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Merit sermon for church schools
- ICSE chief advocates transparency and facility-linked fees

Transparency and merit, quality of education and proper infrastructure emerged priority points as a top team from the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE) toured city schools on Friday. The parent-body of a majority of reputed English-medium schools in Calcutta and Bengal has ordered its institutions to maintain a “transparent and merit-based” admission procedure and ensure that the tuition and other fees are commensurate with the quality of education and the facilities they offer.

Council secretary and chief executive Francis Fanthome, who arrived here on Thursday, met the heads of all 67 Council-affiliated schools on Friday. The day-long deliberation with the heads of the institutions, controlled mostly by Christian missionary organisations, came in the wake of a Supreme Court directive allowing state governments a much larger say in the affairs of minority educational institutions they assist financially or otherwise.

Most of these institutions have interpreted this verdict as a suggestion that the only way of escaping government control is by steering clear of all government aid. “You must remember that certain special privileges, in terms of absolute administrative control, which the minority schools have been enjoying for quite some time, will no longer be exclusive,” the Council secretary and chief executive told the institution heads.

Fanthome also stressed that the state government concerned could exercise a degree of control over matters like the appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff and, most importantly, admission procedures if they took government aid. He, however, assured them that they would have a degree of freedom in setting tuition fees for students.

But ‘capitation’ fee was a strict no-no, he reminded his audience, and urged them to stick to a “reasonable” fee-structure. The schools, however, were free to levy charges for improving the existing infrastructure, he said, citing instances like constructing an auditorium or a swimming pool.

Fanthome also dwelt on the admission procedure. “There is so much emphasis on merit-based admission because this also helps an institution to maintain a high academic standard,” he said. In Bengal, many Council-affiliated schools got a substantial degree of financial assistance (mostly in the form of dearness allowance to staff) from the state government, Council officials said, explaining why Calcutta had been picked for the meet.

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