Echoing the concerns of thousands of parents, Hyderabad High Court has raised hard questions about the exorbitant 'one time fee' (OTF) charged to students seeking admission to private schools in the city.
Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Hyderabad Schools Parents Association (HSPA), a division bench of the court urged for a regulatory process to be followed "to stop this ridiculous practice of OTF".
Private schools in the city are allegedly charging upto Rs 10 lakhs as OTF, which, as the counsel for HSPA argued, was nothing else but the banned "capitation fee", resurrected under another name. The counsel said a survey conducted by HSPA, based on 160 schools in the city, showed that OTFs ranging between Rs 50,000 and Rs 3 lakhs were being charged by the institutions.
Last year the Telangana government had appointed an Admission Fee Regulatory Committee to oversee the fee structures of private colleges and unaided institutions. But the OTFs charged by schools in Hyderabad exceed the sums collected by some of the most expensive engineering and medical colleges in the country.
At the hearing of the PIL, acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale said such OTFs will make it impossible for parents and families from middle and lower income groups to send their children to school. The counsel on behalf of Hyderabad Public School justified the fees as a means to pay the teachers according to the scale prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). But Justice Bhosale would have nothing of it.
According to another counsel appearing on behalf of the parents, there is a government order stipulating that the collection of such fees should not exceed Rs 6,000, though this is being flouted with impunity by the schools. There are exceptions, though, where some of the best schools are running without profit but not charging parents lakhs to get their children in. However, HPS counsel L Ravichander resisted the idea of forming a government committee to supervise fee structures, arguing that as many as 4,000 schools were shut down under such panels in the last few years.
Due to failing standards of education in government schools, which are strapped for funds and human resources, many are compelled to send their children to private schools. The latter, in turn, are forced to charge high fees in order to secure land in prime locations and maintain certain levels of teaching and pastoral care.
Justice Bhosale welcomed proposals for the government to help schools find land and infrastructure, which may encourage qualified professionals and managers to come forward and pitch in further. The bench has invited suggestions to improve the situation and scheduled the next hearing for Monday.