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A private or public education: that’s the $430,000 question

Global news, School Fee

The Age


Croydon mother Linda Gibson had plenty of state and independent options when she was investigating high schools for her eldest child. But she settled on the local state school because of its academic reputation.

Her daughter Romany starts year 7 at Norwood Secondary College next week and will join the school’s high-achievers program.

“I don’t think it’s worth $20,000 a year for a private school,” Ms Gibson said. “If your child wants a challenge and has a good academic record, there are state schools that are fabulous and just fit the bill perfectly.”

A survey by the Australian Scholarships Group showed parents of a child born this year who choose private education could expect to spend $504,742 in metropolitan Melbourne from preschool to year 12. That cost is $45,747 more than the national metropolitan average.

The group said parents could factor in education costs of $68,343 from pre-school to year 12 in the state system for a child born this year.

The Australian Scholarships Group is a member-based organisation that invests money on behalf of parents to offset education costs for their children.

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The survey was based on 6900 responses from the group’s members. The figures show the “upper ranges” that parents can expect to pay. The survey focused on a range of costs, including school fees, transport, uniforms, computers, excursions and sports trips.

Australian Scholarships Group chief executive John Velegrinis said the cost of education in Australia had risen by more than double the rate of inflation in the past decade. “Education is a massive investment,” he said.

Earlier this year Fairfax Media reported annual school fees at elite private schools would reach $30,000 on average by 2016, according to analysis by a Melbourne University economist.

Ms Gibson said she was surprised by the compulsory fees charged in the public sector. “By the time we’ve bought shoes, uniforms, books, a tablet or iPad, and then added on camp, sporting and music programs, it’s $2500 in the first couple of months.”

She said her other daughter Scarlett, 5, and son Ronan, 3, would also go to state schools.

Fitzroy mother Jennifer Butler is moving her two sons, who both have learning difficulties, to Xavier College this year because she felt there was not enough support at the local state schools.

“We didn’t feel that there ?were great opportunities in our feeder public schools,” she said. “At one of the schools we felt that the facilities there, and what would be available to them, wasn’t very good. The other has a more personalised learning approach, which we didn’t think would suit our children.”

Will, 12, and Henry, 10, were at a Catholic primary school, but Ms Butler was worried they could fall between the cracks at a high school in the public system.

“We really wanted to be able to access some additional help that wasn’t automatically available to us in the public system,” she said. “In the private system, if you’re not happy, you can deal directly with the school principal. It’s more of a corporate environment that you’re paying for.”


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Delhi government asked to make schools refund excess fees

School Fee

Deccan Herald


New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Friday directed the city government to implement recommendations of a panel on the  unaided private schools’ fee structure which has asked nearly 250 institutions to return the “excess amount” to parents with nine percent interest.

A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul told the Delhi government that the committee has submitted four reports based on examination of fee structures of unaided private schools and it is “free to implement the recommendations”.

“The government is permitted to implement the recommendations as per the reports of the committee on the schools mentioned in the reports. Delhi government is free to do the same,” the bench said in its order.

The Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee, which made the recommendations, has so far examined the accounts of 605 unaided private schools out of a total 1,172 institutions.

Till now, the committee has recommended that 242 schools should return excess fees they have collected from the parents with nine  percent interest from 2008 to 2011.

The committee found that in around 100 schools, either no records were maintained or the accounts were fudged. It recommended strict action against these schools.

Advocate Ashok Aggarwal, who filed the PIL against fee hikes, said: “Now 242 schools have to return excess fees and as per recommendation, action will be taken around 100 schools found not maintaining proper accounts.”

Many of the schools in the city were operating without even a bank account and year after year they were granted recognition, the committee report has said.

Several of the schools have not been maintaining proper accounts and were not getting their accounts audited as required by the law, and were also not filing annual returns, the report said.

After the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission, the schools increased the fees, citing additional financial burden due to increased salaries of teachers.

In August 2011, the court gave directions for setting up a three-member committee to audit the accounts of each of the schools to ascertain if the fee hike by them was required.

This order came on a petition filed by NGO Social Jurists, through advocate Agarwal, which alleged that schools had hiked the fees “unreasonably” but they failed to pay the salaries of the teaching and non-teaching staff as per the pay panel recommendations.

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Can’t afford free education, AP tells centre

Implementation, Reservation of seats, Right to Education, School Fee

HYDERABAD: The state government has put the onus on the Centre for the implementation of 25 per cent quota for economically disadvantaged students in private schools under the Right to Education Act (RTE) from this academic year 2012-13, saying that it has no funds to reimburse fees for students.

