When education becomes all about profit making
Education has been the emblem of contemporary cultural and social conditions of all times. The ‘school’ as an educational institution has the role of bringing forth constructive social change and investment in quality education is often cited as an important attribute that distinguishes foresighted from ignorant communities. We must all understand and appreciate the role played by private educational institutions in imparting quality education. But nowadays, the mushrooming of the private schools has become more of money minting machines than the essential institutions needed by the society.
Education is no longer a service to the society but business where the students are treated as customers or consumers. In a system where educational institutions are run for-profit alone, there is no scope for institutions that can create positive changes for the betterment of the society at large. Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals own and control property in accordance to their interests, demand &supply. Capital assets are controlled and owned privately and the central aim is capital accumulation or profit making irrespective of the basic ethics and that is precisely what our education system has come to be.
Even though demanding capitation fee at the time of admission is illegal in terms of RTE Act 2009 but almost all private educational intuitions (read industrialists) charge such fee but with a different title and without any receipt. After FFRC through various circulars directed these institutions to desist from such practices, they complied as far as Pre-Primary classes are concerned but with a different strategy only to devise a better strategy to get the same sums in some other way. In this modified/innovative strategy, parents are called to the school wherein administrators disclose to them that they don’t take any admission/capitation fee but there is a charge of almost 15000 yearly (for 12 years) apart from monthly tuition fee which amounts to 2 times more than what a parent would have to pay in a single installment. For Primary Admissions (New), their strategy changes to square one wherein they categorically say, we are supposed to demand capitation fee of our choice ranging from tens of thousands to lakhs depending on the popularity of the school.
The buck does not stop here as capitalist ethos re-emerge when new academic session begins wherein students are supposed to buy new books for their respective classes. Common norm of the private schools is that they prescribe textbooks from other private publishers up to 8th standard of their choice on a staggering price- the reasons well known to everyone without forming any committee of experts who would have determined the quality of textbook and given their respective consents of approval before being put into use. Any book whose publishing cost, at the maximum, would be around 100-150 is sold to the parents with MRP of around 500-600. Based on this profit making scheme, most school authorities amass whooping revenue during the book selling season and some schools even change the publishers frequently so that the parents are not left with the option of buyback. Sometimes deliberately revised editions are prescribed which rarely are revised on technical fronts so that siblings also don’t have the choice of reusing those books.
Even though the textbooks highlight on the cover page that these are in accordance with syllabi prescribed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) or CBSE but when content analysis of the books is done, then it is found that the content is not within the capacity of the age group for which the book has been prescribed. A month ago or so I came across a Science textbook prescribed for class 6 students wherein a chapter was having a topic on Bohr’s Model of atom including the various postulates. All those people who have studied science after secondary level are wary of the fact of complexity and abstractness of this concept, and how come a student of class 6 would understand this abstract concept at this level. Similarly, some private schools are compelling their students to read 10th standard textbook of English in class 8th so that their parents think that their children have excelled a lot in their studies regardless of the fact that those students are not able to write even ten lines on their own if asked. In some cases, KG students are prescribed textbooks that even class 4 or class 5 students find difficult to grasp.
After facing the heat from government functionaries for selling the books within the campus, some schools shifted book selling business to external agencies but all schools have made a tie-up with a particular book shop for selling their merchandise on commission basis (though undisclosed to masses) despite hollow claims of books being available in open market which rarely are. Despite government claiming reservation of 25% for EWS in all private educational institutions, why income certificate of parents is demanded by all these institutions and how many such students secure admission in these institutions is debatable.
Even though after accumulating such huge amounts of money, teachers in most of the private schools are underpaid and, at times, are fired without justification or on little disruption due to unavoidable circumstances like lockdowns. Even after serving these institutions for years together, Covid Pandemic and subsequent lockdown brought financial miseries to these dedicated/honest teachers as their salaries were cut or curtailed.
These myriad ways of crony capitalism have contributed to the commoditization of education that is making us handicapped in maneuvering class struggle.
PS: Privatization of education has been beneficial but cronyism and capitalistic ethos is creating a social and educational divide especially after covid pandemic. If it is monitored with a structured and public framework, then PPP model of education is going to revolutionize this sector. Even though schools are registered as not-for-profit but capital accumulation has been the main focus. Civil society also needs to rope in so as to create a cordial and enriching relationship between the two tiers for visualizing the dream of egalitarian society.