Private schools hike tuition fees; public schools go unnoticed
It’s that time of the year again — schools reopen after a hiatus of about a month. New school year means new beginning for students and one more year of tuition fees, new set of uniform, extra money for extra-curricular activities, and savings for rainy days for parents. Once that is sorted, the dilemma is whether your child is better off going to a private school as opposed to a public one. This would have been a non-issue for all concerned if both private and public educational institutes provided the best education there is irrespective of the nature of their institutions.
However, in Nepal, government schools have time and again failed in effective policymaking and implementation of reforms that are urgently needed. Making the most of this fact, private schools over-charge for the ‘quality’ education they provide. It’s the parents who have to fight tooth and nail to be able to provide what they think is ‘decent’ education for their children.
According to the Department of Education (DoE), there are 1,185 private schools in Kathmandu District alone with over 5,000 private schools spread across the country. Some 15 lakh students are registered in these schools.
Following widespread problems faced by parents in seeking quality education for their children, the time has come for strong intervention for those in power to invest serious thought into the educational reform the country is most in need of.
Hike in tuition fees
On May 23, 2012, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the government to keep all private and public school tuition fees fixed and not applicable to changes for the next three years. The SC had directed the schools five years ago to revise their fee structure only at intervals of three years.
Disregarding a SC directive to private schools not to increase their fees before a lapse of three years, the schools have increased the fees by up to 60 per cent. The government has set a limit of Rs 3,675 as monthly fee up to secondary level.
President of Guardians Association Nepal Keshab Puri insisted that based on the directive by SC, hike in fee structure is possible only before the lapse of the three-year period upon consultation with Guardians Association Nepal, representatives of both private and public schools and the government bodies. He said, “Private schools hiked the fees without following the protocol. They should be liable to charges for the step they have taken with vested interests.”
Recently, private schools hiked the tuition fees by 60 per cent. Puri said, “We tried to draw the attention of the government to this matter but the response was lukewarm. Private schools have not stated proper and justified reasons for the hike.”
Puri claimed that private schools have been become footloose due to lax vigilance on the part of the government. He said, “The government bodies hardly inspect the activities of private schools. There is no mechanism to reign in private schools. This has resulted in private schools functioning as they please over the years.”
Market economic principle
While most guardians are aggressively protesting the hike in schools fees, private schools are against the standard of fees set by the government, claiming that it has caused private institutes to run on losses. President of National Private and Boarding Schools Association of Nepal (N-PABSAN), Karna Bahadur Shahi said, “We have to ensure we have qualified teachers and educators, and the higher the qualification, the higher the pay. In this scenario, out cost runs high and we
also have large investments in our infrastructure. We are compelled to bring about a change in the fee structure and
increase the fees. If we don’t do this, we will have to shut down. The government cannot expect us to run on losses.”
Shahi claimed that private schools are not hiking fees unnecessarily. Taking into consideration the infrastructure and the facilities needed for a positive learning environment, he said, “We provide the best facilities to our students for a conducive learning experience.” He further said, “Of course, private schools are more expensive than public schools. The investment you make today is for the betterment of the education your children are receiving. It is for the overall growth of the education sector. We don’t focus only on text book learning and lectures. We also prioritise extracurricular activities, skill and character building to give students the platform to learn to become a well-rounded individual. And, to be able to provide this, we need investment and money.”
Delay in printing text books
The other jarring problem facing schools currently is the shortage of text books listed on the syllabus. The government has failed to provide textbooks to all students of the new academic session, which began on April 13. Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel had earlier committed to provide textbooks to students before the beginning of the new academic session.
Janak Education Materials Centre (JEMC), the sole authorised printer of school text books from classes VI to X, has printed only one crore of the total 17,753,218 units of textbooks required for this academic session (private printing firms are contracted to print schools text books from classes I to V). Puri said that at the rate with which JEMC is printing school text books it is highly unlikely that these books will be at the students’ disposal any time soon.
Puri said, “Although the government is claiming that there is no shortage of books, many students still do not have all the books from the booklist.”
He further informed that JEMC is publishing the remaining books with help from the private sector. He said, “This means the government is incapable of providing text books to schools across the country. We are already into the new term and we still don’t have enough text books.”
According to book dealers and book stores, this late delivery of school text books happens every year. JEMC have failed to publish text books as per the requirements this year yet again.
According to a report submitted by a monitoring team from the DoE, only 58 per cent of books have been distributed so far.
President of Federation of Nepal Books and Stationery Business, Hari Aryal said, “Although the target of JEMC is to print 2 crore units of text books, it has printed only half the units required.”
JEMC’s reason for delay in printing schools books this year is the ongoing printing of ballot papers for the upcoming elections; however, JEMC has failed to deliver textbooks on time every year.
Managing Director of JEMC, Mahesh Prasad Timilsina accepting the incompetence of JEMC in printing books, said, “There are technical problems in our printing machines. We need to upgrade ourselves technically in order to be able to print text books on time. We need new hi-tech equipment to be able to meet the demand.”
Timilsina further said, “JEMC and private press are jointly working on printing the text books as soon as possible. We are committed to complete the printing of the remaining number of books by May 5.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 23, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.