New Delhi: Delhi’s education minister Manish Sisodia, in intensive care in a private hospital after contracting COVID-19, is no longer available to hear out students’ grievances.
When the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) hiked exam registration fees last year for reserved category students from Rs 50 to Rs 1,200 – an increase of 24 times – and general category students from Rs 750 to Rs 1,500, Sisodia announced that the Delhi government would bear the additional cost of all students sitting for board exams.
The exam fee hike created a stir which promptly died down.
Of course, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government was facing an election in early 2020. It won convincingly.
This year is different. State government coffers are running dry. The Delhi government has issued a circular asking schools not to turn to it for help in paying exam fees for the CBSE board exams.
The CBSE is a national body which regulates secondary school education in India, largely by conducting two national-level standardised tests: the Class X and XII board exams, the former for 15-year-olds and the latter for 17 or 18-year-old students who are exiting the school system.
A total of 30,96,771 students — or more than 3 million — wrote the Class X and XII board exams in early 2020.
This month, in various schools in Delhi, the CBSE began collecting exam registration fees for next year: an average of more than Rs 2,000, even for Dalit students.
|Class 10||Schools in India||General||Rs 125/250@||Rs 750||Rs 1500||Rs 1500|
|SC/ST||Not specified separately||Not specified separately||Rs 1500||Rs 1500|
|Delhi Government and Aided schools||General||Rs 125/250@||Rs 375||Rs 1500||Rs 1500|
|SC/ST||Not specified sepratiely||Rs 50||Rs 1200||Rs 1200|
|Additional Subject fee||Not specified separately||Not specified separately||Rs 150 for All India Rs 75 for Delhi Govt and added Schools||Rs 300 per subject||Rs 300 per subject|
|Any other fee||Rs 250 for migration||Rs 350 for migration||Rs 350 for migration|
|Class 12||Schools in India||General||Rs 125/250@||Rs 750||Rs. 1500||Rs. 1500|
|SC/ST||not specified sepratiely||not specified sepratiely||Rs. 1500||Rs. 1500|
|Delhi Government and Aided schools||General||Rs. 125/250@||Rs. 600||Rs. 1500||Rs. 1500|
|SC/ST||not specified sepratiely||Rs. 50||Rs. 1200||Rs. 1200|
|Additional Subject fee||Rs. 150||Rs 300 per subject||Rs 300 per subject|
|Practical fee||Not specified separately||Not specified separately||Rs. 80 per subject||Rs 1500||Rs 1500|
|Any other fee||Rs. 250 for migration||Rs 350 for migration||Rs 350 for migration|
Note: @ There were two schemes for exams
Now, students in Class X have to pay an additional Rs 300 in Class IX to the CBSE as registration fee i.e. a student who was paying Rs 125 in 2014 will pay now around Rs 1800 in total.
In 2019-20, the Delhi government waived off the additional fee.
A parent whose son will write the Class XII board exams next year said she can’t afford the fees of Rs 2,100 asked for by the school. “Why is the fee so high?” she asked.
Both she and her husband could not work during the strict coronavirus-induced lockdown; they work in the unorganised sector. Their combined monthly income is Rs 16,000.
Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Phase 2, Ashok Vihar, where this parent’s son is enrolled, confirmed it has begun collecting fees to register for the board exam. “It is Rs 2,100 for SC/ST students and Rs 2,400 for general category students for Class XII board registration,” the school said. The school asked this reporter to visit the premises for details and talk to the CBSE in-charge teacher.
Another Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Janakpuri said there are two fee slabs: Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,100. Details of the fee breakdown were not available, and the school said the teacher in-charge had them.
A CBSE handout to schools shows that the exam registration fee for reserved category students is Rs 1,200, and for general category students, it is Rs 1,500. It levies extra charges for practical examinations and additional subjects. Nearly all subjects have practical exams, including humanities.
Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ told parliament last year, when questioned on the fee hike for the board exams, that the CBSE operates on a ‘no-profit, no-loss’ basis. He said the CBSE is a self- financed and self-reliant board and generates its own resources. “It does not take any funds from the Consolidated Fund of India or any other authority for its expenses,” the minister said.
Nishank had also taken pains to point out that the fee is subsidised for Dalit students only in Delhi.
The All India Parents Association, which is led by activist and lawyer Ashok Agarwal, asked the CBSE earlier this month to waive off the exam fees, keeping in mind the loss of family incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the unprecedented pandemic that this country is facing, many parents have lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. However, instead of being considerate and helping the students and parents, the CBSE has chosen this time to put the parents and students under more duress by levying registration charges of approximately Rs 2,450 per student, ” said the parent body in a letter.
The CBSE turned down the appeal. “The board doesn’t receive any money for the exams from the government or any other agency. It won’t be possible for the board to waive the registration fee. How will we conduct the exams then? We work on a no profit and no loss basis,” said a CBSE official.