By Sanchari Pal
Your daughter goes to an air conditioned school in an air conditioned bus, dressed in an impeccable uniform complete with little ribbons. Your maid’s daughter goes to a crumbling building of a school, probably walking barefoot, dressed in a worn and patched uniform.
This is largely what privatization of education has done, especially at the school level.
School is no longer a place of studying. The kind of school one attends, the brands of food one brings in tiffin: everything has become a status symbol in the metro life.
Privatization is a process which can be defined as ‘transfer of assets, management, functions or responsibilities previously owned or carried out by the State to private actors’. Private actors may include companies, religious institutions, or even NGOs.
So, why is privatization an issue?
Education has become a raging business.*fees include admission, tuition and miscellaneous expenditure.
The West Bengal government has now decided to intervene and limit such exorbitant fees. Hundreds of parents in Delhi are demanding roll back of the private school fee hike and immediate intervention of the Delhi government.
There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the fee structure yet they refuse to put their wards in a government school.
Here’s why. A government school lacks infrastructure. And I am not referring to any sophistication here. Government schools lack basic amenities like a fan, a hygienic washroom, intact benches.
Attending classes in a government school is a daily struggle: for the teachers as well as the pupils. Government school teachers are recruited by special entrance tests throughout India so there is no doubt about the quality of teachers.
Private schools offer classes on grooming, English speaking, soft skills, extra curricular etc providing scope for holistic education of a child. So, that means if you can’t pay a fortune, your child won’t have access to holistic development.
It is true that some schools do have an orphan quota but many do not. A country where literacy rates are already so low, can we really afford schools shutting down? These days, everybody wants to put their child in an English medium school.
Your milkman will give up all his savings just to ensure that his son can speak English. Only because the free government school won’t teach his son English.
As a result, we are having a section of really rich, well groomed sophisticated children and crippling a significant section of other not-so-lucky children.
In our country, if you cannot pay good, you cannot learn good. This is a blatant violation of the Right To Education Act which is being preached so religiously by the UNICEF everywhere.
What are our options?
First and foremost, the government should focus on infrastructural development of all the government sponsored schools.
Secondly, the government should put a leash on the fee structure of private institutions. I am not suggesting charity but a certain amount of control would be beneficial.
Just like there has been a restriction on the private hospitals, the government should follow a similar example here.
Government schools should include holistic teaching in their curriculum. It is absolutely essential to know multiplication tables but it is also important for a young child to discover his/her hobbies. And what better place than school for that!
If parents were to get comprehensive, quality education at government sponsored schools, surely they’d show more interest in admitting their wards. Consequently, we would be reading less news of fraudulent people promising admission to prestigious schools in lieu of money.
Children are a country’s future. It is impossible to have a glowing future when we are depriving almost 75% of children from getting access to good education. The current school set up instills the seed of discrimination in a child’s mind from the tender age of three.
If a child is going to an expensive school, society automatically accredits greater accolades on him/her than a child who goes to a government sponsored school. The latter grow up with a deep rooted sense of failure.
This is probably why school drop out rates are so high in government schools even after introducing mid day meals. Also, when you think about it, the idea that one has to keep food as a bait for a child to attend school is terribly tragic.
Every child has the right to learn and grow. No child chose to be born poor. It is about time we realise what equality is all about rather than sharing posts online. Our country has great human potential. Our government and private school owners would do a lot of good to recognize this potential and give each child an equal opportunity to learn, evolve and be exemplary Indians.