Govt fee guideline draft confuses schools and parents, stirs hornet’s nest

Karnataka Education Department has notified the formula for school fee structure for private (unaided) schools in Karnataka, in accordance with Karnataka Educational Institutions (Regulation of Certain Fees and Donations) Rules, 1999.

While the rationalisation of the fee structure can benefit the parents—especially poor and middle class families, why are private schools opposing the structure? Citizen Matters brings you some clarity.

The Department of Education issued a notification on September 30th 2014, and invited the public and school managements to submit the objections before October 30th 2014. The deadline was extended later, the last date now being November 10.

School fee proposal demystified

  • Draft rule flouts the government’s own rules regarding minimum wages.RTE seats will not be paid on par with the school fee.
  • Overhead 30% has to cover all running cost, profit and loans.
  • Extra facilities can be included in the fee structure.
  • Salary indicated is minimum. Schools are free to pay more and charge more too.
  • Fee is not fixed – it can vary from case to case basis.
  • ESI, PF etc can be given to staff and included in the fee.
  • Development charge depends on the grades provided to the school based on the facilities that the school offers.
  • Development fee ranges from Rs 1,500 to 10,000.
  • Prospectus can cost maximum Rs 100.
  • Fee can be revised once in three years.
  • No money can be taken from RTE students.
  • No clarity on how the Department will keep tab on each school.

While in spirit, the new rules seem to be progressive, the language of the draft rules has caused confusion. Contrary to what schools and parents are interpreting, the government is only asking schools to use a standard basis for calculating the fee basis and not actually giving a fixed limit for fee.

The notification, however, does put a cap on the development fee to be collected by a school. The maximum amount that can be collected is Rs 10,000 per student. If implemented by all schools, it will definitely limit the profit margin of schools, however it does not mean there will not be enough profit.

‘Proposed fee structure is only indicative’

According to the notification, the salary of staff in the school per year is calculated, and 30% overhead will be added to the amount. Then, the total amount will be divided by the number of students per class, to get the fee payable.

The notification mentions minimum salary to be given to any teacher, ayah or attenders. However, the way the notification has been drafted makes people assume that the salary and net fee mentioned in the notification are final and binding. It also does not clearly mention whether any other extra expenses such as ESI, PF, running costs of the school, can be added as overall expense.

When Citizen Matters spoke to Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammad Mohsin, he clarified that the calculations in the draft notification were only samples, and the salary mentioned was only minimum salary that should be given to teachers or ayahs. He said that he was not against any school giving more salary based on the experience and calibre of the teacher, though schools have misunderstood the motive behind the school fee rationalisation.

He said that the 1995 rules where development fee allowed to be collected was Rs 600 has been revised to match the current standards. Mohsin heads the committee formed by the government on the wake of high court orders, to revise school fee structure.

The notification has not considered lower student-teacher ratio and different teachers for arts, sports and so on. Mohammad Mohsin, however, clarified that any school that employs extra teachers can charge extra accordingly. He said that the rule is only indicative and example, and the fee can vary from school to school. However, Citizen Matters did not see this indication anywhere in the draft notification.

Mohsin said that the schools that have contentions can come up with specific objections before November 10th 2014.

Sample fee calculation

Here goes a sample for unaided pre-primary schools that have LKG and UKG in Bengaluru area, registered under Karnataka Education Act 1983:

Conditions:

  • Student-teacher ratio: 1:25 max  
  • a teacher and an ayah (maid)
  • The teacher should have passed SSLC, PUC and should have recognised training for pre-primary. The help should have studied till SSLC.

Rs 2,000 minimum salary for a teacher in rural area!

Details

Amount

Monthly fees for two teachers: 2 x 13,600 x 12 months

Rs 3,26,400

Monthly fees for two ayahs: 2 x 5000 x 12 months

Rs 1,20,000

30% for other expenses

Rs 1,33,920

Total for 25 students

Rs 5,80,320/-

Per head for each student, per annum

Rs 11,500

Astonishingly, the same fee is reduced to Rs 6,900 per annum in Mysore and Hubli municipal areas, as the salaries of the teachers and ayahs are reduced to Rs 8,000 and Rs 3,000 respectively. The salaries of teachers in district level have been reduced to Rs 6,000 in the notification, thereby reducing the total fee to Rs 5,600.

The government notification (page 7) assumes that a teacher can be paid Rs 4,000 in a taluk level – less than the prescribed minimum wage for a domestic worker according to its own rules, that is, Rs 4,200!  

