By Vijay Sanghvi
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has proved the limits of his thinking of solutions to the difficult issues that his government faces. Instead of adopting a direct route to improving the quality of education in government and municipal schools to bring them at par with private institutions, he has sought a negative approach to bring private institutions under restrictive controls. Even though intent may appear to be good, the route of restrictions always ends up in breeding corruption. Ever nature tells us through the process of natural selection that even nature finds alternatives to any blockades it comes across.
The governmental restrictions always end up in breeding corruption. The brand of system or ism is no bar. Or else there is no convincing answer to the question how so many party leaders and workers of the Communist China became millionaires and multi-millionaires? Why arms manufacturers in USA fund the electoral campaigns? Why the license and permit raj turned honest bureaucrats to be corrupt in India? The only answer is more power to interpret laws and regulations through restrictive nature of law making left in hands of humans. Now the Kejriwal government proposes to amend the Education Law to bring admissions, financial management and even salary scales of teachers in private schools and chargeable fee structures within the controls of the Education department.
There is no doubt that many private schools are run as shops for education rather than as missionary institutes for educating young. They charge exorbitant fees and even collect capitation fees from wealthy families. Rich always tend to buy the most costly items under the belief they get the best returns for their money. It is a trade between the school management and to a wealthy family. It does not call for the outside intervention.
How corruption breeds with restrictions and outside interference was best exemplified with the reported abuse of the policy of reservation. 25 per cent of seats in every school for economically weaker sections in every school under the direction of the Supreme Court and further reduction in the number of seats available for imposing a restriction on the distance between the residence of student’s family and the school. More than 132 families got their wards admitted to 18 0rivate schools from fake certificates of their economic status obtained at a dirt low price from the authorized government agency. There is no count of false residence proofs submitted to prove proximity of the residence within the imposed distance limits.
The restriction does not account for the unnecessary struggle between teachers and students with different levels of intellectual capacity. 25 of one social class lacking any assistance from their families for additional input outside the school that the 75 per cent of students of different social milieu gets from their families and social circles. In a long run, it is bound to affect teaching standards. Instead of finding ways to overcome the imposed infirmities, the state government now seeks to bring private schools under its control to regulate fees charged by them and prevent the collection of capitation fees or other compulsory donations. The Education Department is also seeking to regulate salaries paid to teachers by private schools even though private schools do not seek or accept government grants so as not to invite the government intervention in their management or admissions.
Every school develops its individuality and is known for its distinctive achievements, in particular, field. School managements interview parents rather than a child at the time of admissions to assess the social and cultural attributes of each family to find suitability of the family, its social and cultural developments and desire and willingness to devote energies and time to attend to the educational need of their child. Few schools do not entertain applications when only one of parents turn up for an interview on a pretext that the other was too busy to spare time. As one principal argued, if both parents cannot adjust their time schedules even after a weeklong notice and accord enough importance to the education of their child, the school naturally comes to a conclusion that priorities of the family are different sand their child cannot fall in the discipline of the school. Now the state government intends to deprive the school of that choice and decide which student will go where.
The proportion of pupils in private schools is much less to the students attending schools run by the state government or civic authorities. Most schools lack in standard of teaching is well known fact and has been commented upon by various government agencies and private organizations. They come directly under the state education department and no attention has been paid to improve the quality of teaching with direct or indirect supervision. The results of final school leaving examinations provide enough evidence to show the quality of education in the non-private schools. The Education Department is not interested in attending to the task of improving quality and standards of education in schools that have been under its supervision for three or more decades but wants its authority over the private schools.
The chief minister should ask his officials why they have not been able to attend to the important task of improving the quality of education in non-private schools to make them at par with private schools. It is essential so that is no rush to private school and wealthy or not so wealthy need not fork out vast sums demanded. The positive approach to end the evil practices in private schools, and suspicions of such corrupt practices in private schools is the provocation to the state government to regulate them, would be provide alternatives to parents so that they need not turn their child in that direction. Consequently even children of socially and economically backward families also would have benefitted and be in a position to compete with students from private schools. But it is much easier and populist to abuse wealthy and escape responsibility towards sick of finding solution to their problem.
Arvind Kejriwal and his party rode on waves of their promise to eradicate corruption, but solutions it has prescribed for private schools would soon be the breeding ground for corruption. It is the law of nature, and Kejriwal cannot comprehend it.