Parents across Bengaluru are forced to pay over Rs 2 lakh as LKG and UKG course fee.
Every parent desires that their child have the best among the range of choices available; whether it is clothes, healthcare, self-development or education. There is no room for compromise with quality. But in the private schools of Bengaluru, costs as high as Rs 2.24 lakh for a year’s kindergarten schooling are forcing parents to rethink their investments. Sarah Fazal reports.
Pricey kindergarten education is a reality across India and more so in Bengaluru. Even Bollywood did not refrain itself from covering this plight of parents and a recent movie tried to highlight the hardships parents face to have their wards educated in prestigious private institutions.
The average course fee for an engineering degree is approximately Rs 2.24 lakh for the entire course. This is also the annual fee for certain kindergarten courses in Bengaluru. But even though parents have expressed disappointment over it, often complaining that schools are looting money from them in the name of education, they are unwilling to admit their wards outside of this ‘prestigious’ group of institutions. Whether proximity is a factor or simply more facilities, parents struggle to deposit the fee required for LKG and UKG students in the interest of their wards.
Adeeb Farouk, the parent of a 4-year-old LKG student said, “I feel we paid much lesser to complete our professional degrees in comparison to what we will end up paying in the first 3 years of our child’s schooling.”
Latha (name changed), whose 4-year-old studies in Baldwin Girls’ High School, said, “The women in my entire family including three of my siblings and I are all former students of Baldwin. To see how the education cost has skyrocketed over the years is disappointing. I pay Rs 10,000 for books for my daughter who is in 7th grade and my toddler’s annual fee is in lakhs. With all my three children studying in this school, we have to go through a lot of hardships to pay the fees.”
Four year old Umar’s mother, Shazia (name changed) who enrolled her son in the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School said, “I think the fee structure of Rs 2.02 lakh is not justified. The fee is increased by 15 to 20 percent every academic year. This is definitely not in line with changing economic conditions. We do not earn a similar increment in our salaries annually. So, eventually we are forced to compromise on other aspects to provide for our child.”
Even students feel the burden their parents have to bear for their education. A former student of Baldwin Girls’ High School said, “Education today has become a branded business of sorts. With age and time, the education industry has become a competitive arena where there is a definite hype of admissions, courses, compulsory tuition centres and exorbitant fees. Getting into a good school is the start of the rat race. This financial burden will only burn a bigger hole in our pockets in the next 10-12 years.” But despite this, lines for admission continue to become longer. Parents say that they do not want their wards to miss out on anything in an increasingly competitive world and they are compelled to pay the exorbitant fee being charged by private institutions in the interest of the child’s future.
Teachers divided on course fee
A section of teachers, however, find themselves on the other side of the age old adage: “It’s worth every penny. You cannot put a price on your child’s education.” They argue that providing quality education today is an expensive affair and increasing expenses and advanced models justify the fee being charged by their respective schools.
A teacher from Baldwins Girls’ High School said on condition of anonymity that good education demands a certain price. “By good education we are talking about accessibility to the campus; facilities like a large playground, laboratories, libraries, smart class rooms with audio-visual learning, etc. The best quality in material and classes cannot come without a cost. Let’s be realistic. If parents want a certain standard of education for their children, they must be willing to bear its expenses.”
But there is also a group of teachers who sympathise with parents having to shell out lakhs to educate their children. A former teacher of Bishop Cottons Girls’ School said, “The quality of education is not like what it was a decade ago. It is now more of a business. The fee structure breakup in schools is unethical. There is absolutely no justification for what is being charged and it is not at all practical.”
Online petition to regulate fees
Despite the rising demand for quality education, periodic fee hikes haven’t gone down well with most parents. A recent petition initiated by the Karnataka School Parents Association has received tremendous support online. The memorandum demanding amendment of the RTE Act by formulating a mechanism to regulate school fees has already received over 32,500 signatures.
The petition addressed to both the State and the Centre has sought government intervention to curb frequent fee hikes across private schools by constituting a committee to limit profiteering activities of educational institutes and formulating policies to regulate fee hikes. The petition claims that despite a government mandate demanding schools to take all steps in forming a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), parents are not being involved in discussions related to fee structuring. The Association argues that it is a failure on part of the government in not being able to ensure a working PTA in every school.
JuveriaShabbi, one of the petitioners, said, “A few parents including me tried to meet the principal and talk about the fee structure. After making us wait for over an hour the principal refused to address the issue. I ask, as middle class people how can we afford a 15 percent increase every year? Why should we change our children’s school? We want the best for them but it does not mean we should be looted.”
The author is a member of The Newscart, a Bengaluru based media start-up.