parakala

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School Education: Shoudn’t We Meet the Challenge?

21-02-2011
School education in the state of Andhra Pradesh has been more or less completely sucked into the education market. The ones which are outside the market are only those run by the government and the Christian Missionary and other Religious organizations. We need not talk about the government schools and its other educational establishments. They are run down, poorly provided and the morale of the teachers in them is at its lowest. So much so only those who cannot afford to pay even the cheapest private school’s monthly tuition fee admit their children in them. The Missionary/Religious organization schools have their way of functioning. They have good campuses. Probably good resources as well.  But the pedagogy and the teaching-learning practices in those schools are far from satisfactory.

As a consequence, education which is supposed to be a social and economic leveller is in fact perpetuating, and widening the divide.

The children of the privileged and rich go to good, well-endowed, and high-fee charging schools. Most of them look like multi-brand retail malls and multiplexes. They look at school education as a multi-crore market. They hire Public Relations Officers and Business Development Executives to help them penetrate the market. They have high ad spend for branding. They market themselves to High Net-worth Parents. They have different business models. Some of them adopt franchisee model. They outsource some services such as sanitation, transport, O & M. In their board rooms, parents and children are looked at as consumers; they look upon themselves as service providers; teachers as vendors of their services to the school like any other supplier such as the ones who bring in printing and stationery, uniforms, chalk pieces, sports equipment, etc.

Children of the poor and underprivileged attend schools run by either government or charitable institutions. Most of the Charitable institutions, however, are run more or less like government institutions. They are of low quality. They lack forward looking teaching-learning practices, their teachers have no access to modern methods of teaching and training, and their skills are not regularly updated. They are keeping children in school who otherwise have been shut out of a place of learning by the merciless education market. That, of course, is no mean contribution to the cause of education.

Government is in school education only notionally. Its space is shrinking year after year. Privileged are looking for expensive private schools. The underprivileged are also looking for private schools with ‘affordable’ fee structure. Low end inexpensive schools give the underprivileged parents an illusion that their children are in the modern and meaningful education system. These schools strain to be look-alike cheaper versions of the high-end schools. Just like the imitation jewellery, for instance. They make children wear a uniform; a tie; a pair of shoes; and labour to make them speak some sort of English. Untrained/undertrained as well as underpaid teaching faculty, inadequately supervised teaching-learning practices are common in these schools.

What is horrifying is that this divide is growing rapidly. Right to Education Act which is supposed to make private schools give access to underprivileged children so far has not shown any promise. Many think that it is unlikely to significantly help bridge the ever growing gap.

Can there not be socially owned and funded, but professionally managed good quality schools which can debunk the notion of the inevitability of ‘marketization’ of school education? Need a good school necessarily be expensive? Need an inexpensive school necessarily be of low quality?

Should we not identify this as a challenge? And should we not put together strategies to meet this challenge?

 

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