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. 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 the quality education but nowadays they have become more of money minting machines than the other way around.
Education is no longer a service to the society but business where the students are treated just as a commodity. In a system where educational institutions are run for-profit making, this is the crony capitalist education system we all are part of now.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 central aim is capital accumulation or profit booking irrespective of the basic ethics.
Even though demanding capitation fee at the time admission is illegal in terms of RTE Act 2009 but almost all private educational intuitions rather industrialists charge such fee but with a different title and receipt. After FFRC through various circulars directed these institutions to desist from such practices, they complied as far as Pre-Primary classes are concerned to some extent but with a different strategy. In this modified/innovative strategy, parents are called to the school wherein administrators disclose to them we don’t take any admission/capitation fee but you are supposed to pay almost 15000 yearly (for 12 years) apart from monthlytuition fee which amounts to 2 times more than what a parent would have to pay in a single instalment.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, 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 having 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 schools 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 the textbook is 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. I would quote an example to defend this. 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 an essay is put into the paper that is not available in grammar books. 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 governments 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 working there 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 manpower as their salaries were cut or they were told to sit at come till they are called back to work.
These myriad ways of crony capitalism have contributed to the commodification of education that is making us handicapped in manoeuvring class struggle.
PS: Privatisation 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 rather than capitalize this sector. Even though schools are registered as not-for-profit but capital accumulation has been the main focus. Talking of unethical means to acquire money is considered as taboo in our society. Civil society also needs to rope in so as to create a cordial and enriching relationship between the two tiers for visualising the dream of egalitarian society. We need to build an educational system that unshackles itself from the delinguistified steering media of money and power writes Avijit Patakh in his book “Education and Moral Quest”.
(The Author is Columnist and can be reached on: email@example.com)