The government, which has already diluted the RTE quota by exempting elite schools which offer the CBSE, ICSE, IB curriculum and collect huge fees for admissions by citing a “funding crunch”, is now running away from implementing the quota even in schools affiliated to the state board.

The government estimates that nearly Rs90 crore is needed to admit 25 per cent RTE quota students in Class I in private schools this year, which will increase by Rs100 crore every year in the next eight years, as the RTE promises free education till Class VIII.

Crucially, the state government spends Rs3,500 crore every year on the fee reimbursement scheme to enable students from socially and economically weaker sections to pursue higher education and professional courses. Against this backdrop, RTE activists attacked the government’s claim that it cannot bear Rs90 crore to implement the RTE quota.
The government is concerned that the financial burden will increase to `800 crore per annum in the next eight years. The department of school education has prepared a detailed report on the “financial burden” the state government will face in the implementation of the RTE quota in private schools.

A senior official said: “Though the financial burden appears to be less in the first year of RTE quota implementation, it will increase significantly over the next eight years. The government has to spend nearly Rs90 crore this year to admit 25 per cent quota students in Class I in private schools this year. Unless the Centre extends financial help, it is not possible for the state to implement RTE quota.”

The department has referred the issue to the state government to take a final decision on the RTE quota. The issue was scheduled to be discussed during a review meeting convened by Chief Mini-ster N. Kiran Kumar Reddy on Friday. However, the meeting was called off, as Mr Reddy had rushed to New Delhi following “poli-tical developments” at the Centre and in the state.

Deccan Chronicle, 23 June 2012


Student numbers could be cut to cover spiralling cost of loans

Finances & Budgets, Higher Education, School Fee

UK: Tough quotas on student numbers may have to be introduced to avoid the creation of a spending black hole under plans to raise tuition fees at English universities to a maximum of £9,000, a powerful committee of MPs has warned.

Ministers underestimated how many universities would charge the maximum fee and now face an annual bill to fund the interest-free student loans that is “several hundred million pounds” higher than anticipated, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reports.

The current balance of outstanding loans – £24bn – is expected to rise to £70bn by 2015-16, the report says.

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, said: “At present, more universities intend to charge higher fees than the department had expected. If the universities’ plans to widen participation are approved by the Office for Fair Access, this will leave a substantial funding gap which will either require further cuts in higher education or further resources from the Treasury.”

Whitehall sources told the Guardian they would not know the true cost of the policy until students had turned up at freshers’ week in 2012.

Reducing student numbers below the current cap would prove deeply unpopular after several years of increasing demand and an annual row over the competition for university places.

While some students will forgo loans and universities will subsidise some of the fees with bursaries, ministers will still have to consider other options “which might range from finding more money through to reducing places available”, the PAC report says.

Figures compiled by the Guardian reveal that as of Monday, 105 universities had declared the fee they will charge, with an average of £8,765. The government modelled its plans on an average fee of £7,500. The Office for Fair Access is vetting universities’ fee plans. They will announce on 11 July which have been agreed.

A Whitehall source said uncertainty over the costs was inevitable given the number of variables but insisted that they were confident that the figures they had used were the best projection.

Whitehall sources indicated on Monday that students at the New College of the Humanities – a new private university being set up by high-profile academics including AC Grayling – would not be entitled to government-backed student loans because its £18,000-a-year fees break the £9,000 cap.

The university’s backers have said they expected students to be eligible for loans of up to £6,000 from next year in line with other private universities. They are also seeking commercial loans.

The forthcoming white paper on higher education is expected to set boundaries of a “level playing field” between traditional institutions and new private providers. Only students at universities charging under the £9,000 cap are expected to be eligible for state-backed finance.

Ministers are expected to pave the way for students educated privately to borrow up to £9,000. However, private universities charging fees above £6,000 are also expected to become subject to government requirements on widening access to students from poorer backgrounds.

A growing number of universities are warning of uncertainty over the policy. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of umbrella group for higher education, Universities UK, said: “While it is quite clear that changes are ahead, there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to the level of student demand and for which courses, and the extent to which students will take out student loans. The final cost of the new funding system to the government is therefore far from clear.”

But the uncertainty is compounded by predictions that applications could collapse when students are faced with higher fees, putting some less popular institutions in financial jeopardy.

The PAC calls for clarification about what the government will do when universities are in danger.

Meanwhile Oxford University is poised to take an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the higher education minister, David Willetts, on Tuesday in the most aggressive act of the university against a government since its dons vetoed an honorary degree for Margaret Thatcher.

Oxford dons will vote on a resolution that says: “Congregation instructs council to communicate to government that the University of Oxford has no confidence in the policies of the minister for higher education.”

