Bill shocker to private schools’ privacy

The Manipur Private School (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2017, appears to be heading towards a bitter bickering between the private educational institutes and the government as was evident from the discussion programme convened on Saturday by the All Manipur Recognised Private Schools Welfare Association taking strong exception to the Bill’s provision that all existing private schools should get registered with due compliance with criteria like having a playground, garden, building and safety norms. Punishment for violation of the legislation is imprisonment for a term which may extend up to one year or maximum fine of Rs 1 lakh or both. It was on the expected line that the mandatory registration rule will not go down well with those individuals whose schools were established years back had been functioning with commendable success in terms of producing meritorious students in large number. As providing quality education to their wards is bounden duty, and in the backdrop of the well-known fact that almost all the government schools have failed to justify their existence, most families in Manipur look up to the private schools to properly mould their children and hope they become responsible citizens in future. Regardless of the comparatively high rate of fees levied by the private school runners these families have no alternatives other than the parents toiling harder to meet the expenses. Education in private schools is also not confined to the lessons taught in the classroom as the tough home assignments entrusted to the students and peer competition necessitate taking private tuitions before or after the schools eventually resulting in the parents having to double up their duties as transporters to and from the private tuition centres.
The private schools too are not free from facing pressure situation as unwanted elements frequently cause disturbances, such as planting of bombs inside or near school campuses in pursuit of monetary demands for reasons best known to the perpetrators. Moreover, there were instances of forcible shutting down of private schools for non-compliance to directives laid down by organisations that claim themselves as proponents of quality education but seldom initiates similar tough actions in case government schools could not perform their obligation of increasing cerebral competency of the students. Notwithstanding the objections that are certain to be raised, the government should not undermine the need to iron out differences, if any, by engaging the private schools operators in talks for smooth implementation of the Bill that aims at checking the tendency of commercialising school education and mainstreaming the tuition-oriented education system. Administrators/owners of established private schools cannot be expected to simply honour the Bill’s provision. While having proper classrooms, fire-fighting equipment, etc., will not be tough tasks for them, the only problem that these schools might encounter is conforming to the Bill’s provision on having own playground and garden, which for many of the existing private schools would be infeasible as there are significant numbers of schools in densely populated areas. Thus, the government might be constrained to amend some of the Bill’s provisions so as to ensure that private schools having the reputation of producing quality students do not cease totally on the ground of their inability to meet the non-academic guidelines. Along with enforcing tougher rules, the government will do no harm in case some provisions are inserted to check the private school owners from exploiting the teachers, who toil harder than their government school counterparts but get miserably low monthly salary.

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