Private Schools: To be or not to be - By Prof Mathew C Ninan















By Prof Mathew C Ninan

Jun 19: Schools are closed now. Children must be protected from the corona pandemic at any cost. All of us hope to see children back in schools at the earliest. After all what’s a School without children? But the schools need to survive to educate children, post-corona. Our teachers also need to survive till then and thereafter. We should have this larger picture in our mind when talking about schools, during this interregnum.

Private schools again are in the eye of the storm, for collecting fees from the parents. In fact the Government has allowed schools to collect fees from the ‘well-to-do’ parents, exerting no compulsion on any parent. The fee thus collected is to be utilised to pay the salaries of their teachers. Who defines the ‘well-to-do’ parents? How many will pay if they are given a choice not to pay? How will schools manage when their incomes plummet in such a scenario? There are a few questions that beg for an answer.

The Prime Minister announced that salaries should not be stopped and lay-offs should not happen. They are laudable considerations, no doubt. But the State Govt has made things difficult by giving the option to parents. It went a step further and said parents who are aggrieved can complain to the authorities. This is almost an invitation not to pay and if necessary harass the schools.

Now how will schools pay salaries to their teaching and non-teaching staff, and meet all their maintenance costs? A school needs money to keep it going, whether it’s open or closed. There are many bills, taxes and statutory obligations to take care of. They have their ongoing infrastructural projects and their costs. How will the schools manage them? Who will understand the plight of the hapless schools? The government proposed that tuition fees should not be raised for the ensuing academic year. The private schools promptly responded by freezing the proposed raise and reverted to the last year’s fees. This is a reasonable move.

The government also has asked schools not to insist on lump sum payments on quarterly, half-yearly and yearly basis, and not charge any extra fees for online teaching. These are all reasonable and acceptable.

We do empathize with the plight of parents who are economically vulnerable in a situation of this kind. Schools could be asked to give indigent parents concessions or scholarships, or leniency in the payment schedule. Govt may well insist that no student’s name shall be removed from the rolls of a school for non-payment of fees, and parents should be given a grace period of six or ten months to pay in instalments. That would be fair enough.

There will be parents who can afford to pay their children’s school fees. They consider it their primary obligation and duty. They know that the schools have their obligations not only to pay the staff, but also to meet all their overheads. Sadly, such parents may not be a large proportion.

Yet another consequence of the govt order will be that when the school reopens after a while, the fee arrears of parents who don’t pay now will accumulate making it a burden for them to pay. Parents are likely to clamour for concessions and exemptions and the like. The govt may again kow-tow to them, and play the saviour at the expense of the Schools. It will be all right if the government makes good this loss of fee income. Will the government do it?

Private schools are not shown in a good light in situations of this kind. A prejudice is created in the minds of the public about private schools. This is very unfair. Private schools play a significant role in the field of education. There might be a few here and there which are run on profit-motive. That does not mean that all the schools are exploiters. Let’s not paint all of them with the same brush.

Another attitude needs to be examined. People who often make a noise about fees and private schools are those with a socialist mind-set in which education must come free. They want all the benefits of the private school on the government school budget. They want the best of both the worlds. This is the hypocrisy behind the criticism of the private schools at every turn. They forget that quality comes with a price. Private schools are self-financing institutions and they subsist on the fees they charge from the parents. Sans fees, they will be bankrupt.

Education is the responsibility of the State, as per our Constitution. RTE (Right to Free and Compulsory Education) Act is anchored on this rationale. However, the State alone is incapable of fulfilling this responsibility, for reasons best known. That this yawning gap is filled by the private schools has to be acknowledged, by the public and the government. The govt has to show this magnanimity first.

If the Government treats private schools with due respect as fellow-travellers in achieving the objectives of good quality school education, the public perception also will change. Private schools do play a significant role in nation-building. This is a well-established and incontrovertible fact. Therefore, a symbiotic relationship between the two is desirable in the interest of quality education.

Prof Mathew C Ninan is the director of Little Rock Institute for Educational Leadership, Udupi




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Comment on this article

  • Hansel Ralph Furtado, Mangalore/ Bombay

    Tue, Jul 07 2020

    Prof Ninan known for his Profound knowledge and his article undoubtedly echoes his views under prevailing crisis.Hope soon things will improve and schools reopen with new normal norms by the end of September.
    Kudos to Prof Ninan for writing an eye opener analysis.7480

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Melroy C.F.Fernandes, Mangalore

    Sat, Jun 20 2020

    There is no such thing as a free lunch – Milton Friedman.

    Firstly and most importantly, the parents and consumers are absolutely right in haggling with the private school authorities either to reduce fees or defer payments. But, that does not mean the govt. should poke its dirty nose unless someone is forcefully made to pay the fees at gunpoint. The govt. should keep its dirty fingers out of telling private citizens how to run their lives. The govt. anyway ruins everything it gets into.

    Politicians in govt. talk about “free” and “ subsidies” because they do not pay for it from their pockets but they will steal from the same citizens in the form of tax(and you have no option but to pay the tax otherwise you will be jailed) and then dole out crumbs while stealing hefty commissions on the “bread” sold.

    More “free’’, more “subsidies”, more “waiving off loans” means higher taxes, higher inflation , higher prices that ultimately result in keeping the citizen poorer and worse off. The only person who gains is the politician!

    As the saying in Hindi goes,” Jahan ka sarkar ho vyapari, vahan ka praja ho bhikari”.

    The schools fees are a matter between the parents and the schools; i.e: consumer and the service provider. If the consumer finds a school that offers them fee- less education, they will all rush to that school/s and the schools charging fees will have to bend their backs.
    That is what a free-market system is. Consumer is King. Nobody is forcing the parents who do not want to pay fees or cannot pay the fees to go to a school that is charging fees!

    The Govt. has only 3 roles as elucidated by Adam Smith and Chanakya : to protect the people from outside aggression(protect the borders); to protect people from inside aggressive(the use of force in dealings between citizens) and to provide justice(police and judiciary); to provide infrastructure for common use of all citizens where private enterprise may not find profitable or economical to do so

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  • Geetha bhat, Place name:santhoor

    Sat, Jun 20 2020

    Online class is better than sending children to school

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Ganesh Rao, Place name:Mundkur

    Sat, Jun 20 2020

    Online class is better than sending children to school.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Halima Khan, Ramnagaram

    Wed, Jun 24 2020

    Online classes are not better than the health of a child.My child is suffering a lot because of these classes.She is in Gr5.She is suffering from severe headache when she uses phone or a tab.If she loses her eyesight who will take the responsibility. Whther schooĺ r government .It is better to stop online classes for small grade childrens.They are the future of our country.If they are healthy & survive they can develop our country. I request the government to please kindly oblige & think.

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  • Ganesh Rao, Place name:Mundkur

    Sat, Jun 20 2020

    Online class is better than sending children to school.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Prakash Rebello, Saligrama/ Canberra

    Sat, Jun 20 2020

    Great insights, this pandemic has exposed the heart and soul of every Govt, Industry, Institution, Company, Family, , Community, Religion and People. For example. Some Families were delighted by isolation as they got more time to reflect their busy life, while some were unhappy as they couldn’t get along together. We pray that the parents and locals make the right decisions during this testing times.

    DisAgree [1] Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Prakash Rebello, Canberra/Saligrama

    Sat, Jun 20 2020

    Great insights, this pandemic has exposed the heart and soul of every Govt, Industries, Institutions, Companies, Families, Communities, Religion and People. For example. Some Families were delighted by isolation as they got more time to reflect their busy life, while some were unhappy as they couldn’t get along together. We pray that the parents and locals make the right decisions!

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Grace Noronha, MANGALORE

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    A well written Article by Professor Mathew Ninan.
    Most of the schools, except for a few black sheep are managed with no extraordinary profit motive. The fee collected is utilized for infrastructural needs and payment of salaries of staff as per government scales. The private schools are agreeable to abide by the directives of the government not to raise the fees but the option given for postponement of payment may not go well with them. Other than the parents who cannot afford to pay, there is every chance of misusing this provision by many of the affluent parents too. It is high time that the government comes to the aid of the schools for their survival.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse


    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    I would give dues to our teachers especially my primary school teachers for what 1+1 = 2 they thought me i still use it in my life. I would support teachers regarding this issue. I have worked in school and i know Salaries of teachers and staff is the largest budget allocation . the teachers and staff also have their daily expenses. i would like to remind you all that most teachers and staff are women and they have also expenses at home. The same teachers children need to be paid fees in schools they study. so whats wrong in paying the fees. The State Government has no emotions and have given to vote bank politics.

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  • Bharathi u, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    I agree with you sir. Hope the Govt understands the concerns and problems faced by the private schools.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Priyanka Rajesh, MANGALORE

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Very well written sir! The article clearly explains the difficulty faced by teachers and school management. We teachers will never deprive our students of quality education, be it online or offline but it's the government' s responsibilty to support us and understand our genuine concerns . When schools have broken down the annual fee into three installments, parents must also be sensitive to pay this nominal amount for the future of their children.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Geetha Shashidhar, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    You have always been our pride Ninan Sir!.
    Absolutely encompassing article.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ivan Frank, MANGALURU

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    I agree with Prof. Ninan. The private schools are not aided by the Government and the fees collected from the students is the only income. If the fees are not paid they may be able to survive for a couple of months after which the staff will have to forego their salaries till the situation turns normal. That could be month's.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • prof.Randolf Jacob, Kerala.Resident,Bangalore.

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    All that is stated here are facts.Are the teachers and people running these schools to starve.The govt.must come up with a reasonable solution.

    DisAgree Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vivek, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Kudos Prof Ninan, very well said. I was reading an online post where a group of students helped out a teacher who was selling bananas to make ends meet. Such gestures by students is the only reward any teacher would expect from students. But how many of them look at the present situation from a teacher's eyes? Very few because the attitude of many parents towards teachers is nowadays is not of "Guru" but of "servent" since they have paid the fees.
    I know of a residential school in Mangalore where couple of teachers after having fed their own little kids and put them to sleep at 9 pm and spent time in the hostel clearing doubts till 11pm during the recently concluded 10th cbse board exams. That is the level of commitment teachers show towards the education of children. There may be many such inspiring stories all around us but we as parents tend to close our eyes and ears when the time comes for us to step up. I'm sure all schools would be sympathetic and would lend a supporting hand if asked for extra time & or more installments. But we are judgemental and since schools historically have never responded aggressively they become easy targets and are called unimaginable names.
    I, as an individual, too am going through a tough time financially but my Children's school has reached out to me by starting online classes so that my children don't suffer academically. I salute the school and it's teachers. As a phrase in English goes "this too shall pass...."
    Once again kudos to Prof Ninan for a beautifully penned article.

    DisAgree Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Robin, Byndoor

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    This is one nice article from a responsible Academic Administrator need to be given a honest attention by the government. One sided TUGHLAQ orders of Governments won't serve the purpose.

    Other points to be pondered here are - Like schools, parents are also in the problem of getting their survival income. They need to manage their house first then the fees of schools.

    Private organizations were able to give good service

    - because they can recruit eligible talents as their work force
    - because they can make a fear of work or else the job is not secure in the minds of their flock.
    - because they are capable of suppressing any dissents or ideas that could shake the integrity of the workforce.
    - because they can ensure only ONE can manage the institution as long as he respire enough oxygen forbidding any other candid person to take up the power mantle.
    - because they can recognize / highlight the talents of Teaching Staff but blacking out the talents of Non-teaching coolies.

    The Private Banks that also showed their excellence in managing them in similar fashion that minted money were nationalized by then INTELLIGENT politicians. Hope I don't want to name .

    Some sort of patience is required for all sectors till the normalcy is reached. Just because of Institution survival health risk can't be compromised.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Robert Dsouza, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Well written article Sir. Congratulations.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jd, Mlr

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    1. All staff should agree for a pay cut till schools resume. 2. Govt should fund the private mgmt to some extent 3. Parents should pay some nominal amount towards infrastructural cost. All this till academics resume. Most of all, private management should give up the profit desire for a while. Parents have budgeted for their children education, they would want to complete studies as per their planned capacity. They continue to pay taxes, bills and have desisted from savings, some have lost the jobs too. So let us hear the parents version.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Pramila D'Souza, Derebail,Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Very true Sir! Hope the government understands the real issues and concerns of the private schools. Also the parent fraternity realizes the same and takes correct decisions regarding payment of school fees.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Pramila D'Souza, Derebail,Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Very true Sir! Hope the government understands the real issues and concerns of the private schools. Also the parent fraternity realizes the same and takes correct decisions regarding payment of school fees.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Gerald, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Well it was good fact
    But I have seen a unique thing last year that most parents paid a lot of fees to tuition classes external and there were no exams no body asked for all these institutions and parents were quite.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dharmaraj Rao, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Dear Sir
    Started my day reading your article. it is very well written. I totally agree with your thoughts. The take on hypocrisy of socialist minds is bang on! There is always a differentiating factor. Quality and value cannot be price constant. Quality comes with a price.
    Since I know Mathew Sir personally, I am sure no student will be deprived of good education whether the fees is paid or not.
    These are hard testing times. Govt. is doing its best to cope up. But there is always scope for betterment. Lets hope Govt. Provides suitable assistance to both schools and parents to ensure better future for the children.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rao, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    We do really agree that there are good private schools who impart quality education at a reasonable fees specially in our twin districts.

    We also hear that there are private schools who treat imparting education as a business and mint money and also exploit teachers.

