Edgy Over Education

pic_edu.jpgWhen I read the Sunday’s headlines of a leading daily (it read, “Coming, law to control private colleges”), I heaved a whole gamut of sighs. Unable to withstand my annoyance, I sourly said to my dad, “These people must be really under-worked. I can’t imagine why else they would want to control, manage and administer a Ghashiram Institute of Management, lying peacefully in a remote corner of Delhi?”

The explanations that my dad gave to me were similar to what several others had said during the course of the day. To be honest, at first glance, it did sound like a move in the right direction. I have heard countless number of people (rather, their parents) cribbing about the exorbitant fees charged by most private colleges and universities. And if so-and-so auntie’s son is keen on pursuing a rare professional course, that is not offered in any Government college, then…well, the uncle surely has had it.

It must be tough to see hard earned money, saved by walking back from the market everyday (sometimes with kilos of groceries), squandered on providing your kid with air conditioned classrooms in swanky campuses. In such cases, the Government intervention in matters like fees etc. would come as a much needed respite. This is the tale of those parents, whose children have got into one such posh institute.

Another, slightly more serious argument, forwarded by my fellow mates was that due to the fee-structures of most private universities and colleges, a large chunk of the population is routinely excluded. They have neither the means nor the resources to pay the whopping Rs. 2,00,000 per annum for their children’s education. If that means that the child goes without higher education, they make peace with the fact. I was told that it was largely to curb the second problem that the Government had decided on such a policy. I, too, am going to therefore, address the latter.

It appears from the above arguments that our Government is losing sleep over matters of higher education. A closer look at Government colleges around the country gives a somewhat different picture. Those familiar with states apart from Delhi, would understand what I mean when I say that the Government colleges across the country are in a state of utter decadence. Delhi University is an instance of a rare exception. Let me elaborate.

Sometime back, I had the opportunity to visit the Indian Medical College in Calcutta. Reputed to be one of the oldest and most renowned medical colleges of the country, it had gotten my hopes high. The reality came as a bitter experience. To say that the whole institute was enveloped in an atmosphere of depravity would be an understatement. In the college, there were neither any doctors nor any students to be seen anywhere in the vicinity. The only thing that was in sight were beggars – crippled, handicapped, squatting on the corridors of the college – the place was rife with beggars. About the infrastructure – the less said, the better. The classrooms were only slightly better than dark holes choked with cobwebs and red-ants. A thick layer of dust on the furniture indicated that classes were a rarity. This, in short, is the general ambiance that prevails over most Government colleges, save a few elite institutions like the IITs and the IIMs etc.

Given the condition of the existing colleges/universities under the government (both state and central), what can be the logic behind implementing the same in private institutions? They are concerned about higher education, did you say? In that case, what is it that prevents the Government from improving the deplorable condition of state run educational institutions? Forget the infrastructural problems ailing all state run colleges; the state hasn’t even been able to increase the number of existing seats to match the requirements. Year after year, students go through the same nuisance in trying to get themselves admitted to the handful of seats offered by the state-run colleges. For years now, the courses offered in these institutions haven’t been upgraded. While universities all over the world are introducing new, more relevant subjects of study, our Education Ministry is content to continue with ages old, conventional courses. Corruption and inefficiency in management steadily spread the rot, eating away into the academic environment. Tackling all these issues, if certain private institutes have managed to emerge as centers of excellence, must the state interfere to ruin what it has created for itself? Why can’t the state create for itself, what it attempts to affect in private organizations?

The answer to all these questions ultimately comes back to the same issue that governs every other issue in this country. Vote bank politics! No doubt reservations are going to be implemented keeping the ‘interests’ of certain sections of society in mind. Appeasing the backward sections seems to be the new mantra of every party that comes into power. In the process, even if an entire generation has to grow up without education (due to the lack of seats of course), well, so be it!

Mitiya Nath

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