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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 5 Oct 2012
What’s the price of education?

Walking down the street these days, it is a common sight to see little children struggle to carry heavy bags on their shoulders to school. Frantic parents walk out worriedly after meeting with teachers, asking if their child has performed well or if they might need extra tutoring. Every year, with revised syllabuses and expanding classrooms, the pressure on primary school children to perform and excel is tremendous. Yet, there is little discussion about the issue of the rising cost of education.

What’s the price of education

Will it become so expensive in the coming years that neither children nor parents can cope with the stress that it brings along? It seems like no one is truly prepared for the answer. Rumani Mandal, a primary teacher of 18 years in a reputed school in Bangalore, finds that the education system has seen a downhill trend over the years. “It is the same fixed syllabus and children are often made to memorise their subjects. There is no room for creativity, and most children are spoon-fed,” she says,

“The need of the hour is to haul up the present syllabus which is outdated.” Surprisingly, while this seems to be the cause of worry for most teachers, it isn’t exactly the same reason that is causing worry in many homes. It is access to education that is becoming increasingly doubtful. According to the Assocham, Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India, in a survey conducted last year, more than 65 per cent of parents spend over a half of their yearly earnings on their child’s education.

In many middle-income and low-income families that have only one working member, it is becoming almost impossible to send a child to a private school due to financial instability. With the price steadily rising to astronomical figures, we are faced with another problem - mass illiteracy. School children in rural areas drop out early, teacher accountability in several schools has hit an all-time low and most families in rural areas simply choose to avoid education. Yet, teachers like Rumani are positive that primary education can be imparted to every child with just a bit of effort.

“Numerous schools have started the system of double shifts these days,” she notes, “The first shift caters to students who come from financially stable backgrounds while the second shift is a social initiative that provides students from low-income backgrounds education free-of-cost with the same facilities.” This may seem like a distant dream, but many organisations are coming forward to discuss possibilities like this. Pratham, a non-profit organisation best known for its work in elevating education, released startling, yet interesting figures in their annual survey of 2011. The inclusion of technology in private schools determined that more parents wanted to send their children to them.

A positive aspect is that in spite of expenses, enrolment in schools is at an all-time high. In an ASER survey taken by Pratham across over 14,000 villages, it is believed that 96 per cent of children aged between 6 and 14 are enrolled in schools. Another good sign is that government initiatives and corporate-funded investments focus on bringing forward more girl children into classrooms. “One of the positive aspects of privatisation is that organisations are very conscious about their profits and their image. “If good quality education is not provided, then their image will take a beating.” says Rumani.

On the other hand, non-residential Indians, who have close family ties in India, are still diffident about the primary school system back home. A few who wish to return are reluctant about the educational system. Priya Kathirvel, whose daughter is soon to start pre-school believes that although the level of American education at the primary level is low in comparison to India, it gives children room to grow by nurturing their creativity and improvise their ability to interact in a social environment while learning.

“Private schools are expensive here too in the United States, but the standard of education and syllabus they offer are far better than public schools that are funded by the state,” she argues, “I feel that, in comparison to Indian schools, our children will grow up in an environment that encourages them to think out of the box, so we don’t mind paying the price’. The Right to Education Act, which is duly implanted by the Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan, is still a glimmer of hope for those in rural India who need access to primary education.

In the coming years, initiatives that are taken by the government will matter by and large in reforming education, access of which is crucial to every child. Providing the same quality of education as private schools will ensure that there is a healthy balance between private and public schools and that every child has access to it. Whether it a double shift in private schools or improving the infrastructure of public schools, there is just one thing everyone agrees that could help curb the rising cost of education - reformation. It is only this that can strike a fine balance.

Courtesy: Deccan Herald

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