The Bengal government has taken a step towards setting up a commission that will determine the fees to be collected by private schools from students.
The state cabinet on Monday approved the West Bengal Private Schools Regulatory Bill, 2022, which seeks to set up such a commission, education minister Bratya Basu said. The bill will be tabled in the Assembly during the ongoing session.
The commission will also hear complaints regarding collection of excess fees by private schools.
The commission will be headed by a retired high court judge, who will be appointed by the state government.
“The scope of work of the commission will be to determine the fee to be collected by the private schools and to recommend the same to
the state government and to hear complaints with regard to collection of excess fees by private schools,” minister Bratya Basu said in a text message.
“The commission will make recommendations and take such other action with the approval of the state government in the educational interest of students. The state government will place the bill before the Assembly during the ongoing session.”
A senior official in the education department said the commission would fix the fee structures for the different categories of private schools, based on their expenditure statements and the infrastructure they provide.
“The commission could seek expenditure statements for three years or five years and infrastructure details from each school. Then a benchmarking will be done. The schools will be placed in different categories because the fee structure for the La Martiniere schools cannot be applicable to a private school in a district. The commission will come up with a graded fee structure,” the official said.
The commission will hold a hearing if it receives a complaint that a private school is charging fees beyond what has been fixed by the panel.
“The decision of the commission, post-hearing, will be forwarded to the education department and a copy sent to the school concerned,” the official said.
Another official said Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan governments have appointed regulatory authorities to fix the
fee structures of private schools.
“The commission will follow those models. It (the commission for schools) will be partly modelled on the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission, which was established in 2017 to fix charges for private hospitals, among other things,” he said.
The commission will have the commissioner of school education, director of the state council of education research and training (SCERT), and presidents of the state primary, secondary and higher secondary education authorities as members.
“Besides, two eminent educationists, to be nominated by the education minister, and a representative each of the CBSE and the ISCE council will be members of the commission. The panel may co-opt any other person as member with the approval of the state government,” said an official in the education department.
Education minister Basu had told the Assembly in June last year that the state government would set up a commission to look into complaints against private schools about fee hikes, on the lines of the health commission.
Calcutta High Court had on June 16 said the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission’s multiple advisories and an order to fix charges for private hospitals are “unconstitutional” and not binding on the petitioner, Apollo Multispeciality Hospitals.