February 25, 2013

Schools can’t run like shops, says HC

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday warned that private schools across the country could soon become “teaching shops”, completely commercialising education if nursery classes were not brought under Right to Education Act. Directing the Centre to consider an amendment to the RTE Act, a bench comprising chief justice D Murugesan and justice VK Jain said: “Importance of education is applicable to every child right from admission to nursery classes till it passes eighth standard. There is an obligation on the state to provide free and compulsory education to children. Educational institutions cannot be allowed to run as teaching shops. There should be equal opportunity for each child.”

The court observation came on a plea by Ashok Aggarwal of NGO social jurist, which challenged the nursery admission norms, saying that under the garb of the points system, many schools were accepting heavy donations by providing seats in the management quota.

“Though we have held that Right to Education Act is not applicable to nursery schools, in our opinion there cannot be any different yardstick to be adopted for education to children up to the age of 14 years. The state should consider a necessary amendment to the RTE Act so that children seeking admission to nursery schools should also be able avail its benefits,” the court said.

The HC said section 13 of the Act, which prohibited screening procedure at the school entry level (class one), will become meaningless if it is allowed during admission to nursery classes.

During the hearing, the court had said that government had no authority give unbridled powers to schools to frame their own admission criterion. “Only draw of lots that is a random selection which excludes any kind of classification is to be followed and other such as sibling, first child, alumni, parents, profession, etc, are against the RTE Act which prohibited any kind of discrimination,” the court had said.

February 14, 2013

Karnataka HC: All children in private school must get free education

In an order having far-reaching consequences, the Karnataka High Court has held that all students aged between six and 14 in private schools are eligible for free education and not just those from poor families gaining admission under a 25 per cent quota fixed by the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act.

In an interim order on a batch of petitions on Tuesday, Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh said Article 21A of the Constitution guaranteed free and compulsory education to all children in that age group.

The State government should reimburse the fees charged by private schools, he ruled. To arrive at a reasonable fee for reimbursement, , the Education Department should organise a seminar with the stakeholders on March 10.

“It is for the State and Central governments to work out the fee that has to be paid by children in the age group 6-14 and to see that proper arrangements are made to indemnify the institutions concerned on behalf of the children,” the judge said.

While some petitions claimed free education under Article 21A, others complained about the demand made by private schools for a fee in excess of the amount prescribed under the Karnataka Education Act. Private institutions had filed petitions questioning certain provisions in the Right to Education Act and the rules.

As for admissions made in 2012-13, the court directed the private institutions not to prevent students who are agitating over the fee structure from attending classes or tests. They should approach the State government seeking reimbursement of the fee to be paid by these students.

The court asked the Education Department to discuss at the seminar what would be the reasonable fees with representatives of private institutions, associations of teachers and parents, the Indian Council of Secondary Education and the Central Board of Secondary Education. The authorities should discuss the complaints of teachers that unaided and minority institutions were not paying pay scales fixed.

Based on the outcome of the deliberations, Justice Ramesh said, the Union and the State governments can take policy decisions on reimbursement of fee and earmark funds. The Court adjourned the hearing till April 16 and directed the two governments to submit a report based on the outcome of the seminar.

February 13, 2013

Public school turns out to be fake; owner arrested

Hyderabad: Will the real DPS please stand up? After Rajeev Gandhi International Airport police arrested the managing partner of a ‘fake’ school located at Shamshabad on Tuesday, questions are being raised about how many such fake schools are thriving in the city.

According to officials at the District Education Office, Rangareddy, the management of the school in question, named Delhi Public School (DPS), had not submitted the required documents before opening the school last year and the incident came to light now following complaints lodged by some parents.

Officials reported that around 253 such unrecognized schools existed across the city which have not submitted proper documents like lease deed, infrastructure particulars, traffic NOC etc. Moreover, officials added that in some cases, school managements even submit fake documents in a bid to cash in on the booming business of education here. “Last month, we booked cases against six city schools which had submitted fake traffic NOCs to us,” said A Subba Reddy, district education officer, Hyderabad.

Officials, however,said there were no immediate plans to crackdown on all the unrecognized schools. The only action being taken against them is barring its students to appear for the class X board examinations. These schools, however, manage the issue by enrolling their students as private candidates for the examination, but some face a bleak future. The arrested in the case of DPS Shamshabad has been identified as Syed Farooq Hussain of Bahadurpura. In June 2012, Farooq along with Subhash Chandra Bose and MA Nazeeb of Bahadurpura opened two schools under the name ‘Delhi Public School’ in Shamshabad and Attapur.

According to police, several parents enrolled their students at both these schools thinking that they are branches of popular Delhi Public School chain. In the school’s Shamshabad branch, currently 140 students are enrolled and at Attapur branch there are over 200 students, police said.

It was not immediately clear what would be the fate of these students, but officials said other than getting admitted in a recognized school there was no way out. For the last four months, the accused reportedly stopped paying salaries to teachers and they stopped taking classes. On February 8, the accused locked the school at Shamshabad and switched off their phones, they also stopped visiting the Attapur branch.

Suspecting foul play, one of the parents, Ashok God, lodged a complaint with the RGI Airport police against the school management on February 9. “After the complaint was lodged, we cross-checked about the school with the Mandal Education Officer (MEO) and then we realised that the school does not have recognition from any authorized body. The MEO told us that they have issued three notices to the school management for operating the institution without obtaining proper permission from the government,” RGI Airport SI M Kasi Viswanath said.

Based on the complaint, police booked a case under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC against the three managing partners of the school. Police said the accused had collected hefty amounts from the parents at the time of admissions. Acting on a specific alert, police arrested one of the accused, Syed from his house in Bahadurpura on Tuesday. During the interrogation, Syed told police that it was his associate Bose’s idea to use the popular brand name Delhi Public School to attract parents. He was produced before the court and remanded in judicial custody. A man hunt has been launched to nab the other accused.

