Individual schools can decide on their own on additional concession 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

The Private School Association of Bhutan (PSAB) has decided to offer a concession of 15 percent on second term tuition fee in all the private schools if the school closure continues. The second term fee is usually collected in July.

Along with the public schools, all the private schools have remained closed since March 6 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and classes are conducted online. With the schools closed, there was confusion on whether fees should be paid or not among parents and schools.

However, the PSAB decided to collect full tuition fee for day scholar students for the first term, reasoning that all schools overhead expenses including salaries for teachers, administration and support staff come from the fees.

Although most parents have already paid the fees for the first term (January to June), there were others who have not paid the full amount for the first term.

The PSAB decided to collect the full fees, as this would not be fair on parents who have already paid.

It was also decided that for boarding students, schools would make certain adjustments in the fees, as some of the boarding services were not availed due to school closure. The adjustment, however, will depend on individual schools’ fee structure and overhead expenses.

PSAB’s secretary general Tshering Dorji said that since the government has indicated through the media that private schools should take their own stand and come up with the decision, proprietors during a meeting on June 3 decided on the concession.

The meeting took place following the confusion on the subject of whether fees should be paid for online learning services offered in private school, according to the letter issued by the association.

Education ministry was supposed to conduct an assessment in private schools on the implementation of Education in Emergency and was supposed to give directives on payment of fees based on the evaluation.

Despite the assessment which showed teachers were actively involved in engaging students through online education, followed protocols of online education and provided continuous service, the ministry decided not to intervene.

Tshering Dorji claimed that they learnt about government’s decision only through the media and decided to take the decision on the concession.

However, depending on the individual schools, the concession can go beyond 15 percent if the parents are economically affected by the Covid-19 directly, especially in the tourism sector.

“The parents can put up to schools and schools would address the fee issue with an amicable solution, as discussed in the meeting,” Tshering Dorji said. “But there is no possibility to discuss or provide concession for the first term, as the government has also paid fees for government sponsored students in higher secondary schools.”

Although there was no logic calculation applied to the decision to provide 15 percent concession, Tshering Dorji said it was mainly to ensure that the schools meet teachers’ salary and retain their staff.

There are 21 privates higher secondary schools, 17 primary and middle secondary schools with total students of 10,480, 718 teachers, and about 272 non-teaching staff.

Meanwhile, the many parents were not in favour of the concession and expressed that the 50 percent would be reasonable considering they have to pay the teachers.

Many parents Kuensel talked to shared that although online education was conducted, it was the parents that had to monitor, teach and attend to the children.

A parent said not all the parents that enrol children in private schools are wealthy and are also affected by the Covid-19 and depending on the Druk Gyalpo’s relief kidu in the current situation. 

Another parent expressed that parents bear internet expenditure and not schools.

“Will the schools adjust and support students’ data charges if we pay 15 percent concession fees?” a civil servant said. “The basis for considering 15 percent concession is also not clear in the PSAB’s letter.”

Many said while they understand the plight of private schools, they should also understand parents’ difficulties.

“We know some of the private schools have made their staff apply for kidu. Given the fact that they received loan deferment and interest waiver, it is unreasonable to ask for the full fee,” a private employee said.

Some of the parents also said the PSAB could have consulted with parents on the concession. 

However, a few of the parents agreed that the concession of 15 percent was justifiable.