With a rapid growth in population in the country, private schools are also growing, especially those catering to expatriate communities. What should be the purpose of establishing a new school? Is profit the only motive behind the mushrooming private schools? Is it justified to run a school like a grocery where everything comes at a price?
School fees constitute the major portion of education expenses of families in Qatar and parents complain that schools are inventing new ways to extract money from students.
The social mission of the schools has been ignored, when every service provided by the school comes attached with a price tag. And prices are exorbitant and there is no fool-proof mechanism to monitor fees, say parents.
Private schools are required to seek permission from the Supreme Education Council (SEC) to impose any fee hike.
This rule, however, does not stop schools from collecting money from students under different pretexts that do not necessarily become part of their declared fee structure.
Many schools had been selling textbooks and uniforms to students at highly inflated prices and this business was not part of the regular fees.
Now some schools have shifted this business to shops run by themselves but still there is no control over the prices.
Books are mostly imported from other countries and the retail prices are fixed by the schools or the shops unilaterally. Parents complain that the prices are incredibly higher compared to the original prices in the source countries.
It would be easy to attribute the difference to freight charges and other overheads but is there any authority responsible for calculating the actual cost and monitoring prices?
In a supermarket, a customer has the choice to buy or not to buy. Even this freedom is denied to students by some private schools, because many things are imposed on them.
Some schools are acting like exclusive dealers of textbooks and uniforms, forcing students to buy the items from their own stores at prices fixed by themselves.
School stationery items are also becoming more and more expensive. Their prices vary from one outlet to another and there seems to be a complete lack of monitoring.
Official of a leading outlet selling books and school stationery items told this daily that there was no government control over the pricing.
Prices are more or less similar in shops inside the city but there are major variations in outlets outside, he added.
The market is now flooded with low quality products, making it more and more difficult for people to find quality products at reasonable prices.