Shreya Roy Chowdhury & Ambika Pandit
Govt Says It Wants Transparency In Financial Dealings Of Unaided Schools
The draft bill for amending Delhi School Education Act and Rules 1973 is still a work in progress. Although the government is unlikely to table it in the budget session, it is considering changes that will introduce “checks and balances“ requiring private, unaided schools to post their financial statements on their websites.The Directorate of Education (DoE) will also publish the returns schools file with it every year.
“This provision is meant to create checks and balances for transparency in the financial dealings of schools,“ a source said. But the proposal will raise the hackles of schools. In 2010, Central Information Commission had di rected DoE to “upload on its website all the information contained in Annexure-II of the annual returns filed till date by private, unaided schools along with the list of schools which have defaulted in filing the said returns.“
DoE was also directed to ensure that such information was posted by August 31 every year from 2011 onwards. With regard to aided schools, the order said DoE should upload details of their budgetary allocation and management.
But public schools moved Delhi high court against this order and managed to secure a stay in January , 2011.
The school associations have already rejected the draft as it appears on the DoE website. The feedback document from their umbrella organization, Action Committee for Unaided Recognized Private Schools, says, “The autonomy and constitutional rights of unaided recognized schools will be fully compromised and destroyed resulting in complete demoralization in the school education system.“ Quoting from Supreme Court judgments from 2002, they state: “The SC has recognized the right of the private schools to have maximum autonomy in the admissions as also to fix fee structure.“ The school panel says punishing members of the school management with imprisonment up to seven years for violations is too harsh a step that will “expose private schools to continuous harassment and unwarranted scrutiny … The provision for a minimum punishment of three years in all cases bears no logical relation to the purpose of the Act, except to achieve the purpose of intimidating or coercing the schools to toe the directions of the government.“
Right-to-education activists, though, find the bill too weak. RTE Forum’s Ambarish Rai and lawyer-activists Ashok Agarwal and Khagesh Jha say a fee review committee that acts only on complaints from parents and doesn’t regulate fee until a hike is enforced, is useless.They want the committee to be headed by a retired judge, not a bureaucrat.
Defending the government’s stand, a source said, “The Tamil Nadu government fixed fees for all schools but a study of the model shows that there are bureaucratic bottlenecks in the process. This results in inconvenience to parents as fee revisions take time.The Delhi government doesn’t want to interfere with the autonomy of the public schooling system.“ They also say Delhi has three categories of private schools–on commercial land, on land leased at a concessional rate from the government, and those aided by the government–so a common fee structure is not workable. “We have created a regulatory mechanism with teeth.The school can appeal but the final decision of the committee will be binding.“