KATHMANDU, Sept 18: Private schools have challenged the government to implement its rules for the restructuring of school fees. They have demanded that the government allow them to determine the fees at their respective schools.
According to the Education Regulations, proposals for determining school fees should be submitted to the district education offices by January 15 each year. The district education offices have to grant permission after fixing the fee ceiling by February 15.
The new academic session begins on April 15. A new directive issued in March provisions fee structure approval by a two-thirds majority of the guardians of the school in question.
“We are against the directive and will not follow it,” said DK Dhungana, general secretary of the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organization Nepal (PABSON). “The private schools should be given the authority to increase fees at the local level instead of having these determined from the central level,” he added. “The government should look at the curriculum, the exam system and monitor the schools.”
Representatives of private schools gathered in an assembly on Saturday also objected to the government rules.
As per the Education Regulations, private schools are generally allowed to review their fee structure as per the grade rating of their schools.
“However, the private schools have disregarded the rules while increasing their fees,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, member of the Fees Management and Monitoring Central Committee and president of the Guardians Association of Nepal (GON).
A report on private schools published by the student unions disclosed that one private school in Kathmandu Valley charges Rs. 30,000 per month as fees for a Grade one student. They increased the fees 45 percent, ignoring the rules.
There are about 1.5 million students across the nation in some 6,000 institutional schools, widely known as private schools, at a time when the quality and performance of public schools, where over six million students pursue their school education, are deteriorating. The number of private schools increased significantly after the restoration of democracy in the early 1990s.
“It is the government that is responsible for formulating the laws and policies, enforcing them, monitoring the actors and streamlining things in the interest of stakeholders,” said Bhandari of GON. “However, the government has failed to perform its duties and keep the private schools in line,” he added. “The education sector should not be oriented toward earning money as in a business. If they want to make money, they must choose another path.”
Many of the private schools do not pay government-scale salaries to their teachers, according to Bhandari. “Private schools increase the charges under different heads such as building maintenance, sports, extracurricular activities, first aid, computer use, library and transport and do so by whatever amount they like,” he added.
As per government rules, the private schools will be fined up to Rs 25,000 and face cancellation of their license if they do not abide by the rules. But the government remains a mute spectator when it comes to taking action against schools found in breach of the rules.
Shanta Bahadur Shrestha, secretary at the Ministry of Education, said private schools were established in accordance with government rules and policies, and if they fail to follow the rules, legal action will be taken sooner or later. “If they have any problems, these should be discussed and sorted out legally.”