You will have seen reports in the media about the closure of private schools across the Punjab on Tuesday and Wednesday (8-9 March, 2016) to protest against The Punjab Private Educational institutions (Promotional and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015 that has very serious repercussions for the future of education in the Punjab.
We deeply regret the impact that this will have on the children in our schools. Private schools have arrived at this very difficult decision not out of choice but because the constraints imposed upon us by this law will ultimately result in a steep decline in the quality of education that we provide.
The law takes the focus away from the real crisis which is the substandard quality of education provided by the government sector and instead punishes the private sector for the government’s lapses and shortcomings. It is the constitutional obligation of the state to provide education to all children and it is our desire that every child in the country gets the very best education. The confidence of the parents in the private sector has led to over 60% of school going children in the Punjab being enrolled in private schools, of one kind or another. Private schools, provide a wide range in both fee and facilities and therefore offer a choice to parents.
The provision of quality education comes at a cost anywhere in the world. It requires an investment in human resources, like academic and management staff, which is the backbone of all institutions. It requires investing in training the staff and paying them well thus attracting the best minds to the profession. It also requires a constant upgrading of facilities, including innovative and modern methods of teaching. This explains why even premier not-for-profit institutions charge a high fee. The reason why you choose a particular school for your child is because you feel it offers the best within your range of affordability.
All private schools are required to be registered under the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotional and Registration) Ordinance, 1984 and are subject to regular inspection and regulation. They are not the recipients of any government grants. They also pay countless different taxes, rentals that go up by 18%-20% per year on average, and commercial rates for electricity and other essentials. They invest in generators, air conditioners, well stocked laboratories, libraries and other facilities. Reputable private schools have spent huge sums on security without charging students, while it is the responsibility of the state to provide security. They do so because as concerned citizens they feel responsible for those in their care.
A maximum of 5% annual increase is proposed in the bill and that too after crossing serious bureaucratic hurdles, with no guarantee of even the five percent being granted. This is nowhere enough to sustain, leave alone enhance and upgrade existing facilities. As a consequence private schools would be constrained to cut down on professional development programmes, increase class size, eliminate financial support and scholarships offered to a very large number of deserving students, limit the number of subject choices and cut back on sports and co-curricular activities.
It has been our endeavour to keep the parent body apprised of developments regarding matters pertaining to the school. In return we would appreciate it if parents were to support us in our efforts to constantly improve the quality of the services provided by us.
A member of Pakistan Education Council