Education, even though morally & legally ought to be treated as non-profitable venture, akin to social service, is unfortunately seen as a money bearing tree. Even the reputed schools, known for quality education, are increasingly favouring the riches to meet the acclimating expenditures and to pocket some profit for the imaginative lean period. On the occasion of tamizh New Year, came delightful news from the Supreme Court of the nation that 25% of school seats should be allotted for financially backward students aged till 14 years. When this act comes into practice next academic year, classrooms that once were filled with students from the affluent society, who were all cushioned from the trivial perils of day to day life, will hence be filled with representatives from a plethora of communities bringing with them their own baggage for the new community to observe, analyse and learn.
Going back in time, when this act was announced, a lot of angry voices raised against it from the private institutions’ side, which felt the act with eat away all its revenue. Like in any act, when such voices raises we are accustomed to hearing news that some amendment has been made to appease the concern parties: meaning the law makers were pleased by the offer the parties had made. But it was rather surprising that the highest court thwarted their effort. But sneaking in the clause that residential & non-aided minority institutions don’t come under this purview does raise eyebrows.
While people keep debating on the grey side of the deal, there are some gaping holes that aren’t touched upon by the all praising media. In a country where literacy rate is at an abysmal level due to financial constraints, 25% seats of the current schools will be handed over to the underprivileged, thereby hopefully reducing the illiteracy rate among the hapless. But without increasing the infrastructure or at least the strength of the school, what will happen of the very people the poor will replace? Will the institutions be generous enough to pump in more money to provide facilities for the increased head count? Or will the standards deteriorate due to increased strength in a class? Suppose we assume that the institution has come forward to provide the facilities for the increased strength, who will be donor? The onus will now rely on common man, who is already paying taxes for the underprivileged to get all the benefits that the government is offering only to them. I am all for sponsoring a child’s education, but I at least want to be respected for that, rather than be treated as some capitalist who drinks red wine by sucking the blood out of the labourers.
But these aren't the real problems that the system will face. The most imperative issue is the means by which poverty is classified. Certainly we won’t be taking the Ahluwaila route, but we can’t take the income tax as cogent evidence as well. During my school days, the richest man in Vadapalani was quoting his annual income as a quarter of what my father, a proper bourgeois, was earning. Now why should we pay for people like them? Will we then use the tired & continuously ridiculed formula of terming people poor since their forefathers belonged to SC,OBC & BC and thereby bring the caste system into schools as well?
Maybe the government plans to use the yet to be completed/released data of the 2011 census which promises to bring about a mammoth change in how we see our population. Till then let hope spring in the Brest.