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IELTS anniversary | Private schools' inflated fee demands

IELTS set to celebrate 20th anniversary
Karachi, April 06: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is set to celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2009, marking its unprecedented international growth and success in setting the standard of English language proficiency for Higher Education and migration, a press release said on Friday.

Speaking about IELTS' phenomenal growth over the last twenty years, John Gildea, Regional Exams Director of British Council said: "Over the last two decades, IELTS has become the leading and most widely accepted international English language test in the world and in Pakistan. Whether for work or study, thousands of ambitious Pakistani candidates have benefited from the life-changing opportunities that IELTS enables".

"Our success has been driven by a continual focus on strong, expert-led research and innovation, along with a commitment to test language ability in a practical, real and relevant way. IELTS is uniquely fit for purpose, as it covers all of the key skills speaking, writing, reading and listening abilities. Indeed our face-to-face speaking test is the only true-to-life oral test available. Ultimately, IELTS is not just about giving students a certificate, but proving that they have the language skills needed to get the most from learning and working in another country."

Over 6,000 organisations worldwide accept IELTS scores, and the IELTS' globalisation has been powered by its extensive network of excellent test centres it is available up to four times a month through the British Council offices at Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Karachi and Hyderabad.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, joint owners British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations will be involved in a series of projects covering achievements to date and developments for the future. The News

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No end to private schools' inflated fee demands
Karachi: Some private schools in the city are flouting all rules governing their practices by demanding an additional fee, under the head of 'security deposit', from parents at the time of their child's admission to the school.

Under the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Rules 2005, private schools are only allowed to charge a monthly tuition fee and a one-time admission fee at the time of the child's first admission to the institution. Most of the city's schools, however, are charging hefty amounts as additional fees, including 'security deposits', 'annual charges', 'registration fees', 'voluntary donations' and exorbitant monthly tuition fees.

Parents are often charged admission fees and one month of tuition fees in advance, and 'computer fees' are charged even for students at the Nursery, Kindergarten or Class-I level.

When an in-charge of a private school located on Sharea Faisal was asked about the logic behind charging an additional Rs6,000 as a 'security deposit' from those seeking admission to the institution, he said that the fee was being charged only to ensure that in case a student left the school in the middle of the academic year, the student's tuition fee balance could be adjusted against the 'security deposit'.

"And if a student leaves the school after clearing all dues, the security deposit is refunded," he claimed.

However, it was astonishing to note that some private schools, which already charge a one-month tuition fee in advance from students at the time of admission, are now forcing the students to pay the 'security deposit'.Besides, there are a number of private schools which continue to demand the so-called 'annual charges', although there is no provision for such a fee in the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulations & Control) Rules 2005.

A number of parents also complained that although the private schools are allowed to charge admission fees equivalent to three months' tuition fee for the respective class, the majority of them have been charging a fee which amounts to up to six months of monthly tuition fees. In addition to a number of unlawful fees and charges, the modus operandi adopted by some so-called prestigious schools for demanding the 'voluntary donations' is that they first charge a certain amount under the head of 'registration fee' from those seeking admission to the schools and then conduct tests even for Nursery and Kindergarten classes.

Once the results of the tests are announced, a list of successful candidates is pasted on the notice boards, stating that since the number of candidates who have passed the test is more than the number of seats available in the Nursery and K-G classes, some successful candidates will be accommodated, subject to availability of seats.

In such a situation, parents whose wards have passed the test and have still not been offered a confirmed seat at the school are approached by the school's staffers with an undertaking that their children would be granted admission if the parents agree to give some 'voluntary donations', as the institution badly requires the funds for some development work.

As such, those students whose parents can afford the 'donations' succeed in gaining admission to the schools of their choice, but those students whose parents refuse to pay such a forced donation get rejected. Dawn

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Girls teased, harassed only because
Karachi: The absence of a boundary wall around Rafah-e-Aam Bala Government Girls Secondary School, Malir Halt, for over 20 years now has become a source of worry for students and staff members who continue to be harassed by passers-by on daily basis, it was learnt.

Situated on the Gymkhana Ground in Rafah-e-Aam Society, Malir, the school comprises only five classrooms and two rooms for the staff rooms. During a visit to the school, it was observed that since there is no boundary wall to define the school premises the two gates of the corridor also serve as the school's main gate confining the 250 female students to their classrooms.

"Eve-teasing has become the norm. Since there is no wall, boys from the neighbouring areas throw stones through windows to distract the female students, whistle at them and take pictures through their cell phone cameras. Girls all also harassed by young men riding motorcycles without silencers in the area. All this disturbs the peace of a classroom," disclosed a teacher, Aisha Usman.

Moreover, on Wednesdays, the weekly bachat bazaar set up a few metres away from the school is a major source of distraction for students. As if that is not enough, after 12 noon, the Gymkhana ground is used for various purposes like cricket and football matches. What is even more ironic is the fact that outsiders use the plot for sports activities, while students of this school are deprived of extra-curricular activities.

"Forget sports, we don't even have proper space for daily school assemblies that have to be organised in the corridor," said another teacher, Mrs Nasreen. It was also learnt that the students have no choice but to spend their recess in their classrooms as their teachers do not let them step out. "Sometimes the girls complain that they feel like they are imprisoned, but we can't help it. They are our responsibility and we are answerable to their parents. We cannot allow them to roam outside because it is unsafe."

The headmaster of the school, Ghulam Yaseen, sounded even more infuriated when asked to comment. "The government spending on the education sector is negligible, but the country is receiving enough from donor agencies abroad. Where is all that money going? How can officials claim to spend even a portion of that money when a school like ours is deprived of a basic need like a boundary wall?" he questioned. "Education in our country has become a joke," he added.

His views are echoed by all his staff members who added that several complaints against the nuisance in the area have been lodged with the UC Nazim of the area (UC-6, Malir Town) and the relevant government departments, but no action has been taken yet. The fact that over 20 years have passed makes them all the more hopeless, they said.

It was, however, learnt that two years back some officials visited the site and took measurements around the plot promising that the construction of the wall will soon begin, but they did not return. Some teachers felt the management of the weekly bazaar resisted the move and bribed the officials. We made several attempts to contact EDO Education Ibrahim Kunber to inquire why the CDGK continues to neglect this school in its jurisdiction, but he could not be reached.

The school runs in two shifts, with the boys attending school in the morning shift and girls in the afternoon. Staff members, however, said this school was the first of its kind where female students were asked to attend school in the afternoon shift which has added to the inconvenience. "At times it is the male students of our own school who stay back after their school ends in order to harass the female students in the afternoon shift," Mrs Nasreen, another staff member, who has been associated with the school for over a decade, said.

Some teachers were of the opinion that the least the government could do at this point is interchange the two shifts so the female students feel less harassed. Owing to this, many parents have become apprehensive and are willing to reconsider the thought of educating their daughters after primary school, they said. "Does the government realise how by neglecting this serious issue they are depriving girls from being educated?" lamented a teacher, Safia Begum.

Since Malir is a low-income neighbourhood of Karachi, most parents cannot afford to send their children to private schools, but with the state of government schools and insecurity in the area, teachers fear the strength of students even in government schools may decrease in the coming years. The News

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