The assumed salary of a school teacher drops to Rs 2,000 in a rural area in the notification (page 8). And the ayah’s fee is Rs 2,000 per month in taluk level, while in the rural area it is a dismal Rs 1,000 per month – Rs 33 per day—far less than any government calculations of minimum wage.

When Citizen Matters sought clarification, Mohsin categorically denied that there was such a disparity and such a low minimum salary, even when the notification displayed on the Department website still contains the same. This only highlights the communication problem in the Department of Public Instruction and internal inconsistencies, even in such an important issue of publishing draft rules.

Qualification for teachers, extra facilities

While the student-teacher ratio is estimated at 40:1 for primary schools, this goes upto a maximum of 70:1 for high schools. A headteacher and one teacher with TCH qualification per class have been prescribed for classes upto 7th, while in high school, seven teachers with BEd qualification are required. Clerks and attendants can be employed in primary and high schools. Physical Education teachers should have a BPEd certificate.

In this case too, the minimum salary of the teachers reduces to Rs 4,000 in rural areas, which is way below minimum wage rules, and much lesser than the government primary school teachers’ salaries. Different type of primary schools—schools that have class 1-5 and 1-7—have different fee payable, that varies with the number of students and number of teachers.

For high school teachers, the notification has considered a minimum salary of Rs 17,675 in Bangalore, while in rural areas this reduces to Rs 6,000. The salary of head teachers is Rs 22,400 in Bangalore and Rs, 7000 in rural areas.

The notification says that a service register is a must for all employees in a school. Similarly maternity leave, sick leave and casual leaves should be given to teachers according to the standards. There should be Employee Staff Insurance (ESI) or medical facilities and Provident Fund (PF) provided to all employees. The notification encourages managements to provide extra facilities to staff.

Teachers’ salaries less than govt teachers’

Karnataka Pay Committee Report prepared in 2011 recommended the government to revise the minimum pay scale for government employees from Rs 4,800-7,275 to Rs 9,600-14,550, and to double the existing rate of increments.

This was accepted by then Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda in the budget, who promised to implement it from April 1, 2012. Now a freshly employed government primary school teacher with a TCH as qualification is paid a sum of Rs 18,900 in downtown areas, while those in Bangalore get 15% more as HRA. The teachers with a BEd get Rs 4,000 more.

Minimum facilities expected in a school

  • The building should be an RCC building, each kid should get around 6 sqft carpet area, minimum 360 sqft for each class.
  • There should be separate rooms— one for teachers, one for head teacher, one for office, one each for each class.
  • Enough light and ventilation in rooms, and fire fighting equipment too.
  • The building must have been built according to plan and bylaws.
  • The school should pass the Karnataka Schools towards Quality Education (KSQE) test.
  • Minimum two latrines for boys and girls, and should be proportionate to the number of kids.
  • Clean drinking water facility
  • Library, reading room and activity room
  • Facility for all kids to sit.
  • There should be teaching aids and play equipment in the school.
  • Playground
  • In primary and high schools, reading room should have minimum 500 books, maps, CDs, charts, space for kids to sit and read, a sports room and a laboratory of minimum 360 sqft.

These are minimum requirements in a school to get the top grade. If a school does not have all of these, the marks will likely to be deducted and the school downgraded.

When compared to this, the minimum salary mentioned by the government looks like a paltry sum, while the government says the qualification should be the same for those teachers. However, pay scales in private schools are comparatively more than government schools, for candidates with right education and experience. A recent job advertisement puts the salary of a high school teacher with two to five years experience in an upscale school between Rs 4.7 to 7 lakhs per annum, which translates into a minimum of Rs 39,000 per month.

Says Deepak Shenoy, a parent and finance expert: “The government itself pays its teachers Rs. 20K+ per month. How do they expect private schools to manage with less than that as fees? Plus, you have the extras of other teachers, school infra etc.” He believes the going is tough for schools who pay ‘government equivalent salaries to their teachers and keep a low student-teacher ratio.

What are the other fees that a school can collect?

Based on the infrastructure that the school has, a school is allowed to collect a development charge. This ranges from Rs 1,500 to Rs 10,000. Various infrastructure facilities that a school has are given various marks, and a school that gets highest marks can collect maximum development fee.

The government has specified certain infrastructural conditions for schools, depending on which the amount of development fee a school can collect is determined.

Tricky part in Bengaluru’s context is this condition: The school building should be built according to the plan and bylaws. Otherwise the school will lose 10 marks. This has the potential to reduce marks for many reputed schools, which might have expanded without permission.

