Read the below headlines. What do they convey? That SC/ST students are being greatly and disproportionately inconvenienced?
But the truth is something else, read on.
All of the above stories have been taken from the feed of the PTI (Press Trust of India) reporting that Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has increased the exam fees for SC/ST category students by 24 times and general category students by 2 times (or double as published). This story tried to send two messages. One, there has been a massive fee hike. Two, the hike for SC/ST is too much in comparison to general i.e. by 24 times. But this is grossly misleading and mischievous.
What is the truth?
Facts tell a different story. The fees for all students (both General and SC/ST) in the entire country except Delhi used to be Rs 750. This fee has been increased to Rs 1,500 for General category students and Rs. 1,200 for SC/ST category students.
But Delhi was an exception. It had a special arrangement called Delhi Scheme. Under this the fee for the General category students used to be Rs 750 like the rest of India. However, it was Rs 350 for SC/ST category students of Delhi, of which Rs 300 was reimbursed by Delhi government and a student had to bear only Rs 50.
To repeat, the fee for SC/ST students in Delhi was Rs 350 over which the Delhi state government gave them a reimbursement that made their fee liability Rs 50. This was not the case with rest of India. Everywhere else, SC/ST students used to pay Rs 750, not Rs 50.
Table: Fees structure of CBSE for both 10th & 12th class
Note – No fee is charged from 100% visually impaired students.
How misleading news was spread
The story by PTI selectively calculated the increase from Rs 50 to Rs 1,200, coming up with the headline of ‘24 times hike’. This is misleading in two ways.
One, the actual fee by CBSE for SC/ST category students in Delhi was Rs 350 and not Rs 50. So, it’s not a 24 times hike.
Two, the SC/ST category students in Delhi only used to pay Rs 50, but SC/ST students in rest of the country used to pay Rs 750.
So, PTI just took a hugely specialised Delhi number, that too incorrectly, and made it look as though it applies to the whole country.
This misleading news has since been spread by many people on social media with a sensational headline that can make SC/ST students feel they’re being treated unjustly. Such fake news has social consequences. When reporting on sensitive issues, media houses, especially those who feed news, would do well to be professional and truthful, rather than trying to sensationalise the issue based on misleading calculations.
Comparison of CBSE fee with National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)
CBSE is an autonomous institution. The governing body of the board, by a resolution, has increased the fees for all categories of students in all CBSE affiliated schools in India and abroad. There has been no fee increase for the past five years. CBSE is a self-financed body that has to look out for its own financial health.
Another board NIOS, at the secondary level, charges Rs 1,800, Rs 1,450 and Rs 1,200 for male, female and SC/ST students respectively. Whereas, at the senior secondary level, it charges Rs 2,000, Rs 1,750, Rs 1,300 for male, female and SC/ST students respectively. Thus, CBSE after its fee revision almost matches the fee structure of NIOS.