Mar 3, 2009

Exorbitant school fees

IT is doubtful that the warning issued by the directorate of private educational institutions to schools not to charge exorbitant admission fees will bring any relief to parents who are being fleeced. The fact is that the government has failed to exercise any effective check on the private educational institutions that have proliferated in Sindh in the last few decades.
Although many of them are providing reasonably good education to children, and this has been acknowledged by the authorities themselves, their charges have been high and not always affordable for the class they cater for. School managements take the plea that inflation has meant a heavy toll and they can meet the spiralling costs only by charging higher fees.
Of course they have a point there, but without an audit of the school accounts one cannot determine the degree of commercialisation that has also crept in. The real need is to tighten the mechanism for the regulation of private schools if they are to be an integral part of our educational system and parents, as well as teachers, are not to be exploited in the name of good education.
If the government wants the private sector to share its responsibility of educating children in Pakistan it cannot allow schools to operate in an unregulated manner in a sellers’ market.
But, can one expect the education, department, which is ultimately setting the policy and acting as the regulator, to claim the moral high ground in checking the wrongdoings of the private sector? The public school system under its own control is in a shambles.
When challenged, the private school operators’ retort is that the government would do well to first put its own house in order. There have also been complaints that ‘regulation’ is in effect another name for harassment and an opportunity to demand the greasing of palms.
With this stance of the private school management, it is not surprising, though unjustified, that of the 8,000-plus private schools in Karachi quite a number are not registered with the directorate at all. Technically, the directorate finds it difficult to regulate them as many of them have gone into litigation, while others being well connected resort to political pressure to escape the long arm of the law. How these are to be brought into the net is a wider question and the school fee problem is basically linked to these issues.

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