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Age Debate: Is the Fee Regulation Act pro-schools & anti-parents

AGE CORRESPONDENT
Published : May 27, 2016, 5:57 am IST
Updated : May 27, 2016, 5:57 am IST

Even though the state government passed the Fee Regulation Act to regulate fee hike in private schools three years ago, the law has so far proved to be ineffective.

Avisha Kulkarni
 Avisha Kulkarni

Even though the state government passed the Fee Regulation Act to regulate fee hike in private schools three years ago, the law has so far proved to be ineffective. In fact, some experts are of the opinion that the law actually favours the school management and parents do not have any remedies available to them.

The Asian Age spoke with two experienced campaigners in the education sector and both gave their views and elaborated on the Fee Regulation Act and the Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act.

Advocate Avisha Kulkarni, a parent who struggled for nine years to bring the school in which her child studied to task for demanding capitation fees and hiking fees indiscriminately, said that the Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act (PCFA) is better than the Fee Regulation Act (FRA) due to various factors.

“FRA is a weak Act and has loopholes that school managements are exploiting by nominating only those parents to the PTA who support the school’s suggestions for fee hikes.,” she said.

“Further, the Act stipulates that only those parents who are members of the executive PTA committee can lodge complaints against the fee hike with the deputy director of education (DDE), which due to the above reason seldom happens. Thus the Act is not effective and also dangerous for the parents.

“I feel that the complaint procedure under FRA is an eyewash as the DDE conducts a hearing on receipt of a complaint from the parent.

“He hears both the complainant and the school management and after being satisfied that the fee hike is not justified, issues orders to roll back the hike. But as DDE does not have any powers to enforce his orders, schools seldom oblige. As a result of this I feel the Act is a toothless law aimed at allowing school managements to continue their exploitation.

“In light of this problem with FRA, I find PCFA to be a better law. It is very clear about the punishment and the police is empowered to act upon complaints. On production of evidence the local police has to lodge an FIR against the school management and put them behind bars immediately. While the law has been in existence since the past 28 years, lack of will on the part of the administration to implement it stringently has allowed managements to continue with their wayward ways.

“I support PCFA as I have seen its effectiveness through personal experience.

“Managements have been wary of the Act and have toed the line whenever they have been warned of the PCFA being invoked against them. Hence, I feel that the parents should unite and demand strict implementation of the Act to curb the high-handedness and arbitrary actions of the schools.”

$‘FRA is weak, has loopholes. PCFA is better in various ways’

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Basanti Roy is former secretary of Mumbai division of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) and an advocate against commercialisation of education.

“Going by the Acts, I feel both the FRA and PCFA are very strong Acts and cover almost all types of corrupt practices that school managements resort to,” she said. “Though they include indiscriminate fee hikes and collection of capitation fees, lack of will to implement the laws stringently on the part of the administration has proved both laws to be ineffective.

“Under FRA, participation of parents in decision-making is restricted to one parent per standard. It means there can be only one parent for class VI regardless of the number of divisions. It’s the same for other standards too. The Act has a similar stipulation for teachers but the principal and a management representative tilt the scales in favour of the school management and they manage to get their proposal to hike fees passed unopposed as parents are outnumbered. Hence the very clauses of the Act meant to safeguard the interests of parents is used against them, but it is not the end of the road for the aggrieved parents.

“The parent representatives on the executive committee can take recourse in the form of complaining to the DDE. The DDE is vested with many powers and in the event of his orders not being honoured by school managements, he can use his discretionary and statutory powers to penalise the schools. The punishments include refusal to renew the No Objection Certificate which schools have to get issued every year and is a prerequisite for the continuation of operations of all schools in the state.

“The FRA is a strong Act but its pursuit is tedious and lack of will on the part of the administration makes it weak and allows school managements to go scot-free.

“The PCFA is a strong Act as it authorises the police to initiate immediate criminal action against erring school managements. But since its enactment 28 years back there have been almost no instances of it being implemented. The reasons for the failure of PCFA can be enumerated as follows: Parents are averse to invoking PCFA against school managements as the capitation fees are collected in the name of refundable deposits. After the child passes out, schools chide parents for demanding a refund and as the child has finished schooling parents prefer not to take recourse in the law.

“In both laws, if there is a sincere and concerted effort by the authorities to implement them in spirit and principle then school managements will have a tough time and it will be impossible for them to exploit the parents and victimise their children. However, if parents unite and start a statewide campaign for their rights, it would not come as a surprise if the government is forced to implement both the laws stringently.”

$‘FRA and PCFA are strong acts, lack of will holds them back’

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