Friday, October 12, 2007

Becoming literate more expensive than becoming a doctor?

India's Education tragedy continues.
Families in India have to spend a considerable amount on the primary school education of their children, making the fundamental right to basic education a distant dream, according to a recent UNESCO report. In contrast, university education remains subsidised and costs just half of the primary school spending.
Take a deep breath, and read that again: going to School is twice as expensive as going to University. This when a University education can pay for itself
(by making you qualified for more skileld jobs)and hence be rendered as a fee-for-service.

And Arjun Singh wants to continue meddling with the IITs and the IIMs.
Of course, we all know why -- seats at these schools are a powerful tool for political patronage.

In contrast, making functional primary education requires real work -- as you need to create millions of them to educate the hundreds of millions of Indian Children.

When the Government, despite focusing on Uiversities like a hawk, has still failed to create enough capacity, can it, by any stretch of imagination, ever provide enough Primary Education?

Education in India is the largest remaining bastion of the License Raj, propped up by rabidly discriminatory laws like Article 30 and surrounded by an impressive ring of lies, half truths and emotionally wrenching but factually empty statements (Private education will be too expensive. Education is too important to be given to the rapacious private sector. Private companies will fleece the poor etc. etc.).

This bastion must fall, for India to get anywhere. Otherwise, no amount of hand-wringing, staring at the demographic bulge, exhorting Indian businesses and companies or calling for innovation is going to help.

I despair.


iamfordemocracy said...

Arjun Singh is just a symptom. Isn't it true that nobody else (political party) is talking about primary education? Why is it so?

The answer is simple. Politicians and their henchmen can always get their kids in good schools, not commoners. In last 20 years or so, the government has forced many good schools into disrepute by forcing them to employ unwanted staff. Good schools are no longer commercially viable. You have to be political to be able to run schools.

Note that politicians from all parties are involved in this. Not just the Congress.

Ashutosh said...

I believe your primary focus is "Transferring control of University Education from Government (which is representative of number of people in country irrespective of wealth) to people with money (a la private sector;" and in the process deny common people benefits of university education.
A Few questions: (i)How much is the amount Govt spends on University Education vs. Primary
education? (ii) Why should Govt give up Brand Equity which was developed at considerable govt taxpayers money? (knock knock... Did I hear somebody saying Your favourite "GURU fame company" did not pay a single paisa to treasury in 90s; I don't know what is the situation now? (iii) Contrary to factually incorrect picture painted by you Government does not prevents private sector from investing in education. What prevents Infosys/TCS/Reliance from establishing a premier education institute and training people? Is there any law against it? Isn't a good example is ISB Hyderabad. Wasn't it developed fully in private sector? The truth is that Stock Holders of these companies donot want to spend on "education" which is highly capital intensive and long payback period project; Instead people like you wish to "usurp" ripe well developed jewels from Govt hands to private hand. On one side you say govt mismanages them if yes then go away and develop your own institutes why are you after IITs and IIMs? If they are good let them be controlled by Govt which created them.

AGworld said...

The malaise indeed afflicts our entire political class.
The reason this has not been reformed is we've never had a thinker in charge of education.

As a result, old shibboleths continue to stand (empty slogans -- like "This will transfer control of our precious universities to rapacious private pockets" prevail).

All it will take is for a visionary minister to step in and call the bluff.

Exactly this has happened in telecom, media and sundry other sectors.
The issue is we need to wait for a random occurrence of the right person to be in the right place (HRD), at the right time (no commies in power).

For that to occur, we have to wait for the tamasha of indian democracy to pan out.

Better start saving to send your kids overseas if they have to become literate!

Pranav said...

Totally agree with you that the focus of the Government, Press and the People is misplaced as far as education is concerned.

There is just too much press on Government interference in higher education bodies. Wonder whether if it really matters if the Government interferes in Institutions (IIT/IIMs et al) which it has funded? The contribution of these institutes, especially the IIT to the nation is dubious in my mind anyway. After huge subsidies, the country loses these *gems* to the developed world, especially America - lovingly called DES in the IIT campuses. While these IITians go and do wonderful things which increase the prestige of the country, the cost-benefit of this prestige for the country is debatable.

In fact, I believe it is good that the Government is interfering in these institutes and bringing their quality down (Reservation et al).

This opens up the space for private players to enter and provide high quality higher education. (I am not sure if there are any restrictions for private players to enter the higher education space but if they are, then those should be brought down.)

The focus of the Government should be, as you rightly mention, on primary education.

However, self-preservation rules and no Government is really interested in primary education. If we had educated masses, the impact on the traditional tool of the politicians - vote-bank politics would be cataclysmic. Now which *chatur* politician will destroy that?

I believe the change can only be brought about by the press or NGOs who increase the awareness of primary education and have people demand it. Else, maybe our good old judicial system will need to step up and ask some tough questions.

As a last comment, frankly, I love the Government bungling up education. Maybe I should enter the space - just waiting for the adequate capital and the right team : )

iamfordemocracy said...

I am not sure you will get very far by describing democracy as Tamasha. Please have a close look at the atrocities committed in places where democracy did not exist, or was notional. Common people have suffered most in those places.

Unfortunately, there are many amoungst the opinion makers and intelligent people in India who share your opinion about democracy. That is why Indian democracy delivers even less.

I don't quite agree with you that you need to wait for a visionary minister. There are dozens of brilliant people in India. You need to raise public awareness and insist on good ministers everywhere, right up from municipal houses.

Leave the issue of education. The politicians have a vested interest in education. Caste and religion issues are interlinked with government policies there. Before India becomes a full Christain or Muslim country, I doubt anyone will liberate education system in India, because if they do, Brahmins will hog the limelight and will educate whole of India at a fraction of cost anyone else charges.

Take some other ministry. Sports for example. Uma Bharati and Sunil Datt were the sports ministers. Did anyone raise a voice against these appointments? What does either know about sports?

Remember, if we talk about big issues, there is bound to be some disagreement. Can we begin with issues where there is little disagreement or conflict of interest? Sports ministry, tourism ministry, or some similar ministries?