Monday, September 20, 2010

Don’t close these schools

The summer of 2010 will be remembered by many Mandal Education Officers in Andhra as a particularly lucrative one. Emboldened by the new Right to Education Act, they swooped down on unsuspecting schools in the slums and villages of Andhra Pradesh in order to shut them down. By June end they had created so much fear and terror among poor parents that the Secretary of Education of the state government had to clarify that the new law gives unrecognized schools three years to gain recognition and will not be closed immediately. By then corrupt officials of the state bureaucracy had achieved their objective. Bribes had tripled and one official even boasted that he may not have done as well as at the Commonwealth Games, but it had been one his best months.

India must be unique in the world for wanting to close down schools that serve the poor. What would be admired elsewhere as an example of entrepreneurial initiative (or jugaad as we say) is illegal here. These schools typically charge fees of Rs 100 to 250 per month but do not get recognition because they fail to meet all the standards—for example, they don’t have a large enough playing field or they cannot pay the minimum government teacher salary of Rs 20,000 a month. In order to comply with standards, they would have raise fees to Rs 1200, and then the poor would not be able to afford them.

Why should a parent spend hard earned money on fees when her child could go for free to a government school plus get a mid-day meal? The reason is that one in four government primary teachers is illegally absent on any day and one in four who is present is not teaching. This disgraceful lack of accountability is obvious to the poorest parent. A low cost private school may not be much but at least the teacher shows up and is motivated. Hence, more than half the children in urban India are now in private schools and a quarter in rural areas. This migration is so rapid that Jean Dreze predicts that government schools will soon become ‘ghost schools’.

To want to close down institutions that genuinely serve the needs of the poor seems bizarre and immoral. Their critics dismiss these schools as being of very poor quality and claim that the poor are being ‘duped by unscrupulous elements’. But what about the even poorer quality of government schools that drives parents to these schools in the first place? No one knows quite how many unrecognized schools exist in India but estimates are in the lakhs. It is hard to believe that millions of parents are capable of being ‘duped’ year after year. While sending its own children to private schools, the establishment stridently opposes a similar choice for the poor. Of the twenty million employees of the state, hardly any send their children to government schools (except to elite Central or Navodhya schools).

The Right to Education Act is a landmark legislation created by well meaning persons. It has many fine features but its great weakness is to totally neglect outcomes. More than half our children in class 5 cannot read nor do simple arithmetic that is expected of them in class 2. The focus of the law makers was to get all children into school. Oddly enough, more than 95% of primary school age children are already in school. The real problem is high dropouts and this relates to high teacher absence. The Rs 43,500 crore required by this new law will mostly finance government teacher salaries that are now seven times India’s per capita income against a global norm of two. High teacher salaries are good in principle but only if they are accompanied by performance.

In the end no democracy will allow tens of thousands of schools to close down. The new law will merely raise the amount of bribe to inspectors. This in turn will force schools to raise fees, and the burden will fall on the poor. Imagine a law that makes people dishonest and harms the poor! Our democracy is a work in progress, and the answer is not to close schools but to understand their situation and amend the law. Since these schools charge such low fees, let us have a graded system of recognition, as we have first and second class tickets in a railway train. Allow these schools the freedom to pay market salaries to teachers and a have smaller play areas to ensure that their fees remain affordable by the poor. Don’t treat them like illegal brothels but see them as heroic examples of people solving their own problems. Make them safe from rapacious inspectors. They are symbols of India’s unique economic model—of a nation rising despite the state.

--
Gurcharan Das is the author of ‘The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma’

14 comments:

Dhwani said...

Sir,
Can there be a middle way to this Problem?
Like a poor who is not able to get money from Banks and want to avoid giving higher rate of interest to indigenous money lender, can take help micro finance.
The private players in the education field can help those emerging schools.

Y Venkateswarlu said...

sir,
the article about the Andhra Govts new law and how the poor will be adversely affected is very forceful and relevant and the Schools predicament is sad and harmful for the poor people.
But with your experience and wisdom, can you not suggest how the society can stop the corrupt officials from holding the whole community to ransom in this manner.
And unless some urgent steps are initiated to stop these, we may only be continue to remain mute witness.

park international hotel said...

