The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has softened its stand in the face-off with Christian missionary schools and Anglo-Indian institutions, but the move has yielded little.
After proposing to bring the minority institutions under the purview of a new legislation — drawn up to exercise more control over all categories of aided and unaided private schools — the government has sweetened the pill by offering a set of sops.
“All private schools, including the minority institutions, will be included in the new legislation, which has been formulated to ensure better and smoother functioning of these institutions. But the schools having valid minority status certificates from the Centre will be offered certain relaxations,” said S. Mahapatra, joint secretary, school education department.
Following complaints that English-medium schools teaching the ICSE and CBSE curricula are charging high tuition and other fees but maintaining low academic standards, the government decided to bring all the aided and unaided private institutions under the purview of a new piece of legislation.
Some of the major objectives behind the move were fee rationalisation and parents’ participation in school administration (see box).
But with the move triggering stiff opposition from the minority schools, the government has decided to steer clear of their internal administration by offering “special concessions”— no interference in admission and recruitment policies and fee structures.
These “special concessions” have, however, done little to assuage the concerns of the Christian missionary schools and Anglo-Indian institutions.
“These provisions should not be applied to us. The Christian missionaries have offered quality and all-round education for more than two-and-a-half centuries all over Bengal,” explained Herod Mullick, general secretary of the Bangiya Christiya Pariseba, an organisation of representatives of churches and people of Christian community.
But the government has already set the ball rolling to make the legislation effective from the next academic year.
A draft of the provisions, to be incorporated in the proposed legislation, has already been circulated among the representatives of the private schools. The government has invited opinion from the school authorities on the draft legislation.
It includes the proposal of school mapping, which means if the authorities of any existing school want to set up a new branch, the government will have a say on the selection of the site.
“The missionaries have never run a school for making commercial gains. The government cannot dictate the choice of the site for a new school,” said Mullick.
The schools have also refused to consult the government on revision of tuition and other fees and hold elections for managing committees.
“We have examined the opinions of the schools run by the missionaries. But we cannot accept their proposal on keeping the minority schools totally out of the proposed legislation,” said a government official.
But the Christian missionary schools and Anglo-Indian institutions have hardened their stand.
“We will oppose the legislation and have made our stand clear to the government,” said the head of a Christian missionary school.