The conflict between school and parents is not new in India. It is complex yet the emerging trend with the serious disconnect between the schools and parents is a troubling sign. There should be conflict-resolving efforts from schools. We are witnessing social media outrage and war in a manner never seen before.
We have been seeing a rising disconnect between school and parents in recent times. The pandemic situation brought to the forefront the disconnect between schools and parents over the new situation and to a new level. Why is there distrust between schools and parents?
The conflict, disconnections have been going on for years, the debate and discussions are catching attention now due to unprecedented situations. Which has left us all with one option - contact less learning and a new way to adapt and adopt online learning.
There was a mad rush by the private schools to reopen the school as per the academic calendar set earlier. Even before anybody could foresee the pandemic coming and the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. The fee for the academic year 2020-21 was rolled out as early as January 2020. Despite parents in the Executive Parents Teachers Association or EPTA raising serious concerns over transparency of fee expenditure. There is no respite in 99.9% of cases filed in by parents of at Central or State Governement or District education department for any grievances whether it is related to the quality of education imparted or for fees collected by the schools over a decade now.
The trend is set to keep the parents away from the school working group even though they are a part of the Executive Parents Teachers Association (EPTA), only right of the parents, bestowed by the State Governments in India in almost all the states. It is well defined with clear guidelines.
The EPTA meetings where parents are aware of the government rules and laws governing the private school mostly turn into heated arguments leaving no room for progress. The parents are left with the only option of knocking the doors of the district education department and lastly, the judiciary. Very few parents can spend time, money and above all, have the courage to go to court even if they feel the anger against the quality of education and stooping morality of school management and schools run for profit as business models of the private schools.
Is this only about fees payment by parents?
Is this about Online classes by the school?
Where is the disconnect and what is the reason?
Why is there no intervention or intent to resolve the conflict?
What are the barriers to resolving disagreement?
Reasons for the rising conflict between schools and parents
It is not about normal parents teacher conflict about abilities of the students, not everyday drop in or pick up chaos... Let us understand the reasons for the rising conflicts between schools and parents.
New Pandemic Situation With Old Fee Structure
Now that we are in a very different situation it was expected that schools would be empathetic towards parents and as a fair game of running a business the fee and over that hike of 8% to 10% so announced before pandemic should have been rolled back however it didn't happen.
What we saw from the school side was repeated messages to parents to pay hiked fees in many cases and some schools did roll back hiked of only 8% to 10% fee but the fee was mandatory to attend online classes.
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Social Media For Targeting & Lobbying For Fee Collection
There was a rise of social media for a new level and new use for sharing sarcastic posts where parents were targeted for non-payment of salaries of firstly teachers and non-teaching staff of the school. Numerous messages and posts by the principals and school trustees and founders in the first wave.
Private Schools Devoid Of Education Leadership
Imagine the digital footprint a school leader has left by copying and pasting the same message like it was a marathon of the viral social media challenge. We are witnessing the t leadership at the top copying and pasting the message on the timeline of Facebook and Twitter, no not talking about plagiarism. What does it reflect? It definitely reflects the bankruptcy of thoughts, own ideas, words and blurred lines that parents are after all the customers who fuel in fees to run the business of running schools.
The Zero Say of Parents In Schools
Despite contributing a hefty amount the parents feel cheated when school treats them with suspicion and as enemies when they try to put their perspective in the school business. It is written clearly in the state Fee Regulation Act of the various states that parent members of EPTA have every right to see the balance sheet and schools are entitled to show the parents their fee expenditure and profits or losses. The EPTA parents are also entitled to approve or disapprove the fee proposed by the school. How many schools are ready for the open audit, put every penny’s detail on the website and bring transparency?
The good news is schools have knowingly or unknowingly accepted that they are owned and run as business and the owners are eduprenuers so what is the government and education department doing where there are lakhs of complaints of arbitary fee hike and disputes related to fee between school management and parents.
The troubling trend is when the schools get blinded with huge profits abandoning the mortality not to mention sacrificing the good quality of education.
The Malicious And Broken Communication
The entire school system is fragmented, the schools have become businesses and because they are profiteering ventures more and more people are jumping in this for profit bandwagon. Businesses are not here to provide education, they are here to earn returns over investments or ROI.
More schools mean more opportunities for teachers and so teachers are also hopping from one school to another sometimes for a couple of thousand bucks extra and sometimes for ease of work or getting into bigger schools brands, management not paying lower than the expectation, overburdened with non-academic work and so on.
So the two pillars of the school system are not strong enough to hold a productive foundation where children can thrive. Parents are the backbone of the schools yet there is no say in the school or zero communication with the parents.
ROI Means Neglecting The Long Term Goal
Have you seen or heard of goal setting by school for the next 10 years? I am not mentioning the development fund which goes from the pockets of parents for asset creation of the school like, construction work for building and infrastructure. The tangible assets are build from the pockets of loyal parents who continue in a school for the 5 or 10 years. These assets are then owned by the trustee or a company so the entire funds are directed to benefit a few. After contributing directly in financing the tangible assets the loyal customers who are parents are not valued in this journey and beyond.
Now the underlying question is - what about the long term goals for education - quality of education, teachers’ training and the real asset children development- student centric learning outcomes and all the non-tangible assets that shape the children well prepared for the future…
The ROI is equal to the number of students and collection of fees and then runs on the basic minimum to like factories.
In this broken system, there is no accountability, no trust between any stakeholder and parents are considered outsiders who interfere in school business.
Schools Work on Economies of Scale Without Decreasing Cost per Child
In this entire juxtapose fragmented scenario children’s progress is at standstill or we are just providing them education of factory systems, something called mass production and large scale economies schools with an exception of a decrease in fees.
Where in each school there are a minimum of 1000 to 4000 children. So the schools are working on “Economies of Scale”, which means there are better chances of decreasing cost i.e., fees per child but it has never happened. The cost per child is increasing continuously for a decade without any downward turn.
“We inhabit a climate of trust as we inhabit an atmosphere and notice it as we notice air, as it becomes scarce and polluted” Baier 1986
The importance attached to parents’ views on education has increased significantly throughout India. Policy makers encourage parental participation and involvement through the creation of Parents Teachers Association in which parents have a say.
When the building block of a nation called school with quality, equity and beautiful nurturing environment with children's first agenda is fragmented then damages can be seen as ripples in our community, in the future of the nation.
I am leaving you with two questions here:
Why Is The Conflict At the Peak During This Crisis?.
Why are parent-school partnerships given a miss in our schools?
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What actions could be taken to help parents and schools resolve School-Parents conflicts? Share your views in the comments below.