By Akshat Tyagi:
On National Highway 58, close to which my franchise private school is situated, there are over five schools with the same name – Delhi Public School. If you asked about the whole city, it has around ten schools belonging to the same group, accredited to ‘the prestigious society’.
Education is no more a process or a journey. It has been completely sabotaged by a pure business model which not just works entirely on corporate principles, but ‘owns’ educational institutions like they are branches of an FMCG giant. Little needs to be said about how the education system actually works like an manufacturing conglomerate – input human capital and get ‘market-ready labour’ – as if that is all what the purpose of learning is.
It is based on excluding children, taking enormous pride in being selective – how otherwise do you propose to ‘produce the future social elite’? Not at least by giving any Tom, Dick or Harry an admission into your school. Of course, ‘quality’ is a priority: the first eligibility is always money, second, good English and third, high grades.
It will be a gross mistake to view schooling as an isolated island, it is deeply married to economics, politics and religion.
For instance, there are two powerful educational societies in India- Delhi Public School Society and the Ryan Group. The board members at these societies are people with little sense or passion for education, they are only hungry for power. The infamous tussle within the DPS Society Board for the post of chairman even had an FIR registered. DPS Society has long had a relationship with the Congress, established by Rev. James Douglas Tytler, whose adopted son is Congress leader Jagdish Tytler. Even until recently Salman Khurshid was also a member.
While the Ryan International Group, with Grace Pinto on the frontline, also the General Secretary of BJP’s Mahila Morcha, was undressed of its politics when it forced its staff to signup for party membership. It was revealed that she was eyeing a Rajya Sabha seat as a Christian minority member. Ms. Pinto once also attempted to get cosy with Sonia Gandhi during UPA’s rule for a Padma Shri award for her ‘educational contribution’ and also tried to lobby for a post for her husband as a member of minority commission.
In a vigorous democracy like India where any interference in religion ends up burning cities, it remains perfectly acceptable for educational institutions to openly act as indoctrination centres. No matter what your religion is, in a Ryan International School, many former students have allegedly stated that they had to sing songs with Christian connotations. And at any non-Ryan school, songs with Hindu connotations are fairly common. Both are indeed a problem for a country with secularism, and for educational institutions which must not have an inch of bias towards any religion.
Education is viewed as a profitable business with little possibility of a recession. Established under ‘charitable trusts’, the only philanthropy is in their name. Despite the skyrocketing fees, the salary of their teachers is even below their government school counterparts. Any doubt about where the money goes? If it does not flow into the pockets of these business houses, it is used to convert schools into seven-star hotels. I am sure they are much fit for running the latter.
All being said, these institutions and societies are not the culprits. These companies are acting by what works best with their clients.
When we rate learning centres by the luxury they provide, by the level of competition in admission, by their air-conditioned classrooms and their public relation officers – we are a part of the problem. We are the ones who judge schools by their names. We have come to treat the process of education like the one of buying drugs for our children. Education is not about tall buildings or glorious logos. It is in fact purposed to help us save ourselves from false propaganda, to make us rational for making informed choices and to compel us to rethink and question the status quo.
We cannot allow this hijack. This is a call to save our the future of education: to boycott those who are killing it.