The guideline draft stresses that the safety of the children is school’s responsibility. A school is allowed to collect extra fee from other students for other facilities that it provides, such as swimming pool, horse riding, sports, tours and so on, after the parents agree to it. However, the notification specifies that no fee can be collected from the students admitted under Right to Education act.

Madhuri Subbarao, a counsellor and activist, has a different view on the extra facilities by schools. She says, “I have seen schools that are managing very well with bare necessities, at the same time produce top notch children, not just in studies but all other spheres of life.” She feels children do not need many of the facilities that posh schools provide, but it is the parents who want many things that may or may not be relevant for their children.

The fees for non-teaching facilities are extra. Admission fee, reading room fee, sports fee, sports fund,  medical fee, laboratory fee, audiovisual fee and many other fees that existed in the old fee structure have been revised. This amounts to Rs 635 per year for a high school student, and Rs 360 for primary school students.

Is the fee structure applicable to all schools?

The decision by the government to prescribe school fee is in accordance with the order given by High Court of Karnataka on January 24th 2013. A committee headed by Mohammad Mohsin, Commissioner for Public Instructions, was constituted for this purpose, which drafted the rules.

In a similar case where Tamil Nadu government formulated similar rules, private schools with CBSE and ICSE syllabus went to Supreme Court, questioning the applicability of the rule. The SC ruled that the rules were applicable to all schools in the jurisdiction of the state.

With the same thing happening in Karnataka, the fee structure is applicable to all ICSE and CBSE schools. This is why many of the high end schools are apprehensive. Bengaluru alone has more than 2700 schools. The fee structure of all private schools will be affected by this move.

Putting a cap on profit margin?

On the whole, the draft rule appears to be putting a cap on the profit margin the schools can keep. Greedy schools that collect lakhs of rupees as development fund are reined in, and the schools that actually have good facilities, good student-teacher ratio and other facilities can cover their expenses and make profit.

However, Deepak Shenoy feels this is not acceptable. “I don’t think we should regulate school fees using metrics like “salaries plus 30% overhead.” Then we should regulate the salaries of private individuals (other than a lower cap). I could argue that salaries of any individual should not exceed expenses + 30% saving, using similar metrics,” he points out.

Banibrata Dutta, a parent and a techie, says that the process of rationalisation is a welcome move, but not in its present form. “It is clearly not well thought out.” he comments, adding that the subject is complex and needs a wider consultation and debate. “Education is a touchy subject. Depending on one’s inclination to total free-market-economy to total government control as one sees in socialistic setups, the answer can vary. I’d tend to think that the right and sustainable model may be somewhere in between,” he adds.

Draft rules need clarity

RTE fee less than actual fee

Currently the government pays a maximum of Rs 5,924 for pre-primary students and Rs 11,848 for the students of grade I, for RTE seats, irrespective of the school. Even when the new rule comes into effect, 25% of the seats will be paid only this amount as per Right to Education act.

With the poorly drafted notification with no clarity on many issues, the government has not only flouted its own rules of minimum wage, but also appears to be putting a cap on the salary of teachers officially. This is because nowhere does the notification mention that the salary is only minimum and schools can pay more and increase the fee accordingly. This has led to lot of confusion among schools and parents, who have shot off letters of objection en masse.

The draft rules are published in Kannada which many schools are not able to comprehend. Even those who can read Kannada find lack of clarity on many issues. Commissioner for Public Instruction himself was not aware of some clauses in the draft rule.

Seetha Ananthasivan, Trustee at KNA Foundation, that runs Prakriya Green Wisdom School, says the proposed fee structure is not sustainable for them, because, “We have a teacher-student ratio of 1:8, not including resource persons for dance and so on.” She was under the impression that the government had a fixed fee for all international schools.

Citizen Matters raised the issue of transparency, as there are said to be some schools in Tamil Nadu which collect money in cash to overcome the fee amount limitations, and pay teachers in cash. However, Mohsin claimed that the new structure will reduce corruption and black money flow in the school admissions, as it puts on record all expenses and puts a clear 30% margin, and the money taken by the parents will be on record.

This, again, depends on the final rules that come into force, and the clarity with which they are put forward. The draft does not have any indication that the fee structure given is only an example, even when Commissioner has claimed so. It remains to be seen whether the Education Department will go ahead with the same text with no clarity, or will add the clarifications and clauses in the final draft for everyone’s benefit.

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Shree D N
About Shree D N 74 Articles
Shree D N is an associate editor with Citizen Matters.

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