Never tired of counting its diversities, India could add another one: it has schools that could compare with the best anywhere in the world, it also has schools that would send shock waves among educationists and psychologists whether education could be imparted in ‘such’ conditions too. One could see this diversity in its full flow even in the capital city of Delhi. Prestigious public schools attract national attention at the time of nursery admissions. Ever-increasing rush, rising fees, pressures and pulls, and all that is reported extensively in the media. The ‘system’ remains respectful to this class of schools, as it remains unconcerned to the schools run on public funds. Every government claims credit for increased yearly allocation to education; one wonders why its schools are losing acceptability? On the other side, ‘public schools’ continue to fleece the willing parents on one count or the other. Even the court orders on fee-increase regulation can’t check the ‘prevalent practices’.
On the face of it, abolition of capitation fee or donations appears so encouraging, but in practice, admission fee running into lakhs could be charged by the school. The functionaries of education systems in states and at the Centre are always too eager to assist ‘prestigious’ public schools because either their own wards are studying there or, at one stage or the other, they have approached them for admission. This nexus injects arrogance that was visible when these schools resisted the RTE Act mandated 25 per cent admission quota in the initial classes. Majority of these schools have not implemented it in the spirit it was intended to benefit the ‘real’ weaker section. The government still believes those public schools are not making any profit and hence the question of their paying any tax does not arise.
This absurdity extends to higher education as well. Kapil Sibal as HRD minister was so keen to bring in foreign campuses and wanted people to believe that they shall not take any profits back to their country. People know that private investment in education is considered safe and it ensures assured dividends. There are sincere investors who would like to pay taxes on their returns, but government policies do not permit that. The infirmities of the decision-making process in education are now evident one and all. It is also best illustrated by the recent Supreme Court judgment directing Delhi government to permit private schools to run second shifts if they so desire. Private schools, because of ever-increasing pressure for more admissions, were pleading with the state government for several years to permit second shift. The government itself had opened second shift in its schools earlier. How could it say no to private schools was beyond comprehension. While opening second shift, there are certain matters like timings, time allocated to sports, games and other co-curricular activities etc. which needed to be resolved, but that argument applied to government schools as well.
These are the times of total attention on written examination results and, consequently, several ingredients of quality education are just ignored by ‘quality’ schools without hesitation. Ignoring such relevant issues and working out a solution, state government resistance emanated out of the fear that enrolment in private schools may lead to closing down of government schools, which, in turn, may lead to reduction in posts and positions. Now, the Delhi government has no excuses but to follow the court orders. The best it can do is to ensure that the provisions of the RTE Act are followed in private schools in totality. Further, it must accept the challenge of improving government schools. Otherwise, India shall continue to waste a major chunk of its latent cognitive capital if its government schools continue to perspire under deprivations and deficiencies. firstname.lastname@example.org