Education – a Commodity

Education has become a pure commodity.

Gurukul does not exist anymore. Teaching is no longer a “noble” profession (neither is providing healthcare by doctors). It is purely a commercial proposition today. Everywhere. Surely in India.

It is easy to argue that qualified, trained and experienced teachers will go where they get free market salaries, which means definitely much more than what they could be getting somewhere. It is true that high-end schools are trying to attract highly qualified faculty as it would be the key differentiator in the marketplace (meaning, parents). No wonder about all this – it is the free market in India after all.

What is not good for education is a toothless education ministry or department of school education. Education should be regulated as it concerns a national priority. It took six decades for India to realise that investment in education is the most critical investment a country can make, and it is not enough to invest 1 or 2% of national income on education. Further, primary education should have been made compulsory from the very first day of our Independence from the British.

If education is left purely to market forces, quality could suffer irreparably – see what has happened in Australia. We all think Australia is an advanced western country, and manipulation of education system is not possible. Absolutely wrong. There are still hundreds of unapproved, non-accredited educational institutions in Australia which are taking foreign students for a solid ride, cheating them all the way. So, it is not surprising that in a vast country like India, you do get unscrupulous education operators, often with “political” connections.

It is heartening to see our Education Minister Mr Kapil Sibal boldly implementing education reforms. He has tried to do much in the last one year, not always succeeding though his intent is right and his priorities are correct.

Education cannot be politicised.

Now it is June timeframe, and almost all private engineering and medical colleges are collecting “donation” monies from aspiring students. I even heard of stories where reputed institutions are trying to sell engineering seats for the equivalent of USD 10,000 to meritorious students ! What are the regulators and government doing ? This is after university admission officers were caught on webcam demanding bribes last year in Chennai !

Well, we are truly in a mess in the administration of the education system. We are also in a mess in the sports administration, but that is for another blog post.

Cheers, and Have a great weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan
26th June 2010

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