Cambridge, Goldsmiths and Warwick are to embark on similar exercises. There is fury in parts of the academic community about the hikes in fees – but also about funding cuts, particularly to the arts.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, called on every university to hold a vote of no confidence claiming that the plans were in “disarray”.

The Guardian, June 7, 2011


CAG heat on 25 city schools for fee hike

School Fee

Parents protesting against the sudden hike in tuition fee across private schools in Delhi on account of the Sixth Pay Commission have been vindicated. A tell-all audit report of 25 unaided schools submitted recently by the Comptroller Audit General of India (CAG) corroborates the gnawing suspicion among parents that the fee hike was indeed unjustified.

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Accounts leash on private schools – Government move to stop institutions from hiking tuition fees arbitrarily

Private schools, School Fee

The state government has decided to ask private schools to furnish details of their accounts to stop them from indiscriminately hiking fees. Although all private schools will be required to reveal the data, the government’s focus is on English-medium institutions as they have been frequently accused of raising fees arbitrarily. The state education department will soon send a circular to nearly 500 private English-medium schools — both unaided and partially aided (those getting dearness allowance) — telling them that it will be binding on them to provide details of their financial data (income and expenditure) whenever asked by the government.

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From today, school cannot increase fees arbitrarily thanks to govt rules

School Fee

The state government is ready to implement the fee hike policy formulated a month ago. After a new government resolution (GR) was passed on July 15 and a subsequent court hearing, the authorities had announced that it would be implemented from August 15. From Monday, school managements will be unable to introduce a random fee hike, without the approval of the school management committees or parent-teacher associations.

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Tamil Nadu government regulates fee structure for private schools

School Fee

The Tamil  Nadu government recently passed a circular and ordered a new fee structure for the private as well as unaided schools a fee slab of Rs 3,500 to 11000 .

The school fees which are regulated in Tamil Nadu at present is Rs 11000 for Higher secondary school, Rs 9,000 for High School, Rs 8,000 for Middle School and Rs 5,000 for Elementary School. The committee has also proposed a 10% additional expenditure charge for future development in schools and this will be meant for all Private, unaided as well as Anglo – Indian Schools under the regulation of state board.

Some school heads are saying that this rule is not fit for them to be able to maintain the school structure but above all, the people or committee who has enough money in background only should open the school.

But at present it is a fact that education is now becoming a business and there are huge amounts of monetary transactions. If the government decides on the new rule then such schools in TN as well as all over India, will not be affected because they are taking enough money and there is no evidence of it as no receipt is given under such conditions.

The donations amount varies from Rs. 5, 000 to 75,000 in private schools. The parents are worried about their children’s’ future and if they want better education for their children then then they have only one option and that is to shut their mouth and spend money according to the school’s demands. So these all are the big drawbacks in India. The government or education minister must raid schools to clear all these matters because huge amounts of money in the name of fees and donations are being snatched from the parents.

It is totally wrong on the part of some private schools who are saying that this regulation will effect the salary of teachers. But these very schools are taking high fees and yet they pay very low salary and the teachers are just temporary. If the teachers demand higher salary, then he or she is out and other new, low paid teachers are appointed. So these big drawbacks must be cleared by taking stern action.

The State government has fixed fees for 10,934 private self-financing schools across Tamil Nadu. At present the fee structure for 10,233 schools was fixed on the basis of income and expenditure of the schools and The 10,951 private schools in the State would be informed of the fee structure and that will stand for three years.

Already there are many complaints of high fees charged by the schools and the government has taken appropriate action. It is also a known fact that this rule may remain on circular only and the procedure will go on same as before because when it comes to corruption, Tamil Nadu in still stands in second place in India and India stands 5th in world according to the International Transparency Report.

Merinews, 8 May 2010


Dikshit tells private schools not to hike fee

School Fee

NEW DELHI: Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday told private schools in capital not to hike fee without approval of the Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) as directed by the state education department.

Making it clear that government would not reverse its position on the issue, she told a delegation of the private schools that it may consider revising the guideline for the academic session 2011-12, sources said.

Education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, who was also present at the meeting, said schools have been asked to follow the circular issued by his department on April one in which it was stated that no private school will be allowed to hike fees without the approval of the PTAs. “If they do not follow the order then appropriate action will follow,” he said.

In the meeting, principals of several private schools requested Dikshit to allow them to hike the fee arguing that they were facing financial constraints following implementation of recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission for the teachers.

Some private schools have already effected 15%-20% hike in fee and asked parents to pay the increased amount.

