Textbook con: Schools turn bullies, parents helpless

The start of the school term is always a harrowing experience for parents and kids alike, as they scramble to get everything they need for the new academic year. Textbooks and uniforms can be obtained across the city but most students are at the mercy of schools, which dominate the supply chain and charge exorbitantly. Warnings from the Education Dept and the various boards still go unheeded

With barely a week to go for the start of yet another academic year in city schools, students are rushing to buy their books , uniforms and shoes to be ready for their new term.  Most have as usual e bought their requirements from shops recommended by their institutions, although this is frowned upon by the government.  While the rules have always stopped schools from selling textbooks and the like to students, the Karnataka Education Institutions (Classification, Regulation and Prescription of Curricula) Amendment Rules 2018, which reinforced this warning, were notified only last week, barely a fortnight ahead of the schools reopening. In the process students have had little time to fight back when schools insisted as usual on them buying textbooks and uniforms from their chosen outlets, which in some cases turned out to be shockingly, hotel rooms with bouncers placed outside for security.  

Unhappy parents say these “outlets” charge a whopping 200 per cent more than the actual price of the books prescribed. “Some of us checked the prices using the same booklist , which was prescribed last year and found they cost Rs. 3,500 in book stores, but the school was charging Rs. 7,300 for them,” complained Ms Priya Nirmal, a parent of an ICSE school class V student in the city.

While she preferred not to mention her school name, parents of the Baldwin Girls’ High School, Richmond Road and Baldwin Co- Education Extension High School, R.R. Nagar, took  to the streets recently to protest against being sent to hotel rooms to buy books for their children. They accused teachers at the schools of collecting amounts ranging up to Rs. 12,000 from the students and directing them to collect the books from a hotel room. “This year, the schools have also chosen not to publish the book-list,  adding to our worries as they are opening soon,” said one parent , who took the initiative along with a few others to complain to the education department against Baldwins.

Mr  A.B. Suresh of the Karnataka Parents Association says the situation has worsened over the years with the education department failing to take action against the schools. “Even though the new rules notified by the government now demand a complete audit report from schools every year , the government should also have a system in place to track the financial data of the institutions over the years to check the authenticity of the numbers they produce,” he suggested.

Audit? That’s audacious
School managements have expectedly not taken kindly to the new notification of the Karnataka government, which among other things, has insisted that they publish audit reports in the public domain by December 31 every year.

Says Mr M. Srinivasan, president of the Managements of Independent CBSE Schools Association (MICSA), “We have been submitting reports to the CBSE over the years and are ready to do so to the state education department as well. But publishing the reports in public domain is not a good idea . Even a teacher would not like to reveal his/her salary to everyone.”

The ICSE and CBSE school managements now intend to take a delegation to  the new Education Minister as soon as he is appointed by the new coalition government in the state to protest the new rule.

Education expert, Preethi Vickram is not surprised by the managements’ response as she believes the new rule on audit reports could affect their competitiveness. “An institution is set up and built over the years with a lot of effort and making its working model public could affect its survival. However, the education department can intervene to lay down guidelines on the tuition fee and other fee,” she explains.  


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