NEW DELHI: Leading academics and teachers’ bodies have pleaded with the Union government not to sign a WTO agreement on higher education at its next meeting in Nairobi this month, expressing the fear that if it did so, education would become a “tradeable commodity” and private players would get a free hand.
At the Doha talks, India along with other World Trade Organisation member-countries had offered to make education a ‘tradeable service,’ thus opening the door for more than 160 nations to set up colleges and universities and other technical and professional institutes as commercial ventures. The fear is that India would be pressured to sign the agreement at the upcoming WTO meeting in Nairobi beginning December 15. The government will have little control over the regulation of tuition fee then and profit generated from institutes would be distributed among shareholders, barred by Indian law so far. The policy would further encourage universities of all hues to set up campuses here.
Under the provision of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), India need not commit on all services. The academics are demanding that India abstain from committing on education. “Making education a commodity is preposterous. Education is supposed to give us human values. If we make it a commodity, education serves no purpose. It has serious consequences,” said emeritus professor of JNU Prabhat Patnaik.
Several teachers’ bodies, holding a protest march in the city on Friday, said a number of people will be excluded from education and it could be afforded only by a few who have the means to pay hefty tuition fees.