The Times of India, 28 April 2010


The Right to Education Act: A critique

Access to education, Autonomy, Budget Private Schools, Edupreneurship, Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Licenses and Regulations, Right to Education, School Fee, School Management Committee, Teacher performance, Teacher salary, Unrecognized Schools

The `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009′ (RTE Act) came into effect today, with much fanfare and an address by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In understanding the debates about this Act, a little background knowledge is required. Hence, in this self-contained 1500-word blog post, I start with a historical narrative, outline key features of the Act, describe its serious flaws, and suggest ways to address them.

Historical narrative

After independence, Article 45 under the newly framed Constitution stated that the state shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.

As is evident, even after 60 years, universal elementary education remains a distant dream. Despite high enrolment rates of approximately 95% as per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2009), 52.8% of children studying in 5th grade lack the reading skills expected at 2nd grade. Free and compulsory elementary education was made a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution in December 2002, by the 86th Amendment. In translating this into action, the `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill’ was drafted in 2005. This was revised and became an Act in August 2009, but was not notified for roughly 7 months.

The reasons for delay in notification can be mostly attributed to unresolved financial negotiations between the National University of Education Planning and Administration, NUEPA, which has been responsible for estimating RTE funds and the Planning Commission and Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). From an estimate of an additional Rs.3.2 trillion to Rs.4.4 trillion for the implementation of RTE Draft Bill 2005 over 6 years (Central Advisory Board of Education, CABE) the figure finally set by NUEPA now stands at a much reduced Rs.1.7 trillion over the coming 5 years. For a frame of reference, Rs.1 trillion is 1.8% of one year’s GDP.

Most education experts agree that this amount will be insufficient. Since education falls under the concurrent list of the Constitution, financial negotiations were also undertaken between Central and State authorities to agree on sharing of expenses. This has been agreed at 35:65 between States and Centre, though state governments continue to argue that their share should be lower.

Overview of the Act

The RTE Act is a detailed and comprehensive piece of legislation which includes provisions related to schools, teachers, curriculum, evaluation, access and specific division of duties and responsibilities of different stakeholders. Key features of the Act include:

  1. Every child from 6 to 14 years of age has a right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education.
  2. Private schools must take in a quarter of their class strength from `weaker sections and disadvantaged groups’, sponsored by the government.
  3. All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees with 75 per cent parents and guardians as members.
  4. All schools except government schools are required to be recognized by meeting specified norms and standards within 3 years to avoid closure.

On the basis of this Act, the government has framed subordinate legislation called model rules as guidelines to states for the implementation of the Act.

A critique

The RTE Act has been criticised by a diverse array of voices, including some of the best economists. MHRD was perhaps keen to achieve this legislation in the first 100 days of the second term of the UPA, and chose to ignore many important difficulties of the Act. The most important difficulties are:

Inputs and Outcomes

The Act is excessively input-focused rather than outcomes-oriented. Even though better school facilities, books, uniforms and better qualified teachers are important, their significance in the Act has been overestimated in the light of inefficient, corrupt and unaccountable institutions of education provision.

School Recognition

The Act unfairly penalises private unrecognised schools for their payment of market wages for teachers rather than elevated civil service wages. It also penalises private schools for lacking the infrastructural facilities defined under a Schedule under the Act. These schools, which are extremely cost efficient, operate mostly in rural areas or urban slums, and provide essential educational services to the poor. Independent studies by Geeta Kingdon, James Tooley and ASER 2009 suggest that these schools provide similar if not better teaching services when compared to government schools, while spending a much smaller amount. However, the Act requires government action to shut down these schools over the coming three years. A better alternative would have been to find mechanisms through which public resources could have been infused into these schools. The exemption from these same recognition requirements for government schools is the case of double standards — with the public sector being exempted from the same `requirements’.

School Management Committees (SMCs)

By the Act, SMCs are to comprise of mostly parents, and are to be responsible for planning and managing the operations of government and aided schools. SMCs will help increase the accountability of government schools, but SMCs for government schools need to be given greater powers over evaluation of teacher competencies and students learning assessment. Members of SMCs are required to volunteer their time and effort. This is an onerous burden for hte poor. Payment of some compensation to members of SMCs could help increase the time and focus upon these. Turning to private but `aided’ schools, the new role of SMCs for private `aided’ schools will lead to a breakdown of the existing management structures.


