Capitation fee is nothing but a price for selling education, the Supreme Court of India observed in a judgment almost three decades ago. It also held that the concept of “teaching shops” is contrary to the constitutional scheme and is wholly abhorrent to the Indian culture and heritage. “The state action in permitting capitation fee to be charged by state-recognized educational institutions is wholly arbitrary and as such violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.” While the judgment was in the context of the private medical colleges charging capitation fee, the private schools have devised various means and disguise to indulge in the practices which are illegal. Most of the private schools, if not all, do not provide a receipt against the payments and charge the school admission fee as per their whims. Parents have been all along complaining that they were made to pay the hefty admission fee. This year, in an apparent way to circumventing the law, most private schools charged the admission fee to be paid in “installments” every year till the completion of the studies in the particular institute or the one-time installment. Soon after assuming the charge, Justice (Retd) Muzaffar Hussain Attar, Chairman of Committee for Fixation and Regulation of Fee of Private Schools, underlined the need to streamline the fixation and regulation of fee by the private schools. The chairman also underscored the need for many decisions required to be taken to ensure that imparting education remains saintly duty and not end up being a commercial activity as activities by them in recent past amply allude to.
Outlining the future plans, the chairman has already restrained the management and owners of the private schools from “collecting admission fee” from the guardian of the children at the time of admission in their respective schools. Importantly also, the school managements were asked to payback to the same to the guardians if received from them.
The decision by the fee fixation committee asking the schools to return the amount is welcome and needs to be implemented by the official machinery.
Almost a month have passed, no school has so far returned the fee. There is a need that all the educational institutions are made to reveal on their official website of the institutions that no fee has been charged or if charged has been returned. Parents or guardians seem to be reluctant in coming forward and the government must ensure that such reluctance is not taken advantage of by these educational institutes.