Government and Education

Posted by: on Oct 3, 2006 | No Comments

Is education really an essential element of government colleges and universities? They all are parts and parcels of the functioning of political parties.

When I enrolled at Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce, students attended classes at their whim and fancy and teachers lectured only if they felt like it. It was not pleasant to spend two hours commuting to college then finding that the class had been cancelled.

I was so appalled at this waste of time that after six months, I gave up my seat at the college, joined the university’s evening course to secure a commerce degree and did Chartered Accountancy during the day.

At the evening college it was easy to get away with attending only 10 per cent of the lectures by working the system. It not only allowed absence for a variety of reasons (I was always bedridden with typhoid or affected by floods), but teachers were ever willing to mark me present, whether I attended or not.

One of my subsidiary subjects was English and during the entire year I never saw the teacher. I was then informed by the office that if I did not have the required attendance I would be debarred from the exams. At that point, I managed to locate the lecturer’s home and obtain the attendance. This particular teacher had come to the college on only four days during the year, and I had thought I was the one ‘bunking’ classes!

It made me wonder how much resources were being squandered on the real estate, buildings and the salaries of the teachers, administrators and other bureaucrats who were employed by the University of Delhi and other such exalted places of learning throughout the country when neither staff, nor students were performing.

As might be expected, government in education is no better than government in business. The performance is as abysmal. Colleges and universities run by the government have become happy hunting grounds for politicking with every political party having its own students and teachers union.

Resources contributed by the destitute masses in India are going into supporting an educational system which hardly adds to any student’s knowledge. Universities and colleges pre-empt funds and waste them on students who are not serious and on teachers who are even less so.

In India, students go to colleges to have fun, socialize, obtain a subsidized bus pass, gain a cheap degree or a dubious status i.e. for anything but study. Is it any surprise that the degree does not guarantee anyone a job? For getting any decent position one would have to get some further qualification or training from a professional or technical institution where the government’s influence is not as pervasive.

There is no equity in India’s education system. Universities and colleges are concentrated in major cities. 70% of India’s population residing in rural areas has very little, if any, access to them.

The poor cannot afford to while away three years in a college. They have to start earning at a much earlier age to supplement the family’s income at whatever menial or back-breaking employment they can get. Everybody contributes towards running the colleges through taxes, while the benefit go to the better off. The poor end up subsidizing the rich and the middle classes.

When my mother, a former principal of a Delhi University College, advocates the continuation of this ‘free’ education, I paraphrase Ayn Rand and ask her: “Do you think nobody would entrust their children to you and pay you for teaching them? Do you have to extort your fees through taxes?”

Whether it is education or other services, it is competition which protects consumers in a free-market. If students could choose from a variety of private schools and colleges competing with each other, teaching standards would increase tremendously. Competition which gives the world an increasing array of consumer goods, be it TVs, radios, cars, refrigerators, or air-conditioners, would make education also infinitely better.

Nepal’s private schools are rendering a service which has the potential to lead its young into the modern age. Government role must be to offer them a secure environment and then leave them alone to do the job they are already doing well under trying conditions.

The Himalyan Times

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