Recently parents have raised the issue regarding the need for regulation of fees at city private schools. What efforts the education department is taking in this direction?
We have received complaints from parents about private schools hiking fees unreasonably. After receiving the complaints and according to the order issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2013, a proposal for enforcing a fee regulatory mechanism has been drafted. The draft has been sent to the administration for its final nod. Once the proposal is approved, this system will be curbed. A meeting with the heads of city private school heads will also be organised soon on the issue.
There has also been a lot of hue and cry about sale of non-NCERT books, stationery and uniforms at private schools with parents alleging that schools are commercialising education. The education department had recently conducted inspection at 10 private schools. What else the department is planning to do in this regard?
We cannot enforce private schools to subscribe to NCERT prescribed books only. In a recent meeting with the heads of city private schools, we have instructed them to put up the lists of book on their websites before the commencement of the new academic session. We have specified that stationery items, atlases, dictionaries and others cannot be included in the list, and parents should not be coerced into buying books, stationery or uniforms from a specific vendor. Also, these items should not be sold inside the school premises and the schools cannot tie-up with private publishers and vendors for books and uniforms. According to the guidelines of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), schools are also required to form an academic committee in consultation with parents and all issues regarding sale of books, uniforms and others must be discussed with the parents.
Private school heads are, however, seeing this as an interference of the UT education department in their affairs.
These are some basic rules that have been set up, because there is a need for some regulation of private schools as well. The education department does not intend to interfere too much into these matters concerning private schools, but some ground rules have been laid. We want to stop commercialisation and profitability in sale of uniforms and books to the students. Schools still have the liberty to prescribe private books based on the NCERT curriculum. There are certain private schools in the city that have prescribed NCERT books only for the students.
On the other hand, city government schools that do prescribe NCERT books only are yet to receive some of the books. The NCERT-prescribed books for certain classes are not available. What action has been initiated to ensure delivery of books to the students?
The NCERT is a separate entity that does not function under the Chandigarh administration and we are required to place an order for the books with them by October every year. Owing to the huge orders placed for government schools, there has been a delay. But we have spoken with the NCERT director and the students are expected to get their books by May 15. The NCERT does provide soft copies of all prescribed books on their website that can be printed for the students. The UT education department is exploring the idea of tying up with NCERT and starting an exclusive store for production and sale of NCERT books at discounted rates. If this happens, we will be able to supply books to the city private schools also. To deal with the delay in publishing of the books, we are trying to introduce the concept of establishing book banks in schools. Once an academic session is over students, who wish to give away their books that are in a good condition, can donate their books to the school libraries. These additional books can help in dealing with the shortage of books.
The education department had stressed improvement of infrastructure in city government schools. But there are a lot of infrastructural challenges that the schools are facing – shortage of classrooms, playground spaces, mid-day meal kitchens and others. What is the department planning in this regard?
This year, we had decided that five new government schools would be set up by June 30. In January, the Government Model High School in Dhanas was inaugurated and four more schools are coming up in Manimajra Pocket No. 1, Manimajra Housing Complex, Sector 48 and Sector 49. These schools are nearing completion. Further, Rs 11 crore has been allotted for the construction of 62 additional classrooms in the city government schools. An amount of Rs 20 crore has also been sanctioned for the construction of five state-of-the-art sports complexes, which are also expected to near completion by the end of this year. Smart classrooms have also been set up across nine government schools. More smart classrooms will also be set up in the second phase of the project. The department has also recognised around 40 schools where the student-classroom ratio is higher than 45. A committee has been formed to look into the issue of shortage of classes and suggestions for construction of newer classrooms have also been put forward. A recommendation for provision of transport facilities for students has also been given to reduce the rush of students to certain schools. If students are provided with buses, they can be sent to other government schools in the neighboring sectors. We are starting with the schools with the worst SCR and eventually provide better infrastructure to these schools. As a matter of fact, many schools with high SCR are found to be in Manimajra. Once, the new government schools are set up in these areas, the rush of students will be diverted. We are also recognising schools that can run in double shifts to deal with the shortage of classroom spaces. There is no shortage of staff members in government schools though.
The department had also taken up the issue of unauthorised schools in the city. What is the status of the case?
We have sought a report from all these schools and are looking further into it. These schools had been asked to submit details regarding their affiliation and other criteria. Schools that do follow the basic norms laid down by the CBSE will only be allowed to continue functioning. The others will be shut down. But, the students studying in those schools will then have to be shifted to government schools and we working on a plan of action for the same.
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