Towards better education

Dear Editor,
Tongam Rina’s article, ‘Ailing school education’ (Monday Musing, 13 May), has rightly pointed out, “No one has failed the students more than the executive who have not done enough to even ensure bare minimum facilities.”
The expert in development economics, Jean Drèze, has underscored the need for a big movement in India to improve the quality of education and to halt the privatization of education.
He said, “When I grew up (in Belgium), there were many private schools but they were mainly non-profit schools run by NGOs, churches, civic organisations. They had government subsidy and they performed extremely well. But in India, the private sector in education is mostly the commercial sector, and I don’t think this is appropriate for elementary education.”
On being asked why market competition is bad for the schooling system, he said that for competition to work, consumers must have a fair idea of the product they are getting. For example, if you are buying an umbrella, you can see what it is made of, open it, close it, and you get an idea of what you are paying for.
“But illiterate parents sending their children to school – what would they know about the quality of education their children are getting?” he clarified.
Indeed, a good schooling system is supposed to provide children with a level playing field. But commercial education, with the sole motive to maximize profits, fails this objective. It is more so in a country like India which has a heavy historical baggage of all kinds of inequality – caste, class, language and gender.
Universal quality education is therefore a crying need for India, which has extreme social inequality. The Indian government should not be mesmerized by economic growth sans human development.
Jean Drèze has clearly explained why development must have wide-ranging public actions like education, health, nutrition, social security, environmental protection, public transport, etc. The Indian government should fulfill the responsibility for which it has been elected to power. It must not hand over its major responsibilities to the corporate sector.
Sujit De,