Syed Tanveer Ahmed looks at how education has been commercialised in our country with its consequent ill effects on Indian society. Apart from disturbing social justice, it will create inequality, division and increase ghettoization.
At the outset, it is important to understand that there is a difference between commercialisation of education and privatisation of education. To some extent, privatisation of education is understandable, keeping in mind the attitude of the government towards spending public funds on education. However, the commercialisation of education must be strongly opposed. Commercialisation of education implies the opening of schools or imparting education in the manner of corporate companies with the sole objective of maximisation of profit.
This corporate culture in education is now spreading in India very fast. Almost 99% of all the pre-schools that opened during the last five years are purely commercial ventures. Many educationists have described them as “education shops”.
Commercialisation of education is not only against the values of education or imparting education, it is against the spirit of the Constitution of India. It has been explained by experts that, originally, the “Right to Education” (RTE) was placed as a fundamental right in the Constitution of India. However, later it became part of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Article 14 of the Directive Principle says: “It is the duty of the government to provide free education up to age 14.” This has been emphasised by RTE, which is an Act of Parliament. Thus, as per this Act, every child below the age of 14 has a right to education. Commercialisation of education is contradictory or hurts the basic spirit of RTE.
AGAINST THE CONCEPT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
Indian society is highly unequal when it comes to income distribution and social status. Hence, commercialisation of education will exacerbate this inequality and prevent the marginalised and deprived communities to access quality education. Without a large section of society having access to quality education, social equity or social justice cannot be achieved.
Further, it will create layers in the education system in the form of different standards and categories of education institutions. Unfortunately, these layers exist even in public funded schools. For example, Kendriya Vidyalaya Central Schools, schools with high academic standards and schools run by the state government; all have different standards of education and academic excellence and achievement. Earlier many of these schools were with single teachers.
This kind of categorisation exists in public funded schools. However, more layers can be seen in private schools. Fashionable schools cater to the affluent class of society. Schools for the downtrodden are poor in infrastructure and quality. In many cases, it is even worse than the government schools. Therefore, commercialisation has created compartments and layers in the education system.
Students enjoying superior infrastructure and quality teachers excel in academics while students who do not have access to good schools face many challenges to excel academically. This inequality will create a vicious circle. If the 10% affluent class enjoys better facilities then only children of that group will get the benefits of good education.
AGAINST EQUALITY AND UNIVERSALISATION
To bring equality in the society, we need equal opportunities for all the students. This is being provided in many developed countries. However, as India is a developing country, our government is not providing equal educational opportunities for all children.
Commercialisation of education also goes against the concept of the universalisation of education: The spirit of our Constitution and the essence of all the reports and suggestion by various education commissions is that education should be universalised.
Different commissions even gave deadlines for it to be implemented but universalisation of education still remains a pipedream in our country. There are different layers of schools available.
The elite and creamy layers send their children with good education standard and facilities, whereas the lower middle class and poor fear the exorbitant fees, in those elite schools. They cannot afford these schools and hence send their children to private schools of lower standard and meagre facilities. Thus, universalisation of education is not achieved.
CREATING DIVISION IN SOCIETY
There are different layers of schools in society depending upon the parents’ income. Accordingly, children go to the private schools or commercialised schools. Therefore, these commercialised schools are consolidating the class division in society.
Along with the class system, they are also strengthening the caste system. Because students belonging to the upper caste have better opportunities for basic and higher education, they go to the schools with high standards but socially and economically deprived communities and students belonging to minorities cannot go to such schools. They are going to the poorly managed schools.
This phenomenon is the deepening and strengthening of the class and caste system. Commercialisation of education also results in the ghettoization of students. This is particularly acute with the minority community. It is dangerous in the long run as ghettoization will inhibit and create hurdles to the making of an equitable and just society.
One of the basic duties of a welfare government or a state is to provide affordable education for all its citizens. In many countries, primary education is publicly funded. A child of a millionaire and that of a low-earning citizen will go to the same school. This is the norm in many developed countries but in our India, it is not the case. The simple reason is that the government is not taking interest in improving the standard of schools.
Moreover, public spending in the education sector has drastically come down. Many commissions had recommended that 6% of GDP be allocated to education but it has become just a slogan and there is a lack of sincere effort in that direction.
Even in the NEP 2020, the government has planned many good programmes but unfortunately sufficient funds are not earmarked nor is there any time bound programmes in the field of education. This is simply happening due to commercialisation of education and the government gradually would like to withdraw from the education field.
It has been observed that many big brands are entering into the huge market of education. In the preschool sector, the big corporate houses have launched their brands. Very soon, the market will be flooded with private schools.
Corporate houses are entering into the education market as it is considered the second biggest in market size after the health sector. Therefore, if any government or society looks at education as a commodity or as a market then that society is not going to progress.
India wants to become the leader in the knowledge domain. For that, we need to rethink our programmes in education, particularly in the primary education field up to 10+2. The government should invest more and more funds in this field so that social justice, social equity can be achieved.
Above all, the government should provide a level playing field for all students so that talented students without proper facilities are also nourished properly. These students with proper facilities, proper education, and proper guidance can also excel in the field of education and contribute to the nation and society.
[The writer is a well-known educationist and Director, Markazi Taleemi Board, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind]