We need a smarter approach to education

Time and again, the nation has applauded the Right to Education (RTE) Act that ensures education as a fundamental right to children. Admirable as it is, however, the RTE Act can become powerless when supporting policies are missing.

For years, parents and activists have been at loggerheads with school managements against arbitrary fee hikes, at the same time demanding that the government put in place a fee regulation bill in order to bring about parity in fee structures of various schools. There have been numerous cases of students being made to discontinue their education as their parents could not afford to pay the full fees. In some cases parents have fought cases against the school for years together, only to give up all hope of justice eventually.

The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Bill of 2011, introduced after much debate, was supposed to bring relief to parents. Its draft policy highlighted the need for controlled fee hikes and the approval of the Parent-Teachers’ Association (PTA) body before hikes are implemented. This bill is yet to see the light of day, however, even as schools freely hike fees to the tune of 30-60% every year.

Things have gone far enough to prompt activists to file public interest litigations (PILs) in court. But even these are gathering dust due to lack of support from the state. Are we to have any respite from this battle?

The answer could be yes. In a country that takes pride in providing free education to children between 6 and 14 years, why not go a step further and ensure affordable education for all till the completion of higher secondary education (Std XII)?

The need of the hour is ensuring a common fee structure in all schools, irrespective of the boards they are affiliated to. It’s time the government takes to task the schools that flout rules and hold parents and children to ransom. The focus should be at bringing parity in the education system, to avoid differentiating between students on the basis how much their parents can afford to spend on their education.

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