Quality Control

As an offshoot of supposedly unfettered market forces and the entrepreneurial spirit, an open season on quality and excellence has had some rather disturbing implications in an exceedingly sensitive field. In olden times, school curricula were a dependable vehicle for at least the barest necessities of literacy if not the lofty heights of erudition. In terms of language, approved school texts till the eighties used to be generally error-free, did not spawn misconceptions and incorrect usage at the early stages of learning, appeared to be thoroughly scrutinized and edited, and had become a secure and trusted foundation for young minds to base their future education on. What the books prescribed for the state-run system lacked in glamour and gloss, they made up in reliability, in as much as the levels of advancement then permitted. The few private schools of that time were envied for the quality and standard of their syllabi and the texts taught in their classes.  From primers to subjects like history, science, and languages, such schools chose their texts with scrupulous care, introducing them in a graded manner to keep pace with the child’s mental and academic development. Often, the texts were products of publishing houses of high repute, and the work of authorities and experts. This, sadly, is something that cannot be said of the texts of today. Standards have fallen abysmally even in the most “prestigious” private schools of long lineage, not to speak of the atrocious variants that have been allowed to proliferate with such reckless abandon. Content meant for the early classes when children are said to be most impressionable is dishearteningly ill-designed, shot through with glaring errors, and with no sign of the painstaking attention to detail and mastery in the art of imparting education old publishers like the Oxford University Press, Orient Longman, and MacMillan (to name but a few of the vanished breed) brought to bear.      

The state-run system at least has regulatory authorities and boards to oversee the preparation of texts, and can institute corrective measures and necessary upgrading if and when entrenched bureaucratic lethargy and established government mediocrity permit, but the private sector is a free-for-all. Even the oldest private schools here, criticised for having become more mercenary than missionary, have succumbed shamelessly to ‘market forces,’ and this shows vividly in the texts they select and prescribe for children of tender age. The malaise is shared by the publishing industry where an entrepreneurial glut has thrown up enterprises more interested in cashing in on the exponential growth of private educational institutions rather than producing introductory material suited to the needs of young minds and their academic development. The products of such publishers are results of haste, ineptitude and lack of experience and qualification. Since excellence is no longer the criteria, these texts gain admittance probably by the highest-bidder principle, only to prove of great cost to children in later life.

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