Dec 07, 2023
Dec 07, 2023
by Usha Kakkar
I have just finished speaking to my aunt in India. She is struggling with her younger son's admission into a prestigious Delhi school. During the course of our conversation I asked her why she was pulling out the eleven year old from his present school. It is a well known school in the locality and conveniently located too. "Oh, that school is not as good as this one. Yes, the new one will be an hour drive away each way but it is so much better. The present school's standards have fallen - it has become like a government school."
I come from a family where my father along with countless number of relatives and other acquaintances of his generation went to government schools. However, today even if they cannot afford it, people are increasingly turning to "private" schools. These are considered better than the municipal ones because they have fancy uniforms and the teachers speak smart English. Their advertisements conjure images of high quality education that was once the reserve of the privileged and encourage parents to believe that they making the right choice by sending their wards their.
Private school are dime a dozen in every neighborhood and parents line up there rather than go to purportedly overcrowded, filthy, ill-managed government schools. Ironically, sometimes the facilities provided by these private enterprises are only on paper. I have seen a school that boasts of a 'playground' that could easily compete with my 60sqft of green patch that I proudly call a lawn. Another has 'teachers' who are still in college finishing their own education.
The crisis of education erupts from the concern that anything sarkari is immediately perceived as dysfunctional and unproductive. Considering the vast amount of funds that are required for creating and sustaining basic developmental infrastructure like education, the government should reassess the requirements based on ground situation. For instance, there is no longer a market for schools imparting education in regional languages. Every parent wants their children to speak English as this increases their possibilities of acquiring gainful employment.
The administration should train its focus on reallocating resources and facilities to target communities and regions which do not have access to basic education. This could include shutting down present facilities in urban areas where there is sufficient presence of private market forces and relocating them to rural and semi-urban areas where access to education is a problem. Further the government needs to actively monitor private schools that are mushrooming all over the country. There is a urgent requirement for an unbiased body that ensures that these schools deliver what they promise.
The government cannot fight this battle of the private vs. the state. The state eventually has to move away from its role of the supplier of amenities and adopt the function of the watchdog. As the country grows, its citizens' aspirations grow with it. Yet, the state cannot be expected to be a deliverer of desires. It has to be a provider of infrastructure for people to build their dreams on.
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