Friday, April 16, 2010

A Business Called Education!

Well, ever heard of a Business called ‘Education?’ Yes, you read it correctly, education as a business for rapacious businessmen, just looking to enhance their gargantuan income by nefarious means, in order to lead an opulent lifestyle. The sad thing is, not many people are aware of this. And the ones, who are, simply do not bother. After all, what difference does it make? Everyone wants to make money nowadays, and if it’s for a noble cause, in the field of education, what is the harm? The catch is that the cause is not as munificent as one may believe.

Many centuries ago, India was once considered as the central hub for education. We had an amicable teacher-student relationship, or the Guru-Shishya rishta. The Gurus would guide the student towards the path of enlightenment, and would teach him to identify the right from the wrong. India had erudite scholars in the fields of Arts, Science, Mathematics, Philosophy and even Astronomy. Whether it be Vedic Learning, or the Gurukul System, the education system in India was second to none. We had the famous Takshila University, an epitome for learning. So how come our Education system deteriorated so much, such that at present we are unable to give even primary education to most of our children? Not to mention the negligent progress made in Science & Technology, Research, etc when compared to the other developed countries? And most importantly, why does not a single Indian Educational Institute figure in the top 100 Global List?

Yes, it is true that we have suffered many cutbacks and faced numerous impediments when it comes to education. The yearly budget set for education was less than 1 percent of the GDP just a few years back. We have too few seats, and far too many eligible students. And most of them belonged to the destitute category, unable to get admission in a private school. The condition of government schools has remained lugubrious, and they are little more than dilapidated buildings. Add to that the additional woe of acute faculty shortage and you have a recipe for disaster. It is estimated that there is a shortage of more than 12 lakh teachers at the primary school level itself. And the competition to get into the elite institutions is so severe, that just a handful of outstanding students make it, and the rest shift into depression mode. Two things happen to them, either they take admission in a mediocre or below average college, or they commit suicide. No wonder the student suicide rate is escalating like anything, in India.

Enter the businessman, who has been looking over the entire scenario for the past few decades. What he notices is that most Indians are ready to give anything for obtaining an educational degree, which has become more of a social status than ever before. So what does the greedy businessman do? He sets up a host of private colleges throughout the country, catering to the need of the degree starved bourgeois class. Currently it is mostly the middle class people who are making a dash for such nugatory institutions, but the colleges have also grabbed the attention of the poor class. People believe that obtaining a degree will guarantee them a job, and hence money to meet their daily expenses. But, unfortunately the truth is almost always bitter. In 9 cases out of 10, the colleges just provide degrees and nothing else. Infrastructure is in a dismal condition, and there is a severe deficit of trained teachers cum lecturers. And such businessmen actually maintain a high class profile by proclaiming that they are spreading knowledge, while actually all they are doing is befooling people, and minting money. Such a fraudulent technique is, unfortunately legal.

One may ask, if people are aware of this sham, then why are they not raising their voice and doing anything about it? The truth is, they firmly believe in the slogan ‘Degree Hai to Sab Kuch Hai’(If we have a degree, we have everything). Hardly anyone goes into college because he/she wants to gain knowledge, or because he/she has genuine interest in his/her specialization. People opt for higher education, mainly for two factors: 1) To get a job and 2) Status. The later comes handy while publishing matrimonial advertisements. Nowadays everyone wants to get his son/daughter married to someone who has a degree (even if it’s a fake one) so that he can proudly boast-‘Mera beta to Engineer hai. Meri Bahu to doctor hai.’ (My son is an engineer, and my daughter-in-law is a doctor). Though the guy may not even know the spelling of Engineering, and the doctor wife may do her patients a favor by not treating them. The reason for this is that the large number of private colleges has greatly reduced the Quality Factor necessary for a person to gain true professional skills required by the industry. The businessmen are not concerned about the welfare of the students. They will charge exorbitant fees for providing degrees, and they know that there is a horde of fatuous people who would gladly mortgage their own house to get their children admitted into such useless institutes, thinking that they will get a better investment after the child gets a job. But, alas, all that their children can do after obtaining the degree is to add to the ever growing mass of unemployed youth.

According to a NASSCOM survey, around 75% of Engineers in our country do not have the necessary skills required to work in an industry. So after spending such a huge amount of money, what return do they (the people) get? Almost zero, one can say. The quality of technical institutes has diluted like anything, and this nefarious education business is expanding day by day. What can be done to avoid this? For once, check out the credibility of the institute before taking admission into it. Do not go by the cheap publicity offered, or by the specious promises (usually related to placements) made by that institute’s management. Secondly, do not opt for higher education just for money. Try to develop some real pragmatic skills, and focus on knowledge building. That will surely help you in the long run.

Some Entrepreneurs and NGO’s are working assiduously to provide high quality education for all. One of them is an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus named Vardan Kabra, the creator of Fountainhead school. A very prominent NGO working for educational development of underprivileged children is Pratham. Both of them have helped thousands of children across the country gain access to education. But still, a lot remains to be done. Now with education becoming a fundamental right, we should demand Quality as well. Just creating more money grabbing buildings in the name of spreading knowledge will simply not do. Public-Private Partnerships(PPPs) can also help in this regard. The private sector can provide good quality infrastructure and remunerations for the teachers, and the Government can accord job safety and a cap on collusions.

We can definitely make India a World Renowned Educational Hub once again.


Nalini Hebbar said...

Have you heard of Spark school in a Box...It finds a mention in Imagining India Bu Nandan Nelikeni...but when I googled I found that the group has been disbanded.
I am looking for a viable method to start a school in a village in Andhra Pradesh for little children. Can you suggest something?
Nice post?...well researched and beautifully presented

Satwinder Singh said...

Thanks a lot. Though it was way too long, so few people have the patience to go through it, lol.

Not heard anything recent about Spark. I suppose it must have been disbanded.

One of my friends is working part-time for a slum school in Bangalore. But I suppose you want to start a school from scratch? Very noble thought, but I guess you need help from a professional. I am just a theorist, I have hardly actually done anything.

You should obviously start by gathering funds, and spreading information about your venture, ie marketing. But create a well balanced team first, preferable people with similar thoughts. All the best. :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, we certainly can make india a world renowned educational hub...
Currently...just like corporate governance scams have gained media highlight, considering the mushrooming of donation colleges around the country, it is just a matter of time before a can of worms from the education industry is opened...The IIPM scam is just tip of the with respect to the higher education industry a regulator for quality has scope at the government level above UGC and AICTE...

About Indian Educational institutes in the Global 100...the reason for absence of IIM's is the avg pay...all other factors like quality of students and faculty would have propelled the institute and its like to the top 10 category...Read abt this somewhere!

As you said the fountainhead school, Pratham and MAD (Make a difference) like institution are becoming the harbingers of change in the right direction

Dude overall, loved the post and quality research...Cheers!

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