The onset of private schools has given a new dimension to education in India. Opening up of the sector has brought in more reforms with new innovative teaching practices, attracting students. The onslaught of private schools can be witnessed in major states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The India Education Report, 2009, says that there has been an increase in percentage growth of private schools with a decrease in public schools.
Privatization has been more profound in the education sector, because of the realization on the part of the government that it can no longer manage the education system and provide quality instruction. However, large questions are asked on the quality of private schools because of the lack of a regulatory mechanism to monitor their functioning.
The Private Fee Regulation Bill, though tabled in 2007, was not passed, because of strong opposition from various quarters. The Bill sought to regulate the functioning of private schools by empowering state governments in setting up of Education Authorities to monitor the same. The Bill stated that the running of unaided private schools had become a business, with the aim to make money than impart education. The Bill also seeks to address the issue of low payment of teachers and arbitrariness in appointment and suspension of teachers. The Bill, therefore, mentions that it has become necessary to set up adequate mechanisms to monitor, regulate and control the thriving education business, not only to ensure that children get good education, but also to protect people from exploitation.
As per Section 4(3), the Authority may:
(a) prescribed the student-teacher ratio for each standard;
(b) put a ceiling on the tuition fee that may be charged by a school for a particular
(c) fix the hours of duty for teachers;
(d) monitor the funds collected by the schools; and
(e) perform such other function as may be prescribed
Interestingly, the provision of the Bill did not intend to apply to minority schools (as per Section 6).
The Bill also seeks to restrict private schools in matters of levying fees. This directly affects the financial status of schools that thrive on this source of income. Such regulatory measures will scuttle the growth of schools, which can then hamper the development of education. Private schools have brought in a new wave of innovation and quality in the sector, making it competitive. The higher education sector has been highly privatized, with even the IITs and IIMs facing the heat to bring in autonomy, free from government intervention.
The Government, while promoting autonomy to educational institutions, needs to balance it with the society’s interest of affordable education. At a time when the RTE is wanting of a push, private schools need to be redefined. Regulation and autonomy are crucial questions at the policy and legal levels.