Apart from the health hazards, the outbreak of COVID-19 has come with several other adverse effects too. Prime among them is the job losses. With various industries and businesses shut during the lockdown, employees have lost their source of income. At such a time, it is quite hard for many parents to continue paying the full school fees for their children.
This is especially relevant in the case of parents who send their children to private schools as these schools are typically known to be more expensive. A large section of parents is now demanding a reduction in the fees of private schools. Apart from their own financial constraints due to the pandemic, they have brought up several other reasonable arguments.
Infrastructure: When schools are providing online classes, the students are no longer using the infrastructure of the school. This is helping the schools to save on electricity costs, maintenance costs, etc. On the other hand, many parents are now required to provide their children with the infrastructure necessary to attend online classes. This includes laptops, PCs, furniture, etc. Moreover, high-speed internet is crucial for attending online classes.
Events: The expensive private schools host a variety of events ranging from sports to science festivals. In most cases, a lumpsum amount is included within the total fees for such events. Now that it is impossible to conduct such events, it makes no sense to charge fees for those. The cancellation of event fees is another major demand made by the parents.
Facilities: Schools require costs to run and maintain facilities such as labs, libraries, sports, etc. This reflects in the certain amount which the schools included within the fee structure. However, none of these facilities are being used with the schools shut. Like events and transportation fees, this is another fee that the parents want to be exempted from.
Transport fees: At a time when the children aren’t going to school for months and classes are being conducted online, transport fees naturally seem unreasonable. After all, nobody would want to pay for a service they aren’t using. Many parents have collectively approached the authorities of the respective schools and asked for a cancellation of school bus fees.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, prices of many services have been re-negotiated down. Rents have especially come down. The same is being expected by parents with school management – they want everything except teacher fees to be reduced.
Parents dissatisfied with the unresponsiveness of schools management to fee reduction demands
While a few schools negotiated with the parents and reduced fees to some extent, most didn’t. The schools would still need to pay the teachers, non-teaching staff, and school bus operators. As all types of schools are only conducting online classes – schooling has become only interaction with the teacher and students. Microsoft has also given free access to MS Teams to schools till December 2020. Expensive private schools have much scope to reduce fees considerably. The low-cost private schools, on the other hand, cannot reduce the fees much as they have a very little surplus over costs.
Some state governments like Telangana have asked schools to only charge tuition fees. However, many expensive schools have just labeled their entire fee as tuition fees. While regulation says that tuition fees are that component in which 65% of the fees collected should be paid towards the salaries and statutory dues of the teachers. This is not being followed and seems the government officials are waiting for political sanction before pursuing this matter with the schools.
Changing perceptions of parents to school education
Until the crisis emerged, many parents used to send their children to expensive schools. The prime reason behind this was the good financial situation of the parents, the brand image of the schools, and the desire of parents to send their kids to upmarket school.
In these upmarket schools – various events were regularly conducted with help of event managers and the school used to create great experiences for the parents. Now that these events are no longer available due to the lockdown, they no longer want to keep paying for those.
The coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent financial crisis have made parents realize the unpredictability of the future. In general, they have become cautious about high costs for long periods of time. School education in decent private schools is causing the parents 15 to 40 Lakhs in fees per school kid in 12 years of schooling.
Most parents have not gone to such schools to do well in their life. This realization in parents is causing them to seek non-fancy schools for their children and cut the avoidable high costs of fancy schools.