I support this blog because i want education.I know there is nothings without Education..

E-mail - Contact@TopHotels4U.com

arshat.chaudhary said...

Inspiring post.

hong kong hotels said...

Thanks for sharing the article. I was really wondering and i get here and get amazed by the article. Hope that we will get more ahead.

term papers said...

Excellent & remarkable post!
I have been visiting various blogs for my Term Papers Writing research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information....... Regards

harsha babu said...

What is DI What is 3D What is Makeup How to Makeup what is editing What is RR What is Filming How to design a set What is Composting What is Storyboard What is a Storyboard How to Edit a Movie What is a Story Board Script Writing canon 5d mark iii What is Screenwriting What is Special Effects Red Camera How to Direct a Film What is Filmmaking How to Write a Script Cinematography How to make a Film What is Costume Design What is Film Making

srjwebsolutions said...


We are leading responsive website designing and development company in Noida.
We are offering mobile friendly responsive website designing, website development, e-commerce website, seo service and sem services in Noida.

Responsive Website Designing Company in Noida
Website Designing Company in Noida
SEO Services in Noida
SMO Services in Noida

EG MEDI said...

Egmedi.com is online medical store pharmacy in laxmi nagar Delhi. You can Order prescription/OTC medicines online.
Cash on Delivery available. Free Home Delivery


Online Pharmacy in Delhi
Buy Online medicine in Delhi
Online Pharmacy in laxmi nagar
Buy Online medicine in laxmi nagar
Onine Medical Store in Delhi
Online Medical store in laxmi nagar
Online medicine store in delhi
online medicine store in laxmi nagar
Purchase Medicine Online
Online Pharmacy India
Online Medical Store

indian models91 said...

We are uhe solid first platform for modeling newcomers to achieve there new dreams. The first to train and promote out models at our expense to avoid burden on them. Join the most popular agency if you modelling jobs in Delhi for female freshers, models, students, housewives aiming to start there modeling career. We are top modelling agency in Delhi offering modelling jobs in Delhi for upcoming female freshers or experienced models who want to join lingerie modeling agencies.


modeling agencies in Delhi
modeling agencies
modeling jobs
modeling auditions
model coordinators
modeling jobs in Delhi

indian models91 said...

We are uhe solid first platform for modeling newcomers to achieve there new dreams. The first to train and promote out models at our expense to avoid burden on them. Join the most popular agency if you modelling jobs in Delhi for female freshers, models, students, housewives aiming to start there modeling career. We are top modelling agency in Delhi offering modelling jobs in Delhi for upcoming female freshers or experienced models who want to join lingerie modeling agencies.


modeling agencies in Delhi
modeling agencies
modeling jobs
modeling auditions
model coordinators
modeling jobs in Delhi

ANIL GUPTA said...

We are specialized in Mechanised cleaning of Underground and Overhead Water Tanks of all sizes. Door Step services across Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad.


Water tank cleaning services in Noida
Water tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Water tank cleaning services in Delhi

Drain cleaning services in Noida

Drain cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Drain cleaning services in Delhi
Pipeline Cleaning Service in Noida


Pipeline cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Pipeline cleaning services in Delhi


Tank cleaning services in Noida

Tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Tank cleaning services in Delhi

City Spidey said...

CitySpidey is India's first and definitive platform for hyper local community news, RWA Management Solutions and Account Billing Software for Housing Societies. We also offer residential soceity news of Noida, Dwarka, Indirapuram, Gurgaon and Faridabad. You can place advertisement for your business on city spidey.

Gate Management System
Society Management App
Society Management
rwa Management App
Neighbourhood Management App
Apartment Management App
Apartment Management System
Visitors Management System
Apartment Management Software
Noida News
Gurgaon News
Ghaziabad News
Delhi News
Indirapuram News
Dwarka News

Exide Battery said...

Battery Mantra Buy Car and Inverter battery online in India. BatteryMantra is Noida based India's No. 1 online battery store offering you genuine batteries of all the well-known battery brands at best prices.

Online Inverter Battery Store
Online Car Battery Store
Buy Inverter battery Dealer Noida
Buy battery online Noida
Online Inverter Battery Store
Buy car battery Noida