The ongoing drive of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government to establish control over private English-medium schools under ICSE and CBSE boards appears to be running into resistance from a large number of these institutions.
On Sunday, officers of many schools said they would not respond to the questionnaire that the 13-member committee began sending last Friday to 350-odd English-medium schools affiliated to the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
The government set up the committee to devise ways of regulating the functioning of private schools. It intends to collect information from them about their functioning, and most importantly, the rates of fees they charge from students. The exercise is supposed to be completed by January.
But school bosses said the questionnaire amounted to unnecessary interference on the government's part in their day-to-day functioning.
'We will not oppose the government questionnaire if we find the exercise will contribute to the betterment of the schools. But we have reasons to believe that the government is trying to act as an obstacle to the functioning of our institutions,' said a principal of a reputed ICSE school in south Calcutta, which receives no government aid whatsoever.
About 120 fully-unaided private schools across Calcutta and also in the nearby districts under the CISCE have decided to raise the issue ' interference of the Bengal government in their functioning ' at their association's annual meeting at Udhagamandalam next week.
'It is a matter of concern if we are forced to accept unnecessary interference of the government, despite the fact that we do not avail of any kind of assistance from it. We are definitely going to discuss the matter elaborately at our association meeting in Udhagamandalam, slated between November 25 and 28,' asserted Keya Sinha, principal of Vivekananda Mission School, an unaided ICSE institution of Behala.
She is also the officiating president of the Bengal chapter of the national-level body of principals of unaided ICSE schools of the country.
The schools are also hesitant to react to the questionnaire because, according to them, the government has not informed them officially about the formation of the committee.
'We have come to know through media reports that they (the government) are sending us the questionnaire. If the government is so keen on collecting the data from us, it should have informed us officially about the exercise,' said the principal of another unaided English-medium school in the Burrabazar area, preferring anonymity.
While setting up the committee, the government had warned the schools of withdrawing no-objection certificates if they did not send their replies to the questionnaire within a month of receiving it.
Since the schools are averse to responding to the questionnaire, the government, too, is doubtful about the progress of the exercise.
'We cannot deny that we have to be very careful before taking a hard stand against any of these schools, considering the future of their students, who are innocent,' admitted Ardhendu Sekhar Biswas, commissioner of the state school education department and head of the 13-member committee.