By Ruma Dubey
This was a conversation between two very simple, middle class people, overheard in the BEST bus.
Mr.A: My fields in the village (somewhere in UP) are no longer giving me as much money as it should. Plus this climate change; it has changed the complete seasons of India! I don’t know what to do.
Mr.B: I too have a plot of land, had gone a bit arid. I spoke with some people there and they advised me to start a school. Really I tell you, it’s the best business…so much money comes in black..ek bar school nikal padi, then the money you will rake in as donations is simply astounding. I am beginning the work to put up a primary school; let’s see when this “money plant” takes seed and I start making money!
Mr.A: Arrey yaar, super idea. Let me see if I too can swing a school or something like that…
Mr.B: Do anything but use the land for education business only; it is recession proof and solid money.
Well, my “stop” came and I got down reluctantly or else maybe I too could have got some free financial advice on how to make super quick money!
But the underlying message which came across here – education business is the best way to get rich.
Yes, education has today become a big business. Every big industrialist worth his name, runs a school. One can argue that he/she has put up the school for the bigger good of the society; their way of returning back. Really? If that were true then why aren’t these top notch “industrialist” schools affordable to the likes of me and you? Can an average Indian afford to send his child to Dhirubhai Ambani School or for that matter most such schools? So when the schools are purely “for profit” organisations, what social good and returning-to-the-society are we talking about?
There is thus no denying the fact that education, be it pre-primary or K-12 or higher education, all are today money makers. The lure is purely of big money, exactly like the way Mr.B in the BEST bus told Mr.A. No doubts, some of these schools, even though they offer high quality education, are much beyond the reach of the common man. So then you have the second rung – tutorials and coaching classes, which promise grand dreams to students and their parent. These “classes” too have become big business and some people having grown from a small one-room have today burgeoned into franchisees and JVs. Many such institutes are even listed, making great money.
And when education becomes a business and when people with small plots of land start schools, can you imagine the quality of education being imparted? Are you then surprised that over 50% of the graduates today are unemployable as majority of them, despite having graduated from an English medium, do not even know to write a single sentence without grammatical error.
Remember Arindam Chaudhary’s IIPM – an over Rs.500 crore institute, it used to be advertised all over the print and electronic media. Now we know that it was not recognised by the UGC or AICTE. IIPM had later even testified to the Supreme Court of India that it is not a university. And that’s how many such “business” ventures have become – a place where fake degrees and certifications are doled out.
That brings into the spotlight the significance of The National Academic Depository Bill, 2011. Currently there is no central institute which verifies or validates information given by many such schools and institutes. Thus the need to establish the National Academic Depository Bill, 2011 tries to address this gap. Once this Bill becomes a law, it makes it mandatory for all academic institutions operating in India and issuing degrees, diplomas, certificates or any other academic award to lodge all such details with the depository. Any person can access this database and verify the authenticity of the school/institute through this central organization. Implementation of this Bill will thus prevent more IIPMs happening and curb fly-by-night education providers. The National Academic Depository Bill is the only way to bring back some credibility to the education system. Let’s see when this Bill becomes a law…
Education empowers but what we are seeing now is that those with power are getting empowered with the business of education. It’s become a big buck business – in fact all the so-called noble professions – teaching, medical are all big money rackets. Doesn’t that say something about our current value system?