    Points raised by the learned Prof Mathew C Ninan are valid. But we are in a situation which needs to be dealt in carefully. We should not only talk of problems faced but also come up with some workable solution suitable to both schools and parents. This can be discussed with Govt and solutions agreed at. Govt also should not take autocratic steps which will damage institutions built over years required for the future of students.

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Shuaib Shukur, Kota (Karnataka)

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Rightly said in this article, Sir.
    Govt needs to play a role to support schools and parents in this tough time of pandemic which has affected the entire world. Striking the right balance between the two should be the right approach.
    Private schools cannot be neglected since many such schools have shaped brilliant future of kids in the past and continue to do so.
    I can proudly say - I am a little rocker. LRIS is a school with value education.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dinesh, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Now a days education become corporate business houses like minting money. They charge Rs. 4,250 for every on roll student as admission fee and they have approx. 3300 students enrolled and Rs.15000 per student for the new students. Just calculate how much money they get at once...? apart from this they hike tuition fees 10 to 12% every year where as our salaries are not hiked for many years. School management enjoy their business by looting parents hard earned money. How unjust it is?

    DisAgree [6] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Evans Alex, Falnir Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Well said.Hope the govt.and the well minded parrnts and general public recognise these factsand take necessary corrective strps

    DisAgree [2] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dia, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Good article sir ! I have a point fees is the exact matter to be spoken present becz without school how to pay full fees is the doubt of parents at present atleast collect only the fee instead of taking full payment we know teachers need to be paid their salaries and it is the need also but full payment is the question atleast for the months when no school is running .

    DisAgree Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Shahnaz Khayyum, Udupi

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    A well written article Sir.
    I have been debating on these lines.
    Another issue I have been observing is that when I asked the reason of non payments of fees by many parents, they said that they feel that govt may give them some leeway and bring in some kind of monetary concession. They feel they might not be able to cash out on such dolements.

    Other things that I have observed is that the public is forcing Govt not to start schools.
    Hypothetical question- For how long?.. 1 month, 2 months or for year maybe?

    As parents we must become proactive..
    Many children die wen they cross roads. So do we ask them to stop crossing the roads? Or do we as parents teach them to cross the road safely.
    Life with COVID-19 is not going to be easy. We need to educate ourselves and family. We need to move forward bravely with caution.
    Keeping your head covered in sand like an ostrich.
    Schools have a huge responsibility now. They need to innovate, test and try new methods and must have a paradigm shift in thier methodlogy of teaching as well as maintaining school premises. It wont be a easy task. Its an uphill battle Sir.. All the best.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    E-Schooling is good but it misses the Human Touch ...

    DisAgree [8] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Anit, Mlore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    Please don't give ur opinion abt anything... Coz u just start fire on every issue nd the real problem and issues get diverted.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Alwin, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    It is the duty of the government to impart education then all private school can be taken over by the Government. The school have become business establishments .Earlier school were indulged in such activities. When there's education to all with equality and government funding there will be more social development and inequality in the society will go. Now school s are competing with one another . The money here also public collection,let government may fix fees and give quantity education to all

    DisAgree [6] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vishal, Puttur

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    I agree with Prof. Ninan that education is the responsibility of the State.

    However, private schools essentially do not fill that gap as argued!! If they were filling that gap there would have been schools all over for all, especially the poor.

    Private schools only cater to the needs and fancy of the lower and upper middle class section. They are basically entrepreneurs.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Santosh Bennet VAS, MANGALORE

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    We do agree, I am a product of an excellent Jesuit institution., private with reasonable fees and education par excellence.

    That said, what about the hundreds of private schools and colleges, many run by Politicians and ex bureaucrats, on purely commercial basis. ...? They charge exorbitant tuition fees, capitation fees, donations etc. etc. I am sure they are flush with funds and can run their establishments , just like they would do their hospitals or other business ventures. No doubt these cater to the rich so parents can still pay.

    It is the Catholic missionary private run schools that give quality education which will suffer from these skewed government regulations, the effect of which will jeopardise the academics of the students. Most of these are run on no profit - no loss basis. They cater to the aspirations of the middle class Indian who can ill afford high tuition fees, neither are they happy with the state run schools. Aided schools too are affected.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse

  • Imtiaz Ahmed, Mangalore

    Fri, Jun 19 2020

    If fees for few months is not collected then management will not
    go bankrupt. What has hapoend to the profits made in the earlier years. Owners buy big properties and expensive cars.

    DisAgree [25] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

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Title: Private Schools: To be or not to be - <i>By Prof Mathew C Ninan</i>

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