Budget private schools suffer because of government apathy

Sunday Guardian Live | 14 January 2017
Budget private schools suffer because of government apathy

Though enrollment in Budget Private Schools (BPS) has increased over the years, representation of such schools in the government's policies has largely been far from satisfactory. As a result, the interests of BPS have been neglected and millions of students studying in these schools have minimum hope for better facilities.
Explaining the need to include Budget Private Schools in policy making, Amit Chandra, a representative of the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), said, "We have approached the Ministry for Human Resource and Development (MHRD) to include Budget Private Schools in policy making. Until now, the policies have catered only to the needs of private and government institutions. Budget Private Schools have absolutely no say in the policy framework that affects them. But now we have hope for a better future, since the Ministry has been responsive to our demands and has taken cognizance of our cause."
Budget or affordable private schools are an educational alternative to government schools for low-income families. These schools are unaided by the government and charge fees as low as Rs 17,000 annually. Parents choose Budget Private Schools because of the perception that private schools provide higher quality education than government schools, and because these are primarily English-medium schools. One study in Andhra Pradesh found that APS enrollment of seven and eight-year-olds nearly doubled from 24% in 2002 to 44% in 2009. Budget Private Schools are popular in countries like India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Among the major issues faced by Budget Private Schools in India are autonomy of schools, return of inspector raj, RTE (Right to Education) reimbursement, no detention policy and teachers' eligibility. Kulbhushan Sharma, president, NISA, said, "Representation of elite private schools and government schools are always ensured while making education policies. But budget private schools which have more than 90% stake in the education sector are kept away from this process. This is the reason rules go against BPS most of the times."

Chandra explained, "Under RTE, the Central government funds states to reimburse fee for students from economically weaker sections, but in most cases, money does not reach the schools. There is a misappropriation of funds at the state level, but the parents get an impression that there is something wrong at the school level. If the students are given vouchers, it will bring more transparency and choice to the parents with an added benefit of eliminating one layer, hence causing lesser leakages in the system."

According to NISA, the RTE prescribes the schools to renew their licenses every three years which is forcing the return of Inspector Raj in this sector. The NISA represents 55,000 schools from 23 state associations which cater to the needs of 22 million children .