Paying a steep price for IB education in Mumbai
Even as IB schools offer token relief, introducing instalments for fees, parents paying over ₹6 lakh a year question if that is enough
The Maharashtra government has allowed schools to reopen, online, from 15 July. This comes with a caveat though—there can be no online classes till class II, and even students in classes III-XII can’t have more than 1-3 hours of screen time.
But fee structures largely continue to remain at pre-pandemic levels, a particularly sore point for those whose children are studying in IB schools.
According to a 2013 study conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, and commissioned by the Union ministry of human resource development, Maharashtra had the maximum number of IB schools in the country, “leading the table with 41 schools", as a news report noted. The majority of these were in Mumbai. Today, an IB school in the city charges nearly ₹6 lakh a year. Compare this with schools which offer CBSE, ICSE and Maharashtra State Board curricula, where the average starting fee is at ₹30,000-50,000. Couples who send their children to IB schools know that the swish services come at a price but at a time when some of these amenities are not being utilized, they wonder if it’s fair to charge the usual amount.
Ruchita Dar Shah, founder of First Moms Clubs, a popular online community for mothers, talks of a friend whose daughter has been promoted to senior KG in “a very good IB school" in the Bandra Kurla Complex. With online classes banned, the friend is seriously considering a gap year instead of paying the steep fee of ₹6 lakh. “Most parents feel that if the schools are going online, then the fee should be adjusted accordingly. And now, with the directives by state governments in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka about banning online classes for lower grades, parents wonder what are they even paying for," says Shah.
Not many parents want to come on record, however, fearing a reaction from schools. R.D., 34, whose daughter studies in an elementary grade at the Oberoi International School (OIS), questions why parents should continue to pay for infrastructure that children have not used in two-three months. In most IB schools, the session starts in August and continues till 31 May. Due to the pandemic, classes stopped in March-April this time. “We have not worked for 55 days in the last session. But the parents have paid around ₹6 lakh for the entire year," says R.D., who would like to see the money adjusted.
“For instance, the bus fee needs to be calculated on a pro rata basis and the refunds made accordingly." But the school, she claims, is just returning a token amount, which doesn’t cover the fee. “If the school is not refunding this money right now, it needs to adjust it in the fee for the new session, which starts in August," she says.
Some parents would be content with a middle path that works for both schools and parents. “We realize that teachers are in fact putting in more effort to adapt to the change in circumstances," says 33-year-old P.S., whose children are enrolled in the JBCN International School, Parel. Parents at the school don’t want the non-teaching staff to suffer any pay cuts either.
Priyanka Jinagouda, whose child studies in class 1 at the Mount Litera School International, too feels that while there could be a reduction in variable expenses, one should be mindful of the stakeholders involved. “I am a professor at an educational institution and a parent too. A school has various individuals and agencies to pay," she says.
Parents do understand that even when the school opens the physical space, additional expenditure will be incurred in sanitization of premises. And till that happens, the school will have to depute more teachers for small batches of children. “So," accepts P.S., “this is a tricky situation for both schools and parents."
But “with financial insecurity looming over everyone, people are looking for relief," she adds, suggesting that the “handsomely paid senior management" could take a minimal pay cut. “It may sound crude but people from all sectors are taking a financial hit. Then how can the parents dip into their savings while the school makes its usual profit?"
The schools, meanwhile, maintain that they are mindful of the parents’ plight. “Despite the many difficulties we all face, OIS is fully committed to doing everything we can to support all our stakeholders throughout this arduous time," says the OIS spokesperson. They add that the school is mindful of the fee collected in the last academic year for services not rendered and has passed on savings in lunch fees, bus fees and those related to after-school activities to the parents.
With most IB schools on a summer break till August, plans are being chalked out to use hybrid teaching models to suit different learning needs. But parents are hoping for concrete, meaningful relief too.
As of now, the JBCN International School has decided not to enforce the annual fee hike of 10-11 %. Some schools are deferring and staggering the schedule for payment of tuition fee for the academic year 2020-21. OIS, for instance, will allow fees to be paid in four instalments instead of the usual two. The Birla Open Minds International School, which offers the option of an international curriculum such as Cambridge and IB programmes in higher grades, too has increased the number of instalments. “This has been done so that it gets convenient for parents to make the payment. Certain discounts are offered on annual fee also," adds Hina Desai, principal of the school.
But are these measures enough? Many parents are not so sure. “There should be a reduction. Schools can charge for tuition fee as they need to pay the staff. But now, with the government directive, if online classes won’t be held, then what services are we utilizing? My husband has undergone a pay cut, and it feels like a pinch," says R.D. In such a scenario, parents believe schools too need to adjust to the “new normal".
FIRST PUBLISHED16.07.2020 | 11:00 AM IST