Monday, March 11, 2013

Denying education by privatisation

Denying education by privatisation

By V P Niranjanaradhya, Sep 13, 2012
The report submitted by the committee for “structural upgradation and reorganisation of school education in Karnataka” has been placed on the official website of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to invite suggestions and feedback from the public. It is absurd that the state expects suggestions and feedback from the public on the report which has no recommendations. The report has already drawn flak from civil society organisations and experts in the field of school education. The core critique about the report is that it is designed to ruin the public education system and it accelerates privatisation and commercialisation of school education in the state.

A meticulous reading of the report reveals the following far-reaching implications on the public education system in the state which is already in a sorry state of affairs.

Firstly, the shallowness of the report could be attributed to the fact that none of the primary stakeholders representing children - parents, teachers, school development and monitoring committee members, members of local self-government and organic intellectuals, who have been working on the issue on a daily basis, was part of this committee. As all of us know, the ‘rights-based development model’ considers the role of primary stakeholders crucial and decisive for issues related to their respective constituencies.

Vested interest

Secondly, a committee of non-stakeholders, who predominantly represent the middle and upper-middle class, who have escaped education from government schools cannot make prescriptions about the feasibility of the public-funded education system. The committee was born in the beginning of 2012 with a clear vested interest and mandate by the state to legitimise the ongoing merger cum closure of government schools which was the byproduct of ill-conceived policies and programmes of the state in the area of school education. In the words of Chomsky, many times we “manufacture consent” in democracy; this is nothing but a manufactured report to destroy the public education system.

Thirdly, the committee has thoroughly failed to understand the context and circumstances of school education in the state where the onslaught of privatisation and commercialisation of school education is posing a big threat to the public-funded education system. The committee also equally failed to analyse scientifically and pedagogically how the policies and programmes persuaded by the state in the past led to the gradual destruction of the public school education system and thereby breached the policy commitments made in the 1968, 1986 and 1992 (revised) education policies and principles of equality and social justice enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Fourthly, education being in the concurrent list, the committee made no attempt to envisage the kind of education system needed to be developed in accordance with the needs and requirements of the state and thereby proposing a comprehensive policy for discussion.

Instead, the state vehemently followed the policy of giving permission to private institutions in the state to weaken and destabilise public education. Further, the state has been following the policy of franchising education to private commercial players and business houses to create the fertile ground for privatisation by neglecting public education. The implementation of RTE was deliberately delayed by two years and rules were notified just four months back.

Without any insights into the larger systemic issues, the report in its couched language advocates for ‘merger’ of government schools in the pretext of low enrollment and thereby legitimises the state policy of ‘closing down’ the government schools. The committee has not provided any rationale to add class VIII, either through upgradation or by bringing class VIII from the High School other than to subsume the current structure on lines of the RTE Act. However, Right to Education activists and academicians across the country are debating the very relevance of eight years of school education today, which was conceived almost eighty years back. What is needed today is a minimum of 12 years of public-funded free school education routed in the common school system based on neighbourhood principle. Therefore, the need of the hour is to conceptualise 12 years of school education starting from pre-primary to 12th standard as one organic interconnected system that could help us to build an egalitarian India.

It is time to stand up against the conspiracy of the state to destroy public education. We need to demand constituting a genuine committee consisting of primary stakeholders to address the systemic and structural issues related to school education in the state.

(The writer teaches at the National Law School of India University)

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