Times of India | Hyderabad | 13th February, 2013 | Page2

February 7, 2013

State to regulate fee in private schools

Hyderabad: The state government has decided to regulate the fee structure in private schools from the coming academic year (2013-14).

According to minister for secondary education K. Parthasarathy, the government is in the process of putting in place a fee regulatory mechanism for private schools along the lines of private professional colleges before the new academic year starts in June.

Speaking to reporters at the Secretariat, Parthasarathy said the government had been receiving several complaints from parents about schools resorting to unjustifiable fee hikes at the start of every academic year.

Failed to regulate fee, mantri admits
Admitting that the government had failed to regulate fees in private schools despite issuing several orders in this regard since 2009, minister for secondary education K. Parthasarathy said officials were studying earlier orders to plug the loopholes and to identify what went wrong in regulating fees in private schools, especially when the government had successfully regulated fees in professional colleges by constituting the Admissions and Fee Regulatory Committee with retired judges for the purpose.

YSR had constituted a committee in 2009 to regulate fees in private schools after parents and students had taken to the streets to protest indiscriminate fee hikes by various schools. The committee had come out with several recommendations to regulate fees and the government had issued orders incorporating these recommendations in the same year.

However, the schools had challenged the orders in the AP High Court and had obtained a stay. The governement got the stay order removed in 2010 but is yet to take any steps about the fee hikes.

February 4, 2013

Parents toil for kids’ admissions

Hyderabad: With admission season in full swing in top private schools, parents are frantically trying their luck in multiple institutes. Parents looking to get their kids into top-class schools for the academic year 2013-14 have lamented the tedious process involved and rising expendiature.

“I had spent nearly Rs 10,000 just on application forms of various schools with each institutes charging Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 for per application form,” said a city parent who did not wish to be named, fearing that it may jeopardise his ward’s chances of getting a seat.

“At some well-known schools such as Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and P Obul Reddy School, we were not even allowed to enter the campus as the officials told us they had already received around 6,000 applications for just 60 seats,” said C Prasad, another city parent who started scouting schools as early as September last year.

Prasad went on to elaborate another problem faced by many parents - varying admission schedules followed by city schools. He explained that he had spent at least Rs 50,000 in caution deposits at various schools, as a back-up in case his child did not get into his preferred choice, Bhavan’s which had its dates scheduled later than the rest.

The sky-high pre-admission expenditure has only added to the burden with the fees at popular schools going through the roof. Sources said that in schools like Meridian, Future Kids and Rockwell International, the fees could range from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.

Insiders said that in the initial stages of admission, they charge anything between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 for which a receipt for around Rs 5,000 is given under ‘caution deposit’ and the rest is under ‘development fund’ for which no receipt is given.

Parents said that a streamlined or centralised process for the top 10 or 20 schools in the city would make the process much easier. “Our anxiety levels have shot up drastically since October when we started looking for admission,” said Niranjana Prabhu, a parent and resident of Begumpet. “We spent late nights researching schools online and discussing with other parents. My husband also had to take a few days off from work only for this. It is a very taxing process,” she added.

Times of India | Hyderabad | 4th February 2013 | Page 2

February 1, 2013

Private schools go on advertisement spree in city

Hyderabad: Jack of all trades seems to be a passé, if the latest advertisements of city schools aretobebelieved, a master of all trades is what they can make out of every child.

With a sharp increase in the number of international andcorporateschoolsin the city in the past three years, the fierce competition among these institutes has now overtaken the advertisement space in thecity, andin a bidfor the ‘bestholistic education’ tag, schools are now shelling out big bucks for publicity. Insiders in the advertising field revealed that these schools are now willing to invest as much asRs10lakh to Rs 15 lakh per month for long periods to catch the eye of the parents and kids. Surprisingly, the same schools were reluctant to spend even Rs 1 lakh per month on outdoor hoardings and adstillthree years ago.

“Schools are constantly trying to prove why they are better than the rest. Hence, they are going ahead with advertisement propaganda about facilities they offer and how they encourage the child’s creativity etc,” said Kakoli Chakrabarty, academic executive officer at RequelfordInternational School atRampally, which has a special team of officials to take care of advertisement and publicity. She further said at least 10 new international and corporate schools have come up in the city in the past couple of years. “Faced with such a stiff competition, advertising has become highly essential,” she added. Something on the lines of ‘Mathematician + Musician’ seems to be the mantra that all schools are using to grab as many eyeballs as possible.Itisimpossible to miss the larger-than-life hoardings on every major street, with smiling kids posing with trophies or juggling a testtube and a football.

The taglines revolve around several variants of phrases like ‘Teaching leaders of tomorrow’, ‘Encouraging curiosity’ to ‘Where children learn to be winners’, and ‘The school that makes a difference’ etc. Some advertisements also give a list of facilities offered by these schools like residential, swimming pool, science lab, AC classes, school bus etc. The theme of these ads is only a response to popular demand. Officials of internationalschoolsin thecity reported that one of the most frequently asked questions by parents is ‘Do you have a swimming pool?’ followed by queries for other state-of-the-art amenities. “All ads now strive to show the balance between Einstein and Tendulkar and the various facilities offered for the convenience of busy working parents,” said Fawad Ahmed, senior account executive at a city advertising agency here. The cut throat competition among schoolshas got advertising companies rejoicing. “There has been a 100% increase in the advertisement business from schools in the past three years, especially during February toApril,” said Surendra Nath, chief operating officer of Prakash Arts, an outdoor advertising in thecity.

Times of India | Hyderabad | 1st February, 2013 | Page 4