Friday, May 12, 2006

The Delhi High Court has banned private schools from holding interviews to their nursery classes. But in an attempt to laud this decision that saves parents the stress of admissions, we ought not to overlook the larger picture. There is a dearth of schools in this country. According to most private schools, the fairest attempt to cap the multitude of applicants is to test their merit, talent, intelligence, presence of mind, etc. One may argue that judging young children on the basis of these skills is probably not as just as it seems. After all, the economic and social conditions of the family do play an important role in moulding those qualities at a young age. While banning interviews may equalize access to good education for all children in the interim, it does not stand as a long term solution to the problem.

The problem, here, is the lack of good schools. The solution to that problem would be to assuage the mound of laws and rules restraining new schools to be set up. The Delhi government’s roll back of the Essentiality Certificate gives some relief to the problem. However, an important factor limiting supply of schools is the legal condition that it cannot be a ‘for-profit’ enterprise. It may not be judicious to depend on altruism to educate a country where more than half the population stands illiterate. The resultant fallout of that law is that individuals who want to set up schools are not deemed solvent for access to credit or loans. Since only school conglomerates and, trusts with sound financial backing have the monetary capacity to bear the costs of setting up and administering a school, we have a few good schools catering to the demands of an ever increasing population of young children. While removing the ‘not-for-profit’ clause allows access to credit and venture capital for smaller but committed education entrepreneurs, it also brings to book the revenues of schools which, hitherto, may have been cloaked under a sundry cost head.

With the opening up of the education sector, the ensuing competition will create new opportunities for schools, innovations in pedagogy and better the quality of education at large. It will make good education affordable. We only have to look at our airlines and telecom industry to witness the impacts of such liberalisation and relaxation of norms. However, until such bold but significant makeovers are acted upon by governments, mere bans will only scratch the surface of the problem.

No comments: