With parent groups protesting exorbitant fee hikes, which have become an almost annual occurrence, many private schools have found a new way around this thorny issue by making some subjects elective and charging extra for them.
Managements have made the fees for extracurricular activities, such as karate, drawing and art, and computer lab, optional for students, when earlier it was included in the annual fees.
Parents alleged that this was being done in addition to the fees being raised.
The move has not gone down well with parents who are urging the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to intervene and ask schools to reverse this decision.
A parent whose child studies in J.P. Nagar said that from the coming academic year, the school has structured fees under three optional subheads, which include language lab fees, abacus classes, and smart classes.
“Last year the annual fee structure was ₹80,000. This year, it has been hiked to ₹90,000. The school management claims that the hike is less than 15%, but we have to pay an additional ₹15,000 for these three subheads which were included as part of the annual fee for the 2018-2019 academic year,” she said.
Reena G., a parent of a class 10 student who attends a well-known private school in the city, said that they are unwilling to complain owing to fear that managements will discriminate against their children.
“The department should conduct surprise visits and ensure that they book schools that are making many extracurricular fees optional. Schools are doing this because they know that we will pay the fees and sign up for these classes as we do not want our child to be left out,” she said.
School managements, too, acknowledge that they have used this method, claiming that they “have been left with no other option”.
D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary, Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, said they had advised the school managements to take this route as the fee structure prescribed by the department does not account for all these activities.
“We have told the school managements that all the third-party services, such as smart classes, swimming, horse riding and yoga, can be made optional and separate from the annual tuition fee. We did this because schools provide a lot of facilities and the expenditure incurred is not accounted for by the department,” he said.
Education department officials acknowledged that this was a “fraudulent” practice adopted by school managements.
S.R. Umashankar, Principal Secretary of the Department, stated that parents can submit complaints with the District Education Regulatory Authority to get their grievances heard. “If found guilty, the schools will have to pay a penalty and also refund the excess fees,” he added.
Department officials say that parents can register complaints along with receipts if managements have hiked fees arbitrarily. Even CBSE and ICSE schools will have to fall in line as the Karnataka Education Act 1983 was amended to bring them under the ambit of the State government in matters pertaining to fee structure.