KATHMANDU, April 9: After private schools arbitrarily raised tuition fees for the coming academic session beginning April 14, the Ministry of Education has said it will monitor the schools and take necessary action.
"We have come to know that private schools have haphazardly hiked the fees," said Shanta Bahadur Shrestha, secretary at the ministry. "We will send monitoring teams to the schools for on-site inspection and take action accordingly."
Disregarding recent Supreme Court direction not to hike the fees for three years, the schools have reportedly increased monthly tuition fees by up to 60 percent, besides raising the rate of admission form to Rs 1,000 from Rs 125, and charging up to Rs 60,000 in re-admission fees.
The Fee Restructuring Committee of Kathmandu district has capped monthly school fee at Rs 3,675. Depending on their categories -- A, B, C and D based on quality, facility and infrastructure -- the schools can charge a monthly fee of Rs 1,838 to Rs 3,675 for secondary level, Rs 1,350 to 2,700 for lower secondary level and Rs 1,181 to 2,363 for primary level, according to the committee's recommendation.
There are more than 5,000 private schools in the country, including over 1,500 in the Kathmandu Valley, according to private school organizations. They have around 1.5 million students with them.
As per the official provision, the schools have to get approved any changes to fee structures by two-third majority of guardians and take permission from the Fee Restructuring Committee and the District Education Office (DEO).
"But the private schools are made to break the rules," stated the Guardians' Association Nepal (GAN). They also force the students to buy books, exercise books, uniforms and other stationeries from designated shops just for commission, according to the GAN. "This is exploitation," said GAN President Keshav Puri.
Bijaya Sambhahamphe, president of the Private and Boarding Schools' Organization (PABSON), however, expressed ignorance about the matter. "Go and ask those who have informed you about it," he said, as he shrugged off the criticism.
Jaya P Acharya, chief of the Kathmandu District Education Office, said they will monitor the schools after the new academic session begins. "We have issued a notice to the schools to publish details of their admission fees, stationeries and annual fees on their notice boards, and not to charge more than the ceiling," said Acharya.
According to the law, private schools violating the rule may face fines of up to Rs 25,000 and have their operating license cancelled.
However, the latest move of the government -- which has come up with such commitments multiple times in the past, but never implemented them -- has the stakeholders doubtful.
Prof Dr Bidhya Nath Koirala, an education expert, said the government has never seriously monitored these schools. "It is, in fact, indifferent to the issue. Civil servants go for the monitoring just to return influenced by the schools. It's just a ritual," he said. "The guardians too are happy bragging about how high fees they are paying."
Prof Koirala suggested that the school either left completely free in line with the liberal economic policy or be regulated strictly. "The responsibility of regulation of the schools should be given to local governments, which should be held accountable for any malpractice in the sector," he said. "Another option is zoning the schools as per the distance and fee structures with quality assurance. And, people will choose themselves".