The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)’s decision to increase exam fees for students appearing for board exams has invited sharp criticism from stakeholders.
Last week, the CBSE announced a hike in exam fees for students appearing for board exams in classes 10 and 12. According to reports, students from the Scheduled Castes /Scheduled Tribes will have to now cough up Rs 1,200 to sit for the exams while general students will have to pay Rs 1,500. Both categories of students were earlier paying Rs 750.
This decision will affect around 30 lakh students every year who take the class 10 and class 12 board exams conducted by the CBSE. The CBSE governs Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, central schools and private schools across the country.
As the announcement sparked outrage across the country, the CBSE issued a clarification through its Twitter handle stating that this was the first hike in fees in the last five years. It also specified that the fee of Rs 350 paid by students from SC/ST communities was a special arrangement only for Delhi. “As a special arrangement only for Delhi, the fees earlier used to be Rs 350 for SC/ST students of Delhi. Out of this Rs 350, the students paid only Rs 50 and rest Rs 300 was reimbursed by Delhi Government,” the clarification said.
However, this sudden hike in fees has prompted sharp reactions from various stakeholders, who have termed this arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Kandasamy*, a parent whose son studies in class 8 in a CBSE school in Coimbatore, says that this increases the burden on him as a parent. “In a situation where our jobs are not safe and our income is not guaranteed, such sudden increase causes trouble for us,” he says. Adding that paying for education out of one’s pocket has become a necessity these days, he says, “The burden on parents is on the rise. Health and education expenses cannot even be postponed and hence this adds to the list of bills.”
Speaking on behalf of parents of students studying in CBSE schools in Tamil Nadu, KR Nandakumar, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Nursery Primary Matriculation and CBSE (private) Schools Association also concurred with Kandasamy’s view of additional burden on parents. “This is a letdown for parents who seek CBSE schools for providing quality education to their children,” he said, adding that though CBSE justifies this increase by pointing at the higher costs of conducting exams and the logistics involved, it is not fair to bring in a steep hike.
“It would have been easier on our pockets if the increase was 200-250 rupees. Now this has become more expensive than UPSC exam fees. We will soon give representation to the government to either roll back the hike or to bear the additional expense themselves,” he said.
A Tamil Nadu-based educationist Prince Gajendra Babu told TNM that the government is supposed to provide free education to all and hence this hike is totally uncalled for. “Does CBSE think that students studying in CBSE are only affluent students? Do they think that nobody in CBSE schools comes from a marginalised background? What is the account they have? What is the money they spend on educating students? There has to be some rationale for increasing,” he said. Adding that it is the duty of the government to provide free education to students, he said, “The fee for examinations conducted by the government at such exorbitant rate is totally unacceptable, arbitrary and unreasonable.”
(*Name changed on request)