situation.