November 13, 2013
There was a time when every child enjoyed going to the school, sling bag full of books, with torn dress, without slippers to wear, sharing the umbrella with the elder brother or sister, one hand dangling with the weight of a small aluminium tiffin carrier filled with rice porridge, walking for miles together to reach the school. The auto never came to your door step, or the school buses never waited at the street corner honking for you. Nothing was free. Everyone, poor or rich, had to pay the school fee and get into the school. Government never gave you free books or uniform. Mid-day meal facility was out of the question. You ate the meal only if you carried it to school or your house was nearby. Government never distributed bicycles to students. The parents decided the school and sent their children to that school.
Education then was not easy. If the student did not pay attention or did not study or was lazy to study the teacher tried his/her best to teach the particular student. Sometimes he/she cajoled him, sometimes pampered him or sometimes never hesitated to cane the student till blood oozed out of the tender skin. The student would role on the floor while getting beaten up, pleading the teacher not to beat, and at the same time beg loudly on top of the voice for forgiveness, assuring not to repeat the mistake again. Even after this if the student did not improve the teacher would teach a life lesson to the student by making him repeat the same class not once but twice if need be. This whole exercise was a part of education. Everybody respected it and especially the parents used to feel proud of such teachers for they knew that whatever they did was good for their own children. I am a product of such a system and very early in my life I understood how sacred and serious this whole system of education is.
Time changed and the education system too changed beyond one's understanding. Education was made compulsory for all. In order to attract the children to schools, needless to say to appease the future voters, government introduced schemes like free education, free uniform, free books, free mid-day meal, free bicycle, free milk etc. Nobody has any objection to this. The objection is to the system which does not reach all. Some of the schemes are extended only to the government schools and colleges and not to the private ones. For example in the college level free education is given only to government college girl students and not to the private college girl students. The poor student might have chosen a private college because the college is close to her home. Is it her mistake to choose this college and thus forgo the facility? If the government is providing facilities to the students it should reach all students and not to the selected few. Apart from this the new system of education demands the schools not to detain any student in the class. However poor he is in his studies he has to be pushed to the next class. By the time such brilliant student is out of the school, he may not even know to read and write a single sentence in English.
Since the government doesn’t extend these facilities to the privately managed schools and colleges, education has become a commodity in such institutions. In the big cities, hold your breath, the annual fee for LKG is just Rs 2 lakhs, that too if you book, that too if you book a seat a year in advance. In the “glass house” schools and colleges, with its centralised airconditioned, without even a playground and a proper library, the annual fee is something around one lakh. The story of the professional colleges is something different. The more rich you are the more is the chance to get a seat in “esteemed” institutions. For a medical seat you cannot enter into the college office without having your bag stuffed with Rs 75 lakhs or more. The student should be, to avoid this situation, hardworking to get through the entrance examinations.
When you gauge an institution’s merit with the money that you pay as capitation fee, what standard can one expect from that institution? Can an institution which has charged seventy, eighty lakhs to a student, afford to fail such a student however poor he is? If at all it fails the student, will it get new customers? So education means you pay and get the certificate. The only thing that should console you is that you are not paying bribe.
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