A few days back, the school Bala Vidya Mandir in Chennai came up with a two fold fee structure for its students. The parents could have their wards enrolled in an “only academic” system for a fee of Rs 37000, which literally has students put within four walls for four hours,forging a forgettable experience for them ; or cough up Rs 67000 for the students to benefit from all the other facilities the school offers, including the bus service, sports, clubs, culturals, canteen among other elite activities like being a part of the school band or contributing to the school magazine or the annual picnic to Pondicherry, as listed in 59 points in the school’s official circular.    
Besides creating a divide among the students and potentially splitting them into the rich and the not so much, there are other things in this structure that appall me. Ok, maybe a lot of things have changed from the time I left BVM in 2009, but I still want to get some perspective on some of the things listed in the 50 odd points
1. #2 – School Magazines and club magazines.This has always been a student run initiative, and so I’m still not able to wrap my head around how students get charged for a student run facility. Besides, let’s face it. Nobody wants to contribute to the school magazine. Nobody. Unless of course the student has to pick a choice between writing a pointless article or watch the movie Sura. The magazine is so pointless that the only time I ever contributed was when I made a significant impact to the riddle section. Which is the only city you cannot enter. Electricity.
2. #3 – Supply of text books and note books. Aren’t these supposed to be a part of the “basic educational requirements” suggested by option 1?
3. #5, #6,#7, #8 – Smart board classes, Advanced E-learning classes, skype classes and clicker classes – There is this popular saying in Tamil. One person is incapable of even standing up, he and all is asking for nine wives. Nobody cares about smart board classes and skype classes when you don’t have the basics in place.
4. #10 Specialized Project games I think these were called Compulsory games when I was in school, making the students play some sport or the other, because what is school life without ganes. So by listing it as a part of option two, clearly they aren’t compulsory are they ? The irony.
5. #13. Sports – after school and holiday coaching classes. Not like the school wasn’t charging fees for all these classes. I remember paying fees for a football coaching when there was no ground nor coach nor even a football, just so that we could participate in matches.
6. #14 School Band Among other elite and exclusive activities offered by the school. Is this even an activity? No seriously asking.
7. #15 Co-operative learning. Right ok. Never Mind. Next.
8. #16 International Level debating training and attending national/international events I’m guessing that if nobody opts for this option, then they don’t lose out on much, but the school has a lot to lose if they were serious about this.
9. #17 BVM Way of Life Long Learning & Holistic education. This point is irrelevant given that most of us already concede that the “BVM of old” ceases to exist.
10. #18 Critical Thinking and theory of knowledge for grade 11 What about the other classes ?!?!?!?!?
11. #19 Extraordinary Education tours. I swear this is how Venkat Prabhu hypes up every single movie of his.
12. #21 Picnic A missed opportunity to visit Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram.
13. #23 Blood Donation I thought this thing was supposed to be voluntary. Since when has anyone in India paid for blood donation ?
14. #24 Quest Lab to kindle scientific temper Again, no idea. I thought all this was a part of “education”.
15. #27 – Alumni day Why do students need to be a part of alumni day celebrations in the first place? Or will students who pick option 1 not be considered as alumni when they graduate ? Weird.
16. #28. Teachers day Honestly I don’t think any student needs to pay money to thank his/her teachers.
17. #29 All E-services including intimation of rain holidays. Back in my school days, there was Sun News.
18. #30 Grand parents day. Why? No seriously. Why ? I like the idea but why do we have to pay for all this ?
19. #35 12th standard pre-graduation function – Is this what they call farewell these days ? And why do students have to pay for their own farewells ?!
20. #36 #37 Specialized classes for enhancing ability for 10th grade and 12th grade ; Additional customized preparatory exams based on need analysis for 10th and 12th grade. — Basically there is this place in 2nd main road Gandhi Nagar called Mookambiga Coaching Institute (MCI). My good old friend Muthu Sir will be there distributing question papers every evening and calling out “10th cbse, time over”
21. #38 Robotics for grade 4 to 11. I am just appalled by this. This is a scam. There is no way in hell that any kid in class 11, let alone class 4, would have the mindset to know anything about robotics. And why is Robotics forced on students in the first place?! What if all I care about is literature and the only robots I care about are the ones Isaac Asimov has written about? . Robotics for class 4? Kids in class 4 only care about brothers and sisters, not resistors. When I was in class 4, I remember writing multiplication tables. The strange part of this Robotics course is that its run by Mr. Ramana Prasad’s own daughters (irony meter explodes here). This is wrong on so many levels, right from level 4 to 11.
22. #39 Product Design for class 11 This class is worth every penny if they end up teaching how to market things the way they marketed BVM.
23. #41. Himalayan expeditions and trekking Do they go to the Himalayas every time, or is this also another cheap marketing ploy? I remember going to Gujarat, and the batch before mine went to Mount Abu (iirc).. Maybe things have changed. Maybe. Very shady nonetheless to call it “Himalayan” expeditions rather than just a trek.
24. #46 TULIR Training programme on prevention of child sexual abuse by empowering all stakeholders of school. Er, what ?! Do students have to pay for all this ?! Isn’t prevention of child sexual abuse a topic of national importance, that should be taught to all students, without them having to pay for it?! Making this optional and something to pay for is a controversy by itself. The BVM of old had the teachers guide us in the right way and we never needed training programmes for all this.
25. #48 Red Cross First Aid Training. HAHAHAHAHA. HAHAHAHA. No seriously. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
26. #43, #49,#50 – Exchange programmes to NYC, Singapore, Australia or within India. Basically all three are exchange programmes. Why split that into three separate points? I remember splitting up the same points into multiple sub points only in Anna University to fill pages.
27. #51 Special classes and Bridge classes to understand BVM way of learning. Apparently, now you need special classes to understand how the classes at BVM are going to be. Very meta, but not cool.
28. #55. Bus/van services – I used to pay for these separately irrespective of the school fees. So why include it here?
29. #56. Canteen Services. THIS IS THE LIMIT. O***A. We still pay for all the food we buy you idiots.
30. #58. Fee and book fees to be paid online. Again. Students have to pay extra fees to get access to the portal to pay the actual fees online. Again, very meta but not cool.
31. #59. Meta Cognitive Reflective Learning Lab for grade 6 and 7 with android tablets from Israel to deal with big data problems. WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL !!
The need for a change has never been more pressing. I may be half way across the globe, but the questions persist nonetheless. The school needs a clean up and it needs it now.