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Tug of war between parents, private schools on fee increase

Staff Report
LAHORE: Another year of fee rise of private schools has once again irked parents, who have raised their
voice as the academic year started with a shock after receiving hefty school bills. However, the real
problem lies with the system and the regulations in place to check privately owned so-called elite
schools.
The private schools are now governed by the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and
Regulation) (Amendment) Ordinance 2017, after much hue and cry of middle-class parents who claimed
that because of the rising fee they have now been unable to afford schools. In 2015, parents took to the
streets all over Pakistan against the private schools, calling them a ‘mafia’. The government was pushed
to introduce legislation to establish a ceiling for private schools and a mechanism to check whether the
increase was justified.
According to the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment)
Ordinance 2017, privately-run schools had been allowed to increase their fees by 5 percent every year
and, in with permission of the government up to 8 percent. The schools charging less than Rs4,000 fee a
month were allowed to increase their fees up to this ceiling.
The ordinance further states that schools that were charging more than the stated amount i.e. Rs4,000,
could only increase the fee by 5 percent only by the permission of the District Education Authorities
(DEAs), who had the authority to reject the increase.
Despite this, it came to light after the schools opened that some schools went ahead and increased the
fee up to 25 percent without the approval of the DEA. After this, parents started registering their
disapproval and decided to start protest similar to that in 2015. The Punjab government constituted a
committee to listen to the aggrieved parents.
The committee decided to call the school management for a hearing and then decide the matter.
According to officials of the DEA, the meeting is scheduled to be held on September 8 and 9. The
provincial government has said that it will take action against all schools found guilty of not following
the law.
However, the real problem lies with the ordinance itself. The ordinance does not provide a clear
definition of reasonable. The question here is that is Rs30,000 or more a reasonable amount to charge
for a child’s education? This should be kept in mind that many private universities in the country charge
a similar amount per semester for a professional degree.

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