Capitalist Clutches on Education 

By Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi 

EDUCATION has been the emblem of contemporary cultural and social conditions of all times. The school as an educational institution has the role of bringing forth constructive social change. Investment in quality education is often cited as an important attribute that distinguishes foresighted from ignorant communities. We must all understand and appreciate the role played by private educational institutions in imparting quality education but nowadays they have become more of money minting machines than the other way around.

Education is no longer a service to society but a business enterprise, where students are reduced to consumers and commodities. This is the crony capitalist education system we all are part of now.

Even though demanding a capitation fee at the time of admission is illegal in terms of RTE Act 2009, almost all private educational institutions charge such a fee with different titles and names. After FFRC, through various circulars directed these institutions to desist from such practices, they complied as far as Pre-Primary classes are concerned to some extent but with a different strategy. In this modified/innovative strategy, parents are called to the school wherein administrators disclose to them that they don’t take any admission/capitation fee but they’re supposed to pay almost 15000 yearly (for 12 years) apart from monthly tuition fee which amounts to 2 times more than what a parent would have to pay in a single instalment. For Primary Admissions(New), their strategy changes to square one wherein they categorically say, we are supposed to demand a capitation fee of our choice ranging from tens of thousands to lakhs depending on the popularity of the school.

The buck does not stop here, capitalist ethos re-emerge when the new academic session begins wherein students are supposed to buy new books for their respective classes. A common norm in the private schools is that they prescribe textbooks from private publishers up to 8th standard. This is done of their own choice and these often have a staggering price tag. These books are also sold at a price higher than their actual cost. Based on this profit making scheme, most schools authorities amass a whooping revenue during the book selling season and some schools even change the publishers frequently so that parents are not left with the option of buyback. Sometimes deliberately revised editions are prescribed which are barely revised on technical fronts so that siblings also don’t have the choice of reusing those books.

Even though textbooks highlight on the cover page that the textbook is in accordance with syllabi prescribed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) or CBSE but when content analysis of the books is done, then it is found that the content is not within the capacity of the age group for which the book has been prescribed. I would quote an example to defend this. I came across a Science textbook prescribed for class 6th students wherein a chapter was having a topic on Bohr’s Model of atom including the various postulates. All those people who have studied science after secondary level are wary of the fact of complexity and abstractness of this concept. How can a student of class 6 understand this abstract concept at this stage?

Similarly, some private schools are compelling their students to read 10th standard textbook of English in class 8th so that their parents think that their children have excelled a lot in their studies regardless of the fact that those students are not able to write even ten lines on their own, if an essay is put into the paper that is not available in grammar books. In some cases, KG students are prescribed textbooks that even class 4 or class 5 students find difficult to grasp.

After facing heat from government functionaries for selling books within campus, some schools shifted book selling business to external agencies but all schools have made a tie- up with a particular book shop for selling their merchandise on commission basis (though undisclosed to masses) despite hollow claims of books being available in the open market.

Despite governments claiming reservation of 25% for EWS in all private educational institutions, why do these institutions demand income certificates of parents? How many students from EWS secure admission in these institutions?

Even after accumulating huge amounts of money, teachers working there are underpaid and at times are fired without justification or on little disruption due to unavoidable circumstances like lockdowns. They’re considered disposable and there’s no job security. Even after serving these institutions for years, the covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns brought financial miseries to this dedicated/honest manpower as their salaries were cut or they were told to sit at home till they are called back to work.

These are the myriad ways crony capitalism has contributed to the commodification of education that is making us handicapped in manoeuvring class struggle.

Privatisation of education has been beneficial but cronyism and capitalistic ethos is creating a social and educational divide especially after covid pandemic. If it is monitored with a structured and public framework, then the PPP model of education is going to revolutionize rather than capitalize this sector.

Even though schools are registered as not-for-profit, capital accumulation has been the main focus. Civil society also needs to rope in so as to create a cordial and enriching relationship between the two tiers for visualising the dream of an egalitarian society where education is not the privilege of a few and is not kidnapped by consumerism. We need to build an educational system that unshackles itself from the delinguistified steering media of money and power.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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