ByÂ Amisha Bhardwaj:
Aristotle said, ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.’ Perhaps, he hinted at the hard work the students need to do but today one can interpret this very quote in a completely different manner. Along with the “hard work’’, what is increasing the bitterness of the ‘’roots’’ of education, is the “voluntary’’ donation that is mandatory for the parents if they want their children to have a better education.
As they say that charity begins at home, let us start by evaluating our own schooling system. Education in India is being provided by the public sector as well as the private sector. The public schools or the government schools are being funded and run by the government for the children whose parents are not financially strong enough to pay their tuition fees. In fact, the Indian government has announced a number of schemes for the betterment of these government run schools but sadly, while India boasts of having the third largest higher education system in the world, it lacks skilled human resources and these government run schemes only make news when a dead rat is found in the mid day meal rice or when some scam is spotted.
Anyhow, we still have got our saviours, the private schools. The private sector in education is often seen as the solution to the present education woes. The difference between the public and private schools is being reflected right from their walls to the infrastructure. According to recent estimates, 80% of all schools are government schools, making the government the major provider of education. However, because of poor quality of public education, 27% of Indian children are privately educated. With more than 50% children enrolling in private schools, the balance has already tilted towards private schools in urban areas. Even in rural parts, nearly 20% of the children also opted for private schools. With the advantage of the recent legislation, which requires Indian private schools to admit 25% of their student body from ages 6 to 14 from families making less than 100,000 rupees a year. But again, the not so brighter side of it do exist. Not many such families are aware of it and moreover the schools are even reluctant to admit the poor children, thanks to the modern yet class-based mentality! Henceforth, there is still a long way to go and the number of children to benefit from new access to private schooling will be relatively small.
The scenario in other countries is different yet the same. In countries like the U.S.A, Thailand, U.K and our immediate neighbour and our competitor in terms of population, China, the government run schools provide free education to the children till the age of 18 and function in, more or less, a similar fashion. These schools are funded through national taxation and although they take pupils free of charge but may levy charges for activities such as swimming,Â theaterÂ visits and field trips. The state education includes basic education, kindergarten to twelfth grade. But like they say that all that glitters is not gold, an analysis of school data by The Guardian found that in U.K, state schools were not taking a fair share of the poorest pupils in their local areas as indicated by free school meal entitlement. This suggested selection by religion was leading selection of children from more well off families. Even in China, parents pay large sums and use connections to give their children an edge at government-run schools. Moreover, the parents were even made to sign a document saying the fee to be “voluntary donation.’’ There too, the state run education system is being overrun by bribery and cronyism. As a result, the parents are sending their children abroad for education, which too is an option not affordable by many others.
As every coin has two sides, even when the private schools in India and the government run schools in these countries and perhaps many others, provide quality education by the similar or different methods, the education sector too is infected by this virus of corruption and hence reduces all the positive aspects to nil. Youth, the future of any nation, is powerless until and unless they are well loaded with the weapon of education and what use is this education if it cannot reach the masses? Some people think that this is a vicious circle and is a hindrance thatÂ isÂ slowing down the development of the nation. The philanthropic spirit has been replaced by a commercial approach which legitimizes the selling of education at the highest price possible. It is difficult to tell which education system is good for loop holes are found everywhere and one cannot notice until and unless one is a part of it or rather “trapped’’ in it.
As everything comes at a price, we need to ponder on whether it’s worth it?