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Tuition fee draft on CM table

Bikash Bhavan: The school education department has submitted to chief minister Mamata Banerjee the first draft of a banded fee structure for private schools depending on their location, facilities and other parameters.

After Mamata Banerjee approves the draft, it will be placed before the cabinet, education minister Partha Chatterjee said on Friday.

The new fee structure could take effect in 2019.

Schools have been classified into multiple categories with fee bands that were decided on the basis of location, the number of years an institution has been in existence, its student intake, teacher-student ratio, salaries paid to teaching and non-teaching staff, condition of buildings and classrooms, quality of facilities like library, laboratory and games, and also the educational qualifications of teachers.

Schools will be empowered to raise tuition and other fees once a year. But to what extent this can be done will be finalised after a meeting of the government with representatives of the schools.

This meeting is likely to be held if and when Mamata gives her nod to the draft.

"No school will be allowed to hike fees in the middle of the session," an official said. "Provisions have been incorporated into the draft to enable aggrieved parents to air their grievances."

According to minister Chatterjee, some private schools have been charging higher fees relative to the standard of facilities offered.

"The school education department has completed the process of preparing the draft of the proposed fee structure for private schools in the state. Some private schools charge excess fees from students. We need to stop this practice. But before the suggested fees gets implemented, a bill will have to be passed in the Assembly," he said.

For the new structure to be implemented next year, a bill will have to be passed in the Assembly in the next budget session.

Under the existing rules, the government does not have a say in fixing fees.

Although there has been no official resistance yet, several school heads have said in private that they are opposed to the government deciding what private educational institutions should be charging.

Some principals questioned the feasibility of the formula that has been used by the government to fix the fee bands.

A sub-committee of the "self-regulatory commission" that Mamata had set up impromptu in May 2107 has prepared the draft.

"One cannot label a private school good or bad only on the basis of some data," the principal of an ICSE school said.

"A school may be located far from the city proper, but it can have some very good teachers. The overall success rate of students of a school located within the city could be lower than a school on the outskirts. A school might look shabby but it can boast distinguished alumni. It will be unfair to put this school in a lower bracket, based on how it looks."

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