In spite of the fact that there are a number of justifications for privatisation of education, commercial consideration underpins all its good objects of imparting quality education, of course, with the availability of adequate basic facilities of premises, toilets, infrastructure, libraries, drinking water dispensers-purifiers, computers, libraries & hostels: the facilities invariably unfound in government run educational institutions primarily for lack of sufficient funds. It goes without saying that the availability of all the mentioned amenities is the end product of high fees & donations ultimately charged by them (private educational centres) on the parents of the students. They have become easy, safe & lifetime investments where the investors go overboard with profit motive. In a society like Kashmir where parents are engaged in a crazy or farce competition of showing off to each other their children “better-salaried-positioned” (not better knowledgeable) than others, the field of exploitation is always invitingly vast. Perhaps, it is this bragging trend among Kashmiris that we find enormous ads consuming considerable space in local newspapers from all tom, dick & harry colleges within & even beyond India inviting Kashmiri parents to admit their kids with them for “better future” on “reasonable fees” with all “best facilities” available in their premises for their study.
The wealthy people & rich politicians of our society find it a lucrative business to invest in this booming sector where they, to attract students, spend good money on infrastructure, quality teachers & marketing with sole objective of reaping enormous returns on the onetime investment, like true businessmen. Some with inbuilt exploitative skills make huge money by almost zero investments by forging “business rings” with likeminded teachers that only exploit the mad urge of people around to send their wards to their private educational institutions which, by any standard of comparison, however, do not stand anywhere near to the highly reputed missionary & other established educational schools & colleges, in any sense whatever.
There is always big rush for admissions in such prestigious schools & colleges not only by rich people but by poor or lower middle class parents seemingly with the aim that their child receives better qualitative education & gets prepared for throat cut competitive exams in the days ahead.
Nevertheless, many children from government schools with humble backgrounds are also doing superbly well in exams & competitions. Some even outperform the children of private schools. Excellence is not hereditary to be claimed in legacy by those with better socio-economic conditions of life. Anybody with good brains can excel in exams & competitions provided he gets “opportunity” otherwise such talent remains buried in graveyards of failures which Rolf Dobelli visited & found that “its tenants possessed many of the same traits that characterise your success”.
The government’s inability to cope up with growing demand of free education upto 10th standard in an overpopulated country like India, its inability to provide above-mentioned basic facilities, fill up the vacancies of teachers posts & continue with [part/full time] teachers on paltry emoluments like Rahbar e Taleem teachers of JK have all opened flood gates for private players to rush in & exploit the situation to their benefit by extracting maximum out of it by levying exorbitant fees & demanding high donations on admissions to their educational centres.
Many people cannot afford to send their children to the costly in & off shore colleges & universities for study, so they raise loans from banks by pledging their property & future income of the child with the lender so that the future of the child is bright & he is well placed in a handsome salary job after completion of the course. Some parents for the purpose resort to even private borrowings. But not all students passing from such colleges & universities are so lucky to get desired jobs so easily & sometimes no job at all becomes the reality for scarcity of jobs within the country. There is no equal impetus given to the job creation in the society. Unless reciprocally required number of jobs is created, the number of qualified professionals and non professionals will only multiply adding to the socio-economic problems of the society.
After leaving school, many parents want their children pursue usual graduation courses in government & private colleges, while many send them to join professional colleges & institutes for medical, engineering, agricultural, law, CA, CS, IIT, IIM & so on. Many among those graduating from colleges & universities aspire to join bureaucracy by qualifying IAS/IPS/IFS/IRS.
But to find admission in government & government sponsored professional colleges, one has to qualify pre-requisite tests of JEE, NEET, GATE, etc. Like private schools & colleges, there is mushroom growth of private coaching centres in the society. JK seems to be the sole State where we have the largest number of private coaching centres for the competitive exams operating within & beyond Srinagar. In some areas like Barzalla there is a regular coaching mandi where you will find crazy rush of children as you find hassle, headache & inconvenience caused by buyers to others in & around well known Sabzi & Mewa mandis of Srinagar-Kashmir. All these coaching centres are not run by locals. Some non locals also own but run them through locals. Kashmir has become a fertile soil for cultivating herds of money-minters and blind-imitators.
Those who think mushroom growth of private coaching centres in & around Srinagar-Kashmir is for excellence in education, they must question themselves. They, like mushroomed private schools & colleges, are money-minting centres only. It is a fast-track mechanism invented to earn fast buck. Nothing else. There are multiple ills associated with this pure business. First, it is advertently or inadvertently deviating students from their normal procedure of studies by inculcating in them habit of studying just for few weeks as they promise them that the success in exams lies in shortcut coaching of few weeks only. Second, many below average students find it a bit difficult to make it to the exams by attending regular classrooms only. So, the clever teachers, finding it good opportunity to exploit, run their private shops of tuition centres at their homes or low-rented rooms by influencing them that they will be provided with readymade notes which they have to memorise for the exams. It is blocking the independent thinking abilities of the students in different perspectives as they concentrate solely on memorisation of the written notes sold & supplied to them at a low cost. Third, this menace is also taking the teachers away from their basic paid-responsibilities of teaching & training students in schools & colleges. Most of these teachers usually suffer unpunctuality at their colleges & schools. Fourth, they find it more attractive & profitable to do this roaring private business of coaching by turning their fortunes from normal dedicated honest teachers to wealthy elite “educationists” of Kashmir. These “elite-teachers” have converted education into a purely commercial activity that is harming our society.
M J Aslam is Author, academician, story-teller & free-lance columnist. Presently AVP in JK Bank.