Stakeholders point out serious flaws in procedure of monitoring private schools

In the light of the Supreme Court orders, District Registration Authority was established to register, monitor and regulate private schools; however, parents, schoolteachers and private schools’ association have expressed serious concerns over the procedure and pointed out several flaws in the procedure.

The parents call for monitoring the quality of education and basic facilities provided at the schools; whereas, schoolteachers demand the formulation of proper salary structure for teachers to ensure the quality of education.

Under Section 3 of the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion & Regulation) Ordinance 1984, all private educational institutions (PPEIs) are required to be registered with their territorial District Education Authority.

The Punjab government on October 24, 2019 had notified the District Registration Authority (DRA) for the regulation of the private schools in Rawalpindi district. The purpose of the authority is to register, regulate and determine the fee structure of the private schools as per directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

In pursuance of the provincial government notification, a 5-member District Registration Authority was notified by the Rawalpindi deputy commissioner consisting of DC Saifullah Dogar as chairman, District Education Authority Chief Executive Officer Azam Kashif as secretary and Naeemul Hassan Awan and Irfan Muzaffar Kiani as representatives of the parents and private schools, respectively.

A senior official of the District Education Authority wishing anonymity said that there are more than 5700 private schools registered in the District Rawalpindi while more than 1500 non-registered school are also operating in its jurisdiction. More than 78 private schools are charging above Rs 4,000 per month as school fee. But after the Supreme Court directives there is no increase in fee since 2017 and fee was frozen to the rates prevailing in January 2017,” he explained.

According to the Section 7A of Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion & Regulation) Ordinance 1984, a school charging fee at the rate of four thousand rupees per month or above shall not charge the fee at a rate higher than five percent of the fee charged for the class during the previous academic year but this limitation shall not apply to a school charging monthly fee from a class of students at the rate which is less than four thousand rupees per month inclusive of the increase in the fee.

Irfan Muzaffar Kiani – representative of Private Schools in DRA – said, registration certificates issued conditionally to 343 schools after the approval from DRA just to make educational year of the students secure.

Azhar Ali -a resident of Rawalpindi – said, on direction the Supreme Court, administration has established fee monitoring system, but unfortunately the administration does not have any mechanism to monitor the quality of education provided at the private schools.

He added, more than 90 percent private school do not have library, laboratory, sports ground, clean drinking water and shortage of washroom facilities to meet the requirements of the students. Similarly, jobless youth is hired on low pay scale without any proper training or expertise which is a big question on the quality of education provided in these private institutions.

Ibrar Ahmed, president of Private School Association, said the district administration has launched registration of the school without proper homework. The owners of the private schools are not taken on board before launching the online registration system, which is why despite the passage of the deadline, majority of the schools’ management is unaware of it.

He maintained, just for the point scoring the education department has distributed the registration certificates among those school owners who were already having registration certificates.

Ibrar confirmed that education department do not have any mechanism to keep regularly check and balance on the standard of the private schools and do not visit any school for inspection purpose after issuing the registration certificate.

Naeemul Hassan Awan – representative of parents in DRA – said, the district administration has started the online registration system of his request, it will help the education department in record management.

To a question he said, monitoring teams will inspect the private schools before issuing them registration certificate and will present recommendations before the DRA, then DRA members will have to decided either the school is eligible for registration or not.

He maintained, the DRA will have the authority to revisit any school to cross check the monitoring team reports.

The Section 8 of the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion & Regulation) Ordinance 1984 states, the Registering Authority or an officer authorized by Government may inspect any institution and may give directions to require compliance with the conditions prescribed for registration. The directions shall be communicated to the in-charge of the institution through an order and such person shall comply with the same within such time as may be specified therein.

Salma Shah – a teacher in a private school – said, the developing a mechanism for the monitoring of the fee structure of the private schools is a good initiative, but the government should also develop a mechanism for the salary paid to the teachers of these schools.

In most of the schools except few, the teachers who are having master degrees are paid even below the minimum wage i.e. 17 thousand per month. Low salary package defiantly effect their performance, she maintained.

Muhammad Azam Kashif, Chief Executive Officer of District Education Authority, said, those schools which are charging fee above 4 thousand per month are allowed to increase 5 percent in the tuition fee per year as per the direction of Supreme court of Pakistan.

He added, the district Rawalpindi has achieved a land mark by establishing an online portal for the registration of the private schools. The schools’ owner will be kept update about their registration application through SMS service.

To a question he said, earlier the registration certificates were issued for life time, but now these certificates will be issued for five years and every year the school management has to renew their registration certificate.

He maintained, the private schools’ management association and school owners were informed about the recent development through WhatsApp and media.

He said that the district monitoring officers would check the buildings, facilities and other standard operating procedures issued by the provincial government for the private educational institutions and quality of education there.

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