Faulty economics of education

Last Updated 18 August 2015, 18:31 IST

The educational system in India has come a long way from veda patashalas, madarsas and missionary schools to its present day version. Though the government has set up schools all over the country, they are certainly not enough to cater to the ever growing needs of our nations’ expanding population.

Educational entrepreneurs rose to meet these continual demands. The rich and the philanthropic formed trusts which catered to and patronised the field of education by opening numerous schools and colleges for the benefit of the public. The public does not mind chipping in their bit for the betterment of the institution as they want to partake in  good deeds for the general benefit of the society.

When this system worked on well-oiled wheels, some institutions grew leaps and bounds and flourished with an aplomb, building a reputation all the way. But on the contrary, some institutions resorted to indulging in decadence by misappropriating the funds received from collecting large sums of donations. This phenomenon is alarmingly rampant in all cities of India, and more so in cities and large towns which perhaps house the largest number of educational institutions in the country.

Parents, teachers, students and the office-bearers of several managements will vouch for the fact that we have opened the proverbial Pandora’s box unwittingly in the name of education.

Government schools run both by the state and the central governments are not favoured by the general public to a large extent because they want their children to get the best possible education. Unfortunately, the fears of the public cannot be dismissed as unfounded because most of these government schools do lack infrastructure and sometimes do not even have teaching staff on their rolls.

Despite the implementation of the Right to Education, urban Indians, who lay a premium on education, do not mind going the extra mile to spend a few lakhs of rupees to see their children through school. While children’s schooling turns out to be a nightmare for most parents, sending the children for university education turns out to be a more exorbitant affair.

Parents of children who desire to pursue professional courses find it very difficult to oblige their wards but nevertheless do so sometimes by selling their land, property, hearths and homes. The average cost of completing a course is multiplied several times over if it is done from a private college.

If students with a low score opt to study professional courses in private colleges, they end up paying at least six times more than the normal amount. Students with an above average percentile not only have to battle it out economically but also find it an obstacle to sidestep the reservation system.

Lose-lose situation

When parents from weaker economic backgrounds find it difficult to fund the university education of their academically average wards, they often run into debts or end up selling their property, gold and at times even the roof over their heads. Poor parents of meritorious students find it punishing to funding exorbitant amounts way by of fees and when they refrain from the exercise, they ride a guilt trip for no fault of theirs.

Sir Moser, a German–born-British academic and Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, said, “Education costs money, but then so does ignorance,” and he added that the public were free to make a choice. It is this brusqueness which is reiterated in many ways by several managements who have put fancy price-tags on their courses.

It is true that unaided institutions have a relatively good infrastructure and do provide a lot more facilities to their students and pay their teaching staff rather well. Yet, the fact remains that most of the money which flows in is often unused, misused or abused.

The moment commercialisation of education takes precedence over dissemi-nation of knowledge and an educated and informed society, we can be sure of the dissipation and the eventual fall of evocative and effective education. This in turn will lead to a society with a wobbly value system and a weakness for everything that is unbecoming and deteriorating.

Ogden Nashe said, “Certainly there are a lot of things in life that money won’t buy, but it is very funny – have you ever tried to buy them without money?” It is high time we tried for a student-friendly and purse-friendly educational scene.

(Published 18 August 2015, 17:58 IST)

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