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Fee, pay rein on schools

In a move aimed at regulating the functioning of English-medium schools, the state government on Wednesday began an exercise to categorise ICSE and CBSE schools in three grades.

The gradation will be on the basis of the tuition and other fees charged by the institutions from the students, their performance, and the quality of the facilities provided.

All ICSE and CBSE schools in the state will be included in the exercise, even if they do not take government aid. Sixty-seven missionary schools avail of government assistance.

This attempt to regulate the functioning of self-financed English-medium schools is unprecedented.

A 12-member committee had recently been set up by the government to look into complaints by guardians and teachers that many ICSE and CBSE schools were providing poor-quality education against exorbitant fees. The panel's first meeting was held at Bikash Bhavan on Wednesday.

The committee has been entrusted with the responsibility of collecting information on the fees charged by the ICSE and CBSE schools, and suggesting the maximum amount that students of each class can be asked to pay.

It was decided at the meeting that the schools would be assigned A, A+ and A++ grades. Fees, standard of education, infrastructure facilities, co-curricular activities offered and academic record in the board as well as annual examinations are some factors that will determine the grade of a school.

'The government aims to set benchmarks for each grade of school,' said A.S. Biswas, chairman of the committee and commissioner, school education department.

The schools, according to the official, will not be allowed to increase tuition and other fees at will, as is the case now.

'The committee is working on ways to limit the maximum fee hike for each category of schools,' he asserted.

The committee will also recommend how to ensure that students of a school and their guardians are not taken for a ride and the teachers and non-teaching staff are provided proper service conditions and retirement benefits.

'We have been receiving complaints that schools are charging exorbitant fees but not providing adequate facilities. Several schools lack proper libraries, laboratories, playing fields and gymnasiums,' Biswas stated.

Citing an example of unfair treatment of teachers, another panel member said the authorities of a school, charging Rs 1,500 per month from students as tuition fees, paid teachers with postgraduate degrees a monthly salary of Rs 3,000.

The panel comprises government representatives, principals of schools, officials of the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations and the Central Board of Secondary Education.

It is scheduled to meet again on August 29, when it will decide on the questionnaires to be sent to schools.

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