What does one make of the full-page warning issued by the AAP government to private educational institutions in Delhi?
Stop fleecing students, or else... it says.
It also warns the schools against any discrimination against students from weaker sections of the society. It is easy to call it political messaging riding on a popular concern; the typical holier-than-thou positioning the party is by now known for. But scratch deeper, it is much more than that.
Beyond the compulsive obsessive rant against the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular, and the habit of crying victim at the drop of a hat, this government is actually into something serious. It wants to change the face of education in the National Capital and has gone beyond pointless rhetoric in its efforts.
In its first budget, the government allotted a whopping Rs 4,570 crore towards education, a 106 percent hike over the earlier budget. In its second budget presented recently, education was the priority area again, accounting for 23 percent of the total budget. The allocation was to the tune of Rs 10, 690 crore. Public health has been another priority area for the government.
Its strong message to private players in the education sector is in sync with its line of thinking. Earlier, it had scrapped the management quota in nursery schools — something the Delhi High Court later stayed — maintaining that the practice was inherently discriminatory, unreasonable, exploitative, non-transparent and prone to misuse. It allowed the authorities to trade seats for money and thus created an uneven playing field for students seeking admission. The private players may have a valid ground for raising an objection to the government’s stand, but from the perspective of parents who send their children to such schools it makes sense.
“Fifty-six thousand rupees. That’s what I have to shell out for the readmission of one of my two sons this month,” says a friend whose child moved from class seven to eight this year. “I have two sons. For the other one, who moved from class five to six, I have to pay nearly Rs 50,000. Imagine how it hurts a middle class man’s budget,” he added. He said for each of his children he spends nearly Rs 1.50 lakh every year. “That’s more than the entire amount our parents spent on our education from nursery to graduation,” he said.
Admitted, private schools have flourished because the inefficiency of the government to provide quality education in its own schools. They are also bridging the gap between the demand and supply of quality education to children. But certainly that is no licence to loot. It’s an exploitative system where parents have are left with little choice. Once the child is in the school, they have to surrender to the whims of school authorities. The end result is a big chunk of the family budget is devoured by the schooling of children. The higher up they go, the bigger is the expenditure.
The situation is particularly bad for families of children from the economically weaker category who get admitted to private schools under reservations stipulated by the RTE Act.
The AAP government is doing well by trying to keep the hunger for profiteering among many private schools under check. It would be better if he took parents into confidence too while spelling out his education policy. However, this can only be a small solution to the bigger problem of lack of proper government schools for children to go to. Arvind Kejriwal would do well to improve the lot of these schools and take measures to improve the quality of education there.
It might appear a difficult task, but he can set up a few model schools to begin with, or upgrade some existing ones to models ones. That seems to be the plan of his government. Hope it is successful in carrying its agenda forward.