Last week government imposed a ban on capitation fee or donation charged by private schools on admission. In an order Principal Secretary, School Education Department said no private school or person while admitting a child shall collect any admission fee from any child or his or her parents or guardians.
The order has been made under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and its section 13 provides for action including cancelling recognition of schools.
It is not the case that the private have been deprived of their due in lieu of education and facilities they offer. The order specifically mentions that School Fee Fixation Committee mandated to regulate the fee structure in private schools has already ordered that private schools shall only charge tuition fee, annual fee, transport fee, voluntary special purpose fee, or any other fee.
Any other fee is by no means the capitation fees as it stands depreciated by the highest court of the country. There is a fine difference between reasonable fees and capitation fee. There is no denial
that majority of the unaided institutions cannot be compelled to charge the same fees as is charged in the government institutions for the simple reason that they have to meet the cost of imparting education from their own resources and the main source can only be the fees collected from the students. However, any kind of commercialization of education should not be allowed and no reason of collecting exorbitant amount in the name of capitation fee or even other fees should be allowed.
The courts and statutory provisions of various education related laws clearly and unambiguously spell out the offence of collecting capitation fees and punishment for the same. Ever since the government made the order, some private schools, If not all, have tried to circumvent it. As has been pointed out in various reports through various mediums, some private schools have started to charge ten to fifteen thousand rupees as annual fee for a time period for a few years. This practice needs to be nipped in the bud. The government needs to implement the law. After all, “law is not a brooding omnipresence in the sky but an operational art in society.”
The capitation fee issue is not just about educational institution managements. It comprises a broad ecosystem having many stakeholders. The private schools should not act as violators while parents need to come forward while the government shall act in the manner as would ensure the practice is curbed for all times to come.