Last week, 260 private educational institutions in Andhra Pradesh saw surprise visits by district officials as part of the Andhra Pradesh School Education Regulatory and Monitoring Commission’s (APSERMC) initial step towards monitoring standards in these institutions. The surprise inspections were conducted on February 13 and 14 in 130 private schools and 130 private junior colleges (for intermediate, or classes 11 and 12) in 13 districts of the state.
Sharing some of the findings with the media on Monday, members of the Commission said that many institutions were found violating government guidelines, charging exorbitant fees while providing inadequate infrastructure and failing to create an atmosphere conducive to learning.
APSERMC Chairperson Kantha Rao said that the Commission will report the violations to the government, recommending necessary action. The Commission also has the power to recommend cancelling of recognition of institutes beyond redemption. The inspected schools and colleges will also receive notices on their standards, including aspects that need improvement.
The APSERMC was set up by the Jagan government in order to monitor education standards and regulate the fee structure in private educational institutions. The Commission is expected to grade private institutions based on their inspections. Apart from regulating fee structure, it will also monitor admissions and teaching standards.
CM Jagan has said that the Commission will ensure effective implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, noting that the Commission will have powers to enforce closure of schools which continue to violate RTE norms despite repeated warnings.
According to Kantha Rao, two officials visited each of the 260 institutions, armed with a checklist to inspect adherence to government guidelines, collection of excess fees and the availability of infrastructure. Irregularities were found in fee collection, teacher-student ratio, classroom management and infrastructure.
APSERMC Vice Chairperson Vijaya Sarada Devi said that in one reported instance, while the fixed yearly fees for a student was Rs 70,000, the school was found to have collected Rs 90,000 by the end of the year. Secretary Aluru Sambasiva Reddy said that fees must be collected based on the ‘level’ of the school as well as guidelines set by the government.
She pointed out the lack of sufficient space in buildings, with many private schools being run from apartment-like structures. In some instances, classrooms meant to accommodate 35 to 40 students were crammed with 80 to 100 students, she said. Owing to the shortage of qualified teachers, in some cases, the same teacher was found teaching in four to five institutions.
The Commission also noted non-adherence to government guidelines by failing to provide a library, playground and laboratory to students.
Students also reportedly voiced their concerns over insufficient sanitation facilities, which affected female students, and was also resulting in the spread of contagious diseases.
In some institutions, students were found to be receiving ‘harsh punishments’ from teachers. Vijaya Devi also commented on the rote-learning culture prevalent in many private schools and colleges. Noting that lack of a cordial, compassionate relationship between teachers and students is inducing severe stress among students, she added that these aspects will be addressed, and that the Commission will work towards preventing student suicides.
Private school managements need to adopt a humanitarian perspective towards education, Kantha Rao said.