In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has struck down any increase in the fee structures of private schools after January 2017. The apex court has issued a detailed verdict and explained the reasons which led to the said conclusion. Parents welcomed the verdict which is a major relief to the middle class amidst the economic crisis.
For many parents, it had become difficult to send their children to private schools where fee is increased as per the wishes of the school owners. In recent years, parents have been protesting that schools were charging them even during the summer vacations. The court had to intervene and termed such policy of the schools in violation of the law.
@KlasraRauf Private School Fees by LACAS, Beaconhouse, City, LGS and many others have been increased by 30% and Punjab Education Minister @DrMuradPTI tweets that only 5% increase is allowed. What is going on? #SaveMiddleClassParents https://t.co/meq5x5oTZy
— Private School Fees Pakistan (@SchoolFeePK) September 11, 2019
According to details, it will be deemed as if there has been no increase in the fee since 2017 and that it is frozen at the rate prevailing on January 2017, says the verdict.
The SC bench which decided the case was headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa. Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan authored the verdict and Justice Faisal Arab wrote an additional note.
Justice Ahsan expressed concern over reports that private schools had excessively increased fees since 2017 and ordered that the fees would be recalculated in accordance with provisions of laws of Punjab and Sindh.
The increasing number of school dropouts and less budget for higher education indicated a lack of seriousness of PPP and PML-N to upgrade public sector education in the country.
However, the verdict says, the annual increase in fees will be permitted only under the law/rules/regulations till 2019 and onwards. The process of recalculation will be supervised by regulators and only the fee structures approved by them will be allowed.
The calculation of school fees in Punjab and Sindh will be done in accordance with the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2017 and the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2005, respectively.
The judgment explains that the private educational services industry constitutes ‘business’ under Article 18 of the constitution which simply takes it like any commercial activity for the provision of services.
The Supreme Court ruled that the private schools shall not recover as arrears for any reason or under any circumstances 20 percent reduction in fee in pursuant of its order dated 30-12-18.#Pakistan #SupremeCourt #PrivateSchool #FeesReductionhttps://t.co/8MLhnOgtyF pic.twitter.com/6trLETyITB
— Business Recorder (@brecordernews) September 13, 2019
However, it says, as per the ordinary meaning of ‘trade’ which is basically buying and selling goods and services, the private educational services industry constitutes ‘trade’ and, therefore, can be subjected to regulation by a licensing system.
Though people have a right to conduct the business of educational services in order to earn money but such a right is not absolute or unfettered, the verdict says. By virtue of a licensing system, the state is empowered to regulate the exercise of such a right and hence, can impose certain restrictions, which includes the power to regulate and control prices.
Such power has to be exercised fairly and reasonably and is justiciable on the touchstone of being unreasonable or arbitrary, the onus being on the person alleging un-reasonability or arbitrariness, the judgement says.
Analysts believe that education is right of every child and the state is responsible to ensure the quality education to all and sundry. In the case of Pakistan, education became a highly competitive business which deprived middle class and lower middle class parents of the opportunity to send their kids to good private school. As a matter of fact, public schools are not in good condition across the country due to misgovernance and lack of resources. Therefore, parents generally prefer to send their children to private schools.
No Priv school owner came to my house to send my kids to his/her school.I opted myself for quality&environment. My worry is why we all not put Govt/PTI Minister under pressure to provide Edu quality/Env to level of private schools? Quality Govt schools will counter Private school https://t.co/ecOvlCQMF8
— Rauf Klasra (@KlasraRauf) September 11, 2019
Some analysts believe that the government must be made accountable for not upgrading public schools. Rauf Klasra, a prominent journalist, believes that “No Priv school owner came to my house to send my kids to his/her school. I opted myself for quality & environment. My worry is why we all not put Govt/PTI Minister under pressure to provide Edu quality/Env to the level of private schools? Quality Govt schools will counter Private school”
Education has not been the first priority of the previous governments. The increasing number of school dropouts and less budget for higher education indicated a lack of seriousness of PPP and PML-N to upgrade public sector education in the country.
Those who think the curriculum of O/A levels is the standard, should know that our prepared curriculum will be a top-level one.
PTI promised to reform education system of Pakistan. Recently, in a move to reduce social injustice and provide every citizen with equal opportunity the federal government has announced to introduce ‘national’ curriculum for all the institutes including seminaries.
The incumbent has already announced that it will no stone unturned to counter with extremism in Pakistan. For that matter, radical reforms have been suggested in education system of the country.
Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said during a press conference on September 4 that his ministry is preparing the ‘national’ syllabus after taking all the curriculums around the world into its consideration. Therefore, “those who think the curriculum of O/A levels is the standard, should know that our prepared curriculum will be a top-level one.”
However, it is yet to be seen how does the government practically implement its policy since it has announced in Punjab to change the medium of instruction from English to Urdu.