The recent attempts by states to regulate private school education in our country seems to be a good move at the face of it. However, an in-depth analysis into the workings of school education and the manner in which this regulation is implemented tells a different story. This move by the government could seriously cripple the Education system and bring down standards drastically.
First let us consider whether private school education is worth it. Taxpayers, inspite of having a right to education to be provided by the government prefer a private school education and this is evidenced by the increasing number of students attending private schools. This rise in numbers is due to very good reasons.
- Since the schools do not use public funds, there are no restrictions to innovations in pedagogy and enhancing their own curricula.
- The private schools offer better safety to students and staff.
- Their class sizes are more conducive to effective learning.
- The teacher quality is way better than the government schools.
- Most importantly there is accountability for what they do.
- In most private schools there is strong communication between teachers and parents. Parental involvement is optimal.
- There are no restrictions on Learning resources.
- Private school students have a mind boggling choice of activities both during and after school.
- The learning environments in private schools are conducive to learning.
The greatest advantage for private schools until recently was the independence from Government interference in terms of providing the best learning environment for the students. All this is set to change now with the Fee regulations coming into place in various states.
After the government implemented the Right to Education Act from 2010 to universalise education, the private schools have already been under much financial and administrative pressure to comply with the new rules under this Act. Now the problem is compounded by the imposition of a maximum cap on the fees that can be charged by private schools which is an additional burden to the schools.
Private schools associations have approached the judiciary and have been opposing these Acts. Many court cases remain in motion to reconcile and alleviate this situation with some acceptable solution.
The manner in which this fee regulation has been conceived and implemented seems to be seriously flawed for many reasons.
- Instead of laying more emphasis on improving government schools, the government has tried to reach the equilibrium by bringing down standards of private schools (which are in any case already performing better and more efficiently than Government schools).
- Strangely the formation of all these regulatory committees are done hastily and in the shortest possible time for reasons beyond our comprehension.
- There has been no public debate on such an important area and it seems more of an one sided imposition.
- The above point is further substantiated by the fact that they have no representation on the committees formed from the Private schools who are the main stakeholders.
- There are no Educationists on these committees. Bureaucrats, who are in charge of the government school system which are run in the most inefficient ways make up the committees. There should be representation from academicians on such a committee.
- There has been no in-depth comparative study of Government Vs Private Schools. The Private school system has been outperforming the government system in all areas of school quality, learning outcomes and success rates of students. There should have been an objective scientific study into this before even trying to tamper with the education system.
- With exorbitant land costs and most private schools not getting any support from the government, there is no incentive now to run the private schools. There are huge investments in infrastructure put up by the private schools. In comparison the government schools are way behind in basic infrastructure and do not come even remotely close to that of private schools.
- With the introduction of these committees where the government Education officer seems to have far-reaching powers we will once again go back to the days of the “Inspector Raj”. This in school education will cause irreparable damage to the system and take us back decades into the dark past. Anyone with some experience with these inspectors knows what awaits them. It is a fact to be reckoned that the Government School inspectors led by the District Education officer have no clue about the latest pedagogies and innovations that are in vogue. In this day and age where even our students are highly exposed to knowledge and they move freely on the information highway, we dread the day the outdated State government inspectors inspect us. This is simply incompatible and unacceptable to all school community members.
- The formation of these committees will encourage corruption at all levels and chances are schools will try to circumvent the irrational rules by other means. We would be destroying a reasonably well functioning system instead of improving it.
- If the government wants the private players to stay invested and to continue their good work then the government should be an enabler rather than be an impediment to giving quality education.
- The government needs to acknowledge the valuable contribution of private schools in augmenting and enhancing the national educational mosaic.
Seems like we haven’t learnt from our experiments with trying to produce something that is cheap. Take the case of the failures of TATA Nano car or the Aakash tablet project to name a few. These are examples of how ultimately even the consumer rejects goods where safety and quality are compromised by simply wanting to keep the price low. Education is far too important than these and is one area where its quality will impact every facet of life and society.
Parents have a right to choose between private or government; between co-education or gender segregated schools; between boarding or day schools or between the many school Boards (State, Central or International) or to simply Homeschool their children.
Let parents exercise their “Right to Choose” what they want for their children.