THE PROBLEMS OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS

May 29 - June 04, 2000

Many of schools seems inclined not to get registered with the education department

PAGE Report

The school-by-school raids by inspection teams of the provincial education department aimed at checking the malpractices at thousands of private schools have drawn protests from these institutions. The mushrooming of the private schools can be traced back to the nationalisation of education in the early 1970s by the then government. The deregulation of the education later resulted in the springing-up of all sizes of schools in all the areas of the city many of which preferred not to get registered with the Education Department.

Today, some 2,400 private schools in Karachi are registered with the Sindh Education Department while the number of unregistered private schools is estimated at between 2,500 to 3,000. The Sindh Education Department launched a campaign whereby a number of inspection teams visited private schools across the city asking them a number of questions like fee and teachers' salary structure, admission policy and the syllabus.

Till last week, the Inspection Teams visited a total of 49 private schools. The campaign and its findings have been reported in the print media alongwith some very negative remarks about certain private schools. Bay View Academy, a private school located at a purpose-built premises in Defence area, is one such school.

Talking to PAGE the principal and director of the Bay View Academy, Shahpur Jamall, said that like many other good schools his institution was also not registered. "We have consciously decided not to get registered as it would have compromised our education standard," he said. "It would have meant tying us down with such intricacies as the salary structure of our teachers, denied us to induct the curriculum and syllabus and most of all the educational requirements of teachers whom we prefer to train ourselves," he elaborated.

He said that Bay View Academy will register with the Education Department though it would do so under-protest. The deadline for registration of the unregistered schools has been extended twice already from 19 of this month to 25 and later to the 31st. Till last week some 140 applications were issued by the Education Department for the registration of which less than ninety were completely filled in and returned.

Shahpur said that while a number of prestigious schools which charge extremely high tuition fees have not been touched by the inspection teams, his school was maligned by the media. While there are schools in Karachi which charge $ 8,000 a year, strictly in dollars, and others whose monthly tuition fee is a high Rs 22,000 much fuss was made in the press about us charging Rs 7,500 tuition fee monthly. In fact, he added, we charge a much lower tuition fee which ranges between Rs3,250 and Rs 4,500 per month depending on the grade level.

Criticising the attitude of the inspection team which was lead by a University professor and two other members, Shahpur said that 'inspection' looked more like a 'raid'. Despite by us providing the team all the information asked by it the next day's newspapers were full of blatant lies including that the principal of the Academy is a mere matriculate while in fact 'I hold a Masters degree from the University of California at Los Angeles having three-year work experience with the Los Angeles Unified School District.'

We were also accused of hiring unqualified staff which was underpaid. This again was not true as most of our teachers have B.A., M.A and even Masters degree from such prestigious institutions as London and Columbia University. We provide our teachers with in-house training on regular basis and besides holding regular workshops have even flown a teacher trainer from Los Angeles to provide an intensive training programme to our teachers at our own expense, he added. "We have two teachers for every 25 students upto class IV which gives us an overall ratio of 54 teachers for our 510 students one of the best teacher-student ratio of 1:10."

Tracking the history of the Bay View Academy, Shahpur told PAGE that the school started out from a single rental premises in Clifton which later expanded to three rental premises at different locations in the same area. The parents of the students liked our school so much that they asked us what were our requirements of school and to built just such a premises and to lease it to us. The purpose-built building where we moved late last year is the memento of that appreciation by the parents of our students which is leased to us for ten years.

Defending the Rs 20,000 admission fee, Shahpur Jamall said it was necessitated by the 10 per cent increase in the rental every year. In addition, teachers and staff salaries totals Rs 800,000 per month which also goes up 10 per cent every year due to increase in cost of living as we don't want to lose teachers which are exclusively trained for us, he added.

Shahpur said that instead of intimidating the private schools the government should find ways and means to improve the quality of public education. The government schools should use the expertise of the good private schools to train its teachers in return for allowing certain incentives like subsidised utility etc., he added.