The National Council is in the process of coming up with a set of recommendations for the framing of guidelines for private schools. One of the main issues is rising private school fees, which is not only bothering the Council but also parents across the country.
The issue raises the question if the state is allowed to regulate the fees or income of a private institution.
While the debate of price control occurs globally, it is generally agreed by economists that such restrictions should be avoided because the objectives are usually not achieved.
The Council has argued that since the Constitution guarantees the right to access to education until class X, private school fees must be regulated so that those from lower income groups can also opt for private schools.
However, if that is the case, then we should only have public schools.
The problem here is not the private school fees. The question is why some have to opt for private schools despite the increasing fees.
The problem stems from a lack of seats in public schools and apparently better quality of education in the private schools.
Therefore, the right to education, and that means a quality education until class X, must be provided by public schools first. This means enough intake capacity, sufficient facilities, and adequately qualified, paid and motivated teachers.
The fees charged by private schools should be left to the market to decide. If the quality of education in a private school is exceptional, people will pay whatever the price. Some private schools will be motivated to provide additional facilities to those available in the public ones. The government must not stifle the growth of private schools that are genuinely interested in providing high quality education through their income.
If the quality of education in a private school is poor, and there are enough alternatives including public schools available, then it will lose students and be forced to improve.
Government must intervene to ensure that the private schools don’t collude to uniformly raise their prices. Government must also interfere to ensure that private schools are hiring qualified teachers and that a basic level of facilities and other required amenities are provided because education is a public good.
It must also ensure that private schools provide education that either meets or exceeds the quality expectations of the government and society.
Leave the private fees alone and concentrate on addressing the problems of our public schools.