Teachers are the cornerstone of good quality education and need to be paid market-driven compensation. But the government has gone too far by requiring high teacher salaries averaging close to Rs.20,000 per month. These wages are clearly out of line, when compared with the market wage of a teacher, for most schools in most locations in the country. A better mechanism would have involved schools being allowed to design their own teacher salary packages and having autonomy to manage teachers. A major problem in India is the lack of incentive faced by teachers either in terms of carrot or stick. In the RTE Act, proper disciplinary channels for teachers have not been defined. Such disciplinary action is a must given that an average of 25 percent teachers are absent from schools at any given point and almost half of those who are present are not engaged in teaching activity. School Management Committees need to be given this power to allow speedy disciplinary action at the local level. Performance based pay scales need to be considered as a way to improve teaching.

25% reservation in private schools

The Act and the Rules require all private schools (whether aided or not) to reserve at least 25% of their seats for economically weaker and socially disadvantaged sections in the entry level class. These students will not pay tuition fees. Private schools will receive reimbursements from the government calculated on the basis of per-child expenditure in government schools. Greater clarity for successful implementation is needed on:

  • How will `weaker and disadvantaged sections’ be defined and verified?
  • How will the government select these students for entry level class?
  • Would the admission lottery be conducted by neighbourhood or by entire village/town/city? How would the supply-demand gaps in each neighbourhood be addressed?
  • What will be the mechanism for reimbursement to private schools?
  • How will the government monitor the whole process? What type of external vigilance/social audit would be allowed/encouraged on the process?
  • What would happen if some of these students need to change school in higher classes?

Moreover, the method for calculation of per-child reimbursement expenditure (which is to exclude capital cost estimates) will yield an inadequate resource flow to private schools. It will be tantamount to a tax on private schools. Private schools will endup charging more to the 75% of students – who are paying tuitions – to make space for the 25% of students they are forced to take. This will drive up tuition fees for private schools (while government schools continue to be taxpayer funded and essentially free).

Reimbursement calculations should include capital as well recurring costs incurred by the government.

By dictating the terms of payment, the government has reserved the right to fix its own price, which makes private unaided schools resent this imposition of a flat price. A graded system for reimbursement would work better, where schools are grouped — based on infrastructure, academic outcomes and other quality indicators — into different categories, which would then determine their reimbursement.

What is to be done?

The RTE Act has been passed; the Model Rules have been released; financial closure appears in hand. Does this mean the policy process is now impervious to change? Even today, much can be achieved through a sustained engagement with this problem.

Drafting of State Rules

Even though state rules are likely to be on the same lines as the model rules, these rules are still to be drafted by state level authorities keeping in mind contextual requirements. Advocacy on the flaws of the Central arrangements, and partnerships with state education departments, could yield improvements in atleast some States. Examples of critical changes which state governments should consider are: giving SMCs greater disciplinary power over teachers and responsibility of students’ learning assessment, greater autonomy for schools to decide teacher salaries and increased clarity in the implementation strategy for 25% reservations. If even a few States are able to break away from the flaws of the Central arrangements, this would yield demonstration effects of the benefits from better policies.

Assisting private unrecognized schools

Since unrecognized schools could face closure in view of prescribed recognition standards within three years, we could find ways to support such schools to improve their facilities by resource support and providing linkages with financial institutions. Moreover, by instituting proper rating mechanisms wherein schools can be rated on the basis of infrastructure, learning achievements and other quality indicators, constructive competition can ensue.

Ensure proper implementation

Despite the flaws in the RTE Act, it is equally important for us to simultaneously ensure its proper implementation. Besides bringing about design changes, we as responsible civil society members need to make the government accountable through social audits, filing right to information applications and demanding our children’s right to quality elementary education. Moreover, it is likely that once the Act is notified, a number of different groups affected by this Act will challenge it in court. It is, therefore, critically important for us to follow such cases and where feasible provide support which addresses their concerns without jeopardizing the implementation of the Act.


Most well-meaning legislations fail to make significant changes without proper awareness and grassroot pressure. Schools need to be made aware of provisions of the 25% reservations, the role of SMCs and the requirements under the Schedule. This can be undertaken through mass awareness programs as well as ensuring proper understanding by stakeholders responsible for its implementation.

Ecosystem creation for greater private involvement

Finally, along with ensuring implementation of the RTE Act which stipulates focused reforms in government schools and regulation for private schools, we need to broaden our vision so as to create an ecosystem conducive to spontaneous private involvement. The current licensing and regulatory restrictions in the education sector discourage well-intentioned `edupreneurs’ from opening more schools. Starting a school in Delhi, for instance, is a mind-numbing, expensive and time-consuming task which requires clearances from four different departments totaling more than 30 licenses. The need for deregulation is obvious.

Please support our efforts towards ensuring Right to Education of Choice through some of the activities suggested above. Join our RTE Coalition.

Parth Shah, Ajay Shah’s Blog, 1 April 2010

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