Fee Hike In Private Schools And Protests
As in the previous years, student unions affiliated to different political parties have stood together against the fee hike in private schools. But, unlike in the past when they would shut down schools or padlock account section in the private schools, this time they have started to submit memorandums to local level governments against this- the increase in the ‘price of the service provided by the private companies’ because the private schools are private companies and they have their right to fix the price of their product as per the market demand in a liberal economy! This is what has been the government policy by letting the people establish schools for earning money. However, a few days back, Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel reiterated that the government would monitor the fee hike and take action against those who are doing so. But, because of the past track record, general people have very little hope that both the government action and the protest of the student unions will eventually fail to force private schools to slash the excessive fee hike.
The constitution has guaranteed free education up to secondary level as one of the fundamental rights. Article 31 (2) of the constitution provisions ‘every citizen shall have the right to compulsory and free basic education, and free education up to the secondary level’. Once enshrined as the fundamental rights, it is the obligation of the government to ensure its implementation and in this sense ensuring free secondary education is the obligation of the government. It is ironic to hear Education Minister talk about taking action against the fee hikers. He should be presenting plans about how the secondary education can be made free for all and in any kind of schools, private or public. In the context of adoption of School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) 2016-2022, secondary education means education up to grade 12 while basic education means education up to grade 8.
No doubt, private schools have mushroomed simply because of the failure of the public/community schools to provide ‘quality education’. There are many reasons for this failure which include government investment, monitoring and supervision. Public education system needs an overall reshaping. But, now school education has become the responsibility of the local level governments. The problem that the central government could not solve in the past has to be settled by the new born local governments. In this context, there is a little reason to be optimistic. But, if the local governments do really want, improving public schools is not a Herculean task.
Although nearly 80 per cent of students still study in public schools, number of the private school is increasing rapidly. A report showed that there has been about 5 per cent increase in both the number of private schools and students enrolled in them in the last five years, for instance, in 2068 BS, of 33,404 child development centres (CDC), there were 4,631 (13.8 per cent) CDC run as private institution and in 2073 BS, of 36,093 CDC, there were 5,645 (15.7 per cent) CDC run as private institution. The share of private schools in basic education (grade 1-8), both in terms of number of schools and students was 10.56 per cent in 2068 BS while it rose to 16.75 per cent in 2073 BS. Similarly, in grades 9-12, the percentage of private schools has shot up to 23.09 per cent from 12.09 per cent in the same period of five years. This shows how the private schools have become popular despite the fact that there has been protest against the fee hike.
Recently, there are news reports about Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli taking guardianship of some children and enrolling them to schools. Many government ministers have followed suit. This has been a part of the school enrolment campaign in the context that about 400 thousand children of school going age are still out of school. It means ensuring access to basic education is a big problem in the country. But the question is how long such guardianship can continue? Have other measures to attract children of the poor people to schools not achieved the desired result?
For sure, private schools have contributed a lot to improving education status of the country. But the owners of such schools have sucked the helpless parents who hope better education will make future of their children better. Private schools have not given any better education as such, but they have succeeded in making students pass with better marks in the examinations of different levels. So, they have made the students understand as per the government syllabus. They have taught nothing extra. And it is all because of the management and teaching technique of the private schools. This is also because of the extra effort invested by the guardians of the students in private schools.
The most important thing to make the private schools transparent is forcing them make public the names of the students who have been given scholarship. It is known that children of many student leaders and leaders of the political parties are given scholarships in private schools. And that’s why all the rules and regulations made to regulate the private schools are not implemented effectively. It is hoped that local level governments will work to make public schools under them provide education in a better way and that the private schools are regulated well so that now onwards no one dreams of becoming rich within a few years by opening a private school. Moreover, all levels of government should also make plan to ensure free secondary education to all, which will effectively end private education up to the secondary level.