I have been seeing the rampant rise in the price of education in India over the past few years. Quality education comes at a price, that everyone understands. Quality cannot be cheap.
Since the government has failed in its stated objective of providing quality education at the primary school level, spending less than 3% of the national budget, it has become necessary for private education providers to step in and fill the void. The demand far outstrips supply in a growing country like India. A good kindergarten education in a city like Mumbai or Delhi in a reputed private school can set you back by USD 3,000 a year in just fees alone.
So, I was taken aback to see a price of some USD 5,000 for kindergarten education in a country like China which has a far better centrally administered and controlled government than India does. I read in “China Daily” newspaper edition dated 13th October 2011 that competition for admission is fierce in Shanghai’s private kindergarten schools. Parents have to register for admission two years in advance in the international kindergarten schools, to at least have a chance during the admission process. There are many international kindergarten schools charging between USD 500 to USD 2,000 per month ! Four-year old kids are interviewed along with their parents !!
Looks like Mumbai or Delhi is a shade better ?! In Shanghai, parents invest in pre-interview training for their kids, often spending in excess of USD 1,000 just for the training some six months in advance.
Chinese parents want to give their kids the best in education, often preferring bi-lingual education over Chinese-only education, and are willing to pay 4 to 5 times more than what is being charged in public schools funded by the government. Sounds familiar ?
At least, the government agencies in China, such as the Municipal Education Commission have focus on fulfilling the demand for decent and reasonably priced education. The Commission recently announced that they will build another 100 kindergartnes within the next 3 years, on top of the existing 1,252 kindergartens. What about India ?
It is a matter of grave concern to all of us when there is not enough supply of approved quality education facilities available in a fast growing country like ours. It is also a matter of concern when private school education prices keep climbing up every year, trying to meet the demand from parents thirsting for such education. During my school years, education was virtually free, costing some INR 200 (USD 4) per month at the primary school level in a private school. But now, when the population of the country has increased from 700M to 1.2B, have we done enough and more for providing for the future generation ?
When we ponder over this question, it is not surprising to learn that the birth rates in the country has started declining ! Young would-be parents would obviously not wish to get burdened with the fear of big financial commitments even before they consider starting a family.
That is the cost of growth. May be it is not all that bad. But, we need to provide a good quality of education for the current kids, who will have to carry the flag of India well into the future.
16th October 2011