New Delhi: As parents in the nation’s capital scramble to secure nursery admissions, some schools are charging upfront “admission fees” that run into tens of thousands—a practice that Delhi government and education advocates say is illegal.
For their part, parents have remained mostly silent, reaching deep into their pockets out of desperation to enrol their children in private school. The exception has been on a handful of blogs devoted to chronicling deadlines, interviews and experiences surrounding the chaotic process of school admissions.
“So many schools take money and never give a receipt,” complained one parent on the blog NurseryAdmissions.com.
“Pay Rs60,000 and secure a seat otherwise there are no chances of getting selected as your child does not qualify for general seat. What a culture?” asks another on the blog, Nurseryadmissionsdelhi.blogspot.com.
This year, New Delhi is especially feeling the shortage of seats as the Supreme Court overturned a point-based formula that favoured a system of neighbourhood schools, as well as girls and children with special needs. While many schools are still using the point system, they also have been allowed to add their own parameters, such as preferring parents with an “exceptional track record”. The court said schools should conduct interactions with parents judiciously.
But changes in regulation aside, the schools appear to be violating other laws dating back to 1999 that govern fees, security deposits and applications. (click here to see box)
Ryan International School in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, one of a chain of Ryan schools across the country, has 200 nursery seats. It charges Rs100 for an application form and brochure, Rs700 as admission fee (Rs200 for admission and an additional Rs500 as a so-called caution deposit). There is also a tuition fee of Rs1,800 a month, paid quarterly. All those fees are in line with the rules of the Delhi government.
But the school, which received 1,500 applications resulting in an acceptance rate of just more than 13%, has asked the first 100 parents on its shortlist to deposit Rs45,000 each. Varying accounts of parents’ dealings with Ryan have been posted on blogs.
From NurseryAdmissions.com: “Ryan Mayur Vihar interaction was over in 30 secs. They told every parent who had been called to deposit Rs50,000 by 25th Jan in case they wanted to see the name of their kid on the list being taken out on 1 February.”
No parent contacted agreed to speak on the record, for fear of jeopardizing their children’s chances of admission at Ryan or elsewhere. Interviewed by Mint last week, Ryan confirmed the request for money.
“We interacted with the top 100 of our own parents and asked them if they would like to retain this seat”, said Sandhya Sabu, principal of Ryan International School, Mayur Vihar, describing the school’s own parents as those who already have one child attending this school. “It is Rs45,000 for the second child. Receipt is there (as in, the school gives a receipt for this payment). It is non-refundable. It is a building fund”.
But such funds, according to Delhi laws, cannot exceed 10% of the total annual tuition fee—and at Ryan, annual tuition is less than half the “building fund” being requested.
“It is illegal”, said Delhi high court lawyer Ashok Agarwal, who has earlier fought cases against private schools for overcharging fees.
Declining to speak specifically on Ryan, Delhi education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said he is aware of violations, but that his department can only act against a school if it receives complaints from parents. “If they show us a receipt, we can act on it,” he said. “Most parents don’t come forward,” he added.
In some cases, blogs are helping parents play watchdog. Delhi parents Rajan and Puja Arora started NurseryAdmissions.com about a month ago. The online community of 500 parents keep each other updated on the complicated and varying admissions schedules and procedures at each school.
“It has become a reference for everybody”, said Rajan Arora.
Other Delhi schools are also charging big amounts of money for nursery admission. Lancers Start-up, the kindergarten division of Lancers Convent, is charging Rs20,000 as admission fee. A parent, who did not wish to be identified, showed a receipt from Lancers Start-up for this amount.
The school confirmed that it is asking for this amount. “Admission fee is Rs20,000,” said a spokeswoman for the school. She declined to answer further questions or be identified.
Lawyer Agarwal says no school is allowed to charge more than Rs200 at time of admission.
Other parents are complaining that elite schools also are charging Rs100-Rs200 for prospectus and brochures. The rules say that an admission form should cost no more than Rs25.