Do we need to pay more for quality education?

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Do we need to pay more for quality education?

Saturday, 16 October 2021 | Biju Dharmapalan

Do we need to pay more for quality education?

Education has been removed from the service sector to the corporate sector. Many private universities address students as consumers

In present-day society, there is a lot of discussion on delivering education in a subsidised manner. Even an illiterate parent feels that only if one pays there would be quality and does not like their children to be taught in government institutions. The quality of education in many government schools and colleges have been badly affected due to over-indulgence of political parties in education. Most of the teachers and professors do not give dedicated service, as they have financial security irrespective of whether they teach properly or not. There is no evaluation system to monitor the quality of their teaching.

Teachers who undertake research projects concentrate less on teaching, as if teaching and research are two different domains. Teaching has changed from a service to a workload-based profession. This attitude has badly affected the quality of many public sector institutions.

The attitude of few irresponsible people should not take away the right of meritorious students to pursue their education at subsidised rates. Otherwise, what is the difference between a student who scored high marks by regularly attending classes and an irresponsible student who somehow managed to get through the exams?

Present day bureaucrats, academicians and politicians all see education through commercial corporate eyes. There was a time when a scholarship was deemed to be a symbol of quality. Old-time school teachers used to advise students that after qualifying 10th standard one should be self-sufficient in meeting the expenses of his or her studies. So, students used to work hard to get admission to prestigious government institutions. Getting admission in a government college or university is considered as a symbol of quality, as only merit prevails in these centres, whereas in private institutions with money you can buy a seat. Students would vie for the National Merit Scholarship and University Merit Scholarship.

The starting of private deemed universities and autonomous institutions like IITs,IIMs have destroyed the social fabric of education. Even though clearing IIT -JEE and CAT is the most challenging task in the life of a student, studying in IITs and IIMs is the most expensive education in the country. After clearing such tough examinations, a student is expected to get free education.

Successive governments have removed education from the service sector to the corporate sector. In many private universities students are addressed as consumers in their official communication to teachers. There is an organized effort by vested interests across the country to destroy good institutions under the government sector. Even UGC is granting autonomy to every college that has been accredited by NAAC. But all these accreditation processes are not fool-proof. You can see science colleges without basic laboratory infrastructure or libraries getting A Grade and many coming in the list of top 100 in NIRF. Most of the colleges show infrastructure on record, but in reality, it is not accessible to students. On record, college authorities say that they function from 9 am to 5 pm, but in reality, the timings are from 9.30am to 3.30pm. The rest is shown as tutorial hour, gardening hour, etc.

This is why most students aspire for institutions like central universities where education is highly subsidized. It is the prize they get for their dedicated learning and hard work. These are the places where students enjoy total freedom to learn. The centres of excellence in higher learning should be made totally free for meritorious students and it should be kept exclusively for them. In earlier times we had fewer higher education centres, so only the best got admission tosuch centres. But over the period of years,the government has created more central universities and autonomous institutions like IISERs and IITs based on their policy of political appeasement. This is eroding the quality of higher education.

 Mushrooming of IITs, IIMs, IISERs and central universities has changed the demographic diversity earlier observed on these campuses. In some institutions one can see the over dominance of students from the host state, similar to a state university, instead of pan-India representation Today many IITs graduates are finding it difficult to get a job; that wasnot the case two decades back.

Instead of starting new institutions, the focus should be on improving the quality of already established institutions. Every school, college and university funded by public money should rise to the status of an international centre. Then only we would be able to bring academic enlightenment to our students.  Giving free hand to private institutions will ultimately make education elusive to the common man.

(The writer is a popular science writer and academician. The views expressed are personal.)

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