The Hindu has a piece on the school fee increases announced by schools in Chennai.
Joint Secretary and Regional Officer of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) N. Nagraju said schools affiliated to the Board had autonomy in deciding their fee structures. The increase should be commensurate with the facilities, he said. Schools were also expected to submit audit reports for affiliation and recognition, he added.The Bala Vidya Mandir model for calculating fee increases sounds reasonable on the face of it. But this assumes the school will do nothing new that would require either capital expenditure or recurring expenditure each month or year, to improve the infrastructure and teaching, or facilities for the teachers.
Parents complained not just about the increase, but also about the lack of information. We need to know where the money is going, said a member of the PTA of a school in central Chennai. A few schools acknowledge the need for more transparency. An office-bearer of the Principals of Matriculation Schools Association said all matriculation schools were urged to convene PTA meetings at least four times a year, to inform parents about the expenses incurred. Matriculation schools, too, are not governed by specific rules regarding the fee structure. The Chittibabu Committee that worked on evolving norms for fees structure merely recommends that we be reasonable, a senior Principal said.
With the ITES sector and other opportunities such as online tutoring offering huge pay packets, retention of good teachers is becoming a challenge for most schools.
Principal of Bala Vidya Mandir S. S. Nadan says schools would have to raise the fee every year or once in two years to ensure that teachers are paid well. Bala Vidya Mandir follows a scientific system of calculating the increase, which is also made known to parents. The school, which follows the practice of increasing the fee once in two years, calculates the increase like this the total expense for the last two years plus a 10 per cent hike for inflation is divided by two, and again divided by 1,250 (school strength). This is again divided by 3 to arrive at the fee per term.
According to me, raising fees more than nine per cent per year has a profit motive behind it. Anything less than nine per cent is bad budgeting, Mr. Nadan said.
Teachers salaries, maintenance and repair work form a major chunk of the expenses incurred, he said. Schools may have increased the amount a little more in anticipation of the sixth Pay Commission, it is learnt. I think todays middle class parents do not spend as much on education in proportion to their income as parents did 10 years ago , Schools cannot but increase the fee if good teachers are to be retained. Education, for parents, should figure higher in their list of priorities, Mr. Nadan said.
When the Principal Mr. Nandan says that any fee increase of more than 9% increase per year has a profit motive, he mixes up surplus and profit. While no school can have a profit-motive, schools can certainly have a surplus-motive. Profit is money that can be taken out of an organisation by the "owners" in the form of dividends - by law no school trust in India can do that. But a surplus is not only legally allowed, it is not a bad thing at all, if it helps the school make a bit more income than expenditure to be able to invest in better school facilities or more teachers leading to a lower student-teacher ratio.
The challenge for schools today is to
a. improve the quality of education they impart
b. try and set up more such schools to meet the huge demand for high quality education.
The question is will inflation-linked fee-increases be sufficient to improve things for current and future batches of learners?