After two years of the pandemic, when classes were mostly held online and government regulated school fee by announcing rebates, the academic year of 2022-23 has hit the parents hard. While schools across the board have hiked their fees in the range of 10%-15%, school van fee and private tuition fees have also shot up. Parents are also burdened with the rising costs of uniforms, shoes, bags, notebooks and other associated items. From Lower Kindergarten (LKG) to second PUC or twelfth grade, fees hike at private institutions has not spared any parents.
This has translated into a 20%-40% drop in admission rates in private schools this academic year in urban areas. “At a private school in the city, ₹74,800 is being demanded for admission to LKG. What kind of special training is required at that level? Schools say that they have to hike fees as maintenance costs have gone up drastically. But parents especially in the lower middle class, are finding it really hard to pay such huge amounts,” said Mullahalli Suri, President Parent’s Association. Another parent mentioned that with no regulatory guidelines, a private PU College have also indiscriminately hiked their fees, by over 50%.
Government public schools have reported an increase in admissions in the last three years. Both school managements and parents’ association agree that many parents opted to take their kids out of private schools as they could not afford the fee structure. “Leave aside donation, parents could not even afford the tuition fees at these schools. This is why many of us shifted our children to neighbourhood government schools this time,” said Nirmala, a resident of Banashankari.
On the other hand, private schools and van drivers say that even though they do not want to burden parents, fee hikes are inevitable as they are also compelled to shell out extra money in every sector. “Most schools have kept the hike within 15% and there are only a few elite schools which have gone beyond this limit. As there has been no hike for the past two years, school fee structure we have today is unable to catch up with inflation. It is important to note that average private schools take less money when compared with the government’s expenditure per child in public schools and still provide a better quality of education,“ said D. Shashikumar, General Secretary, Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools.
He argued a variety of reasons, including inflation and falling incomes had contributed to drop in admission rates at private schools. Factors like the collapse of small-scale industries during the pandemic, migrants who did not return to the cities, mushrooming of schools, and obvious economic restraints, have contributed to the fall in private school admission rates. “While State board admissions have dropped by over 40 percent, Central boards saw a fall of 20%. Nursery admissions took the greatest hit of 60 to 70%.”
Although an official decision is yet to be taken by Karnataka Union of School and Light Motor Vehicle Drivers Association, its president Shanmugam, said a hike was inevitable and a decision will be taken by June.
“The price of fuel, road tax and insurance have all increased now. During the pandemic, for two years van drivers had no means of earning a livelihood. The government pays no attention to our demands. We have no other option even though we understand parents’ plight,” he said.
However, at many schools, the van fee has already been hiked up to 35-40%. While some parents have cut down on this expense by dropping and picking up their children (as there are parents working from home), those who cannot do that say that they have no choice. “Before pandemic, I used to pay ₹600 for my daughter’s van fees. Now they are asking ₹1000. I have no other option but to pay as I cannot make her walk four kilometers one way, everyday,” said Manjula, a domestic worker in Yelahanka.