School fee regulation ordinance raises concern over govt’s intent

Punjab Government, last Saturday, gave its nod to promulgate the ordinance for regulating the fee of private unaided schools across the State. The decision was taken in the meeting of the Council of Ministers chaired by the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Several state-based organisations were pitching over the government to stop the autocracy of private school managements for past few years and while the Ordinance stands passed by the government, its effects are yet to be witnessed.

Punjab school fee regulation
Members of the Punjab Parents Association burn an effigy of school managements in Amritsar on Sunday. Photo credit: Tribune India

The Punjab Parents Association (PPA) has welcomed the decision, but termed it a ‘politically motivated move’. PPA had been pushing over the government to stop the autocracy of private school managements. Last month, PPA had met CM Badal and handed over a memorandum to him. CM had assured PPA of passing a legislation to check the fee structure of private institutions.

The Punjab Regulation of Fees of Unaided Education Institutions Ordinance, 2016 has been put in place to check the irregularities done by private school managements. After the meeting, CMO Spokesperson said the Education department had forwarded a proposal to constitute an authority/ mechanism to regulate the fees of unaided schools in the State and the decision taken by CM is the outcome to it.

As the decision to pass the ordinance was announced, various state-based organisations gave mixed reviews. The PPA members expressed happiness with the move and burnt the effigy of ‘School Mafia’. However, PPA President MK Sharma said the intent behind the decision can itself be a political one given the elections are due to commence anytime in the State. Once the Election ‘Code of Conduct’ comes into effect, the government will not be able to convert the ordinance into an Act and it is yet to see if the government can turn this into Act or not. If the government does not pass the Act, we will have to wait for the next government, Sharma said. The protest will continue till the Act comes into force, he added.

PPA President said the Act was supposed to be passed in the monsoon session itself, however, paving a way to it in December is nothing but a pure political move. Additionally, we are yet to know the key aspects this Ordinance will be dealing with.

On one hand, the quality of education being served at the government-run schools is constantly deteriorating, the parents are left with no option but to send their wards to private schools. The private school managements, on the other hand, have been imposing regular hikes in the fee structure. PPA, along with other organisations have been standing alongside the parent to tackle the issue and the passing of this Ordinance comes as a ‘wake-up’ notion for school managements. However, as PPA President said the key aspects of the Ordinance are yet to be known, it is clear that the government has not included higher educational institutions under it.

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