The Education Nightmare



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Every year, the period between January and March brings admission woes for most parents with children aged three. Nursery is the beginning of the educational race for a child but for parents, admission into Nursery class is almost a nightmare.

Earlier, the biggest headache for the parents was how to convince their `crying` tiny totters to go to school in which they had just been enrolled. But today, it’s the parents who cry.

Donations (not-existent on paper) anywhere between Rs 50,000 to one lakh, building fund worth thousands, admission fees, uniform fees, activity charges et al and what all totalling upto, again, several thousands, await parents at the thought of getting their little ones admitted to school – the place where they are expected to learn not to be greedy, clean (non corrupt, I mean to say), honest and accommodating. And that’s the irony!

In very simple but crude terms, the whole nursery admission saga and if I may say, schooling in India, has turned into a ‘business’, a big loot business running right under the lens of the government, judiciary, legislature and ever-vigilant media.

In our country, pre-primary education is almost entirely in private hands, and government schools (that enrol students from class one onwards) are the last option for parents who have money to send their children to private schools (for reasons including quality and infrastructure).

This forced, yet very necessary option of getting kids admitted to private schools, is the biggest challenge that the education system of our country faces. The Right to Education, Mid-Day Meal scheme etc. all come to naught because the government has failed here.

Despite the (capital-intensive) mess that the school admission system is in (not just nursery but higher education too), and the same being highlighted time and again by the 24X7 media, the government has failed to rein in private businesses that run the institution called school.

With focus on minting money through students at every stage of schooling (for example, mandatory purchase of over-priced stationary, books and uniforms from school administration), what they are producing these days are overburdened, less intelligent school pass outs.

Recently, an international study that evaluated learning standards in 74 countries based on the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students, put India near the bottom of the table.

It is possible that the fee structure and other monetary considerations may not have any role in the quality of education imparted at school level (or for that matter, at any level), but one can’t ignore the fact that when making money becomes the primary objective, ensuring the quality of education becomes secondary.

We have seen occasions where students from government-run schools have done the nation proud. It is true that imparting good quality education may not be their primary objective also (it’s an open secret how government schools function), but at least those who are entrusted with the responsibility of running these institutions are not busy extracting money from students who come to their ‘temple’ to learn.

The thumb rule of any business is – making profit. With big business houses and organisations running schools these days, the ‘Mission Education’ motto seems to have gotten lost in the mist.

Now, it’s the duty of the government to ensure parents are not ‘pick-pocketed’ at the time of getting their children admitted to schools, and at other stages. It goes without saying the school administrations have the primary responsibility to ensure education doesn’t become a synonym for business and that the sanctity of education is maintained.