In a small village in Assam two weeks ago, we stopped for tea. Got chatting with a young man who turned out to be a mathematics teacher at a local school. "Private school", he said.
Later, we visited the place. There is a government school next door. These two are the only available primary and secondary schools in the village, and in fact for some distance around.
The government school has about 400 students and one teacher. Tuition is free.
The private school has about 160 students and 6 teachers. Tuition is Rs 70 a month in kindergarten, and rises by Rs 10 a month for each higher class.
Of the 560 students in both these schools, 400 cannot afford the fees at the private school. Those are the kids who go to the government school.
When we returned to Bombay, we had to write a cheque for tuition for my son, now in the 5th standard. It was about Rs 28,000 for the year, or nearly Rs 2500 a month.
A school I happen to know well in the south of the city raised its fees last year. 5th standard kids in that school now pay about Rs 70,000 a year, or nearly Rs 6000 a month.
Finally, I had dinner a few nights ago with two college chums. One has his daughter in an old and respected Bombay school that has recently been taken over by an industrial house. He tells me that because of a change in the curriculum that's come with this takeover, they have proposed a fee increase, to Rs 350,000 a year, or nearly Rs 30,000 a month.
It's been an education, these two weeks.