ACT Essay: Resource Crunch in Education

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Education has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.

Institutional education is the focal agency which ‘socializes’ the individual after his primary exposure within the family. Education does not mean attaining literacy, nor does it mean pursuing knowledge, nor does it mean pursuing knowledge merely for the sake of knowledge. It means much more than that. Ideally speaking education must instill and transmit the norms and values of a society; it should prepare the young people for adult roles and select young people in terms of their talents and abilities for appropriate roles in adult life. Moreover, education must realize its potential for creating a more equal and just society.

The imperative of the structure of education in a country are derived from its historical education pattern and the present priorities. In India, historically our education system was conspicuous by its specificity. For a long time access to learning was considered to be the preserve of higher castes and that too only for males. Although there have been glaring exceptions to this but this has been the general trend. The content of education was nonsecular and was oriented towards making the individual accept and conform to the structure of society and completely subsume his individuality into the society.

Seeds of modern education were sown by foreign Christian missionaries, the British Government and some progressive Indians. The introduction of modern education in India was basically motivated towards catering to the politicoadministrative and economic needs of the British colonizers. As such the system was geared towards providing clerks and lower level whitecollar workers to the Raj and requisite attention towards vocationalization of education was not paid. Somehow, this system was maintained in postIndependence period too, resulting in an immense proliferation of substandard institutions of higher learning, a drain on the exchequer and worse the creation of a vast population of educated unemployed youth thoroughly disenchanted with the system. The inadequacies in terms of quality and quantity of primary education, the inaccessibility of education to sections of women and other weaker sections of society are apocalyptical.

Recently the education process has been further vitiated by the process of politicization of education. Politics has crept into education at the level of academic appointments, as well as student activism and last but not the least, even to the ‘content’ of education imparted to students. On top of it all, is the financial burden thrown on the education system by the government by announcing reductions in educational allocations.

In fact the drying out of financial support from the government to education is only the logical fallout of the resource stringency faced by the government grants. In this context the talk of privatizing higher education and even privatizing textbooks is gaining currency.

In an era of prevailing financial exigency and the ongoing economic reforms, the need for devising strategies for ensuring costeffectiveness of educational schemes cannot be overstated. There are sufficient reasons to rationalize the funding of higher education on the grounds of equity and efficiency. In this context it would be worth mentioning that higher education enjoys government support to the extent of eighty five percent and the government decision to freeze grants has come as a blot from the blue to the university community. As it is, the education sector had been reeling under a less than adequate budgetary support approximately 4 percent in the Eighth Plan as against a six percent upwards projection of the National Policy on Education Revised, 1992 and the double impact of rapid inflation and rupee, devaluation. The combined impact of all this is that the ‘real’ allocation to education has declined over the years.

The university community can legitimately fell outraged because the level of funding has ′ been decelerated at a time when they are already plagued with underinvestment and fiscal deficits. Besides, the freeze has been slapped on, without providing alternative avenues of fundinglike liberal loan scheme or taking policy initiatives on the fiscal front for mobilizing additional resources by universities as are generally available to autonomous bodies.

The most important issue therefore is to identify alternative sources of finance which could be exploited. At the same time effective and gainful utilization of available resources is essential. Thus, a two pronged strategy can be envisaged one relates to measures for effecting economy in expenditure and other to the mobilization of additional resources.

More than sixtyfive percent of university expenses go towards the salary bill of teaching and nonteaching staff. Economy measures therefore largely affect the staff in terms of either retrenching staff or postponement of recruitment of faculty members. This not only undermines the university plans to carry out ongoing schemes but also strikes at the root of the intellectual viability of the university system. However, since economy in budgeting is unavoidable one would be betteradvised to check nonacademic expenditure by scaling down dependence on nonteaching staff and cutting administrative expenses. Economy can also be effected by devising methods of interinstitutional sharing and lending of facilities like libraries and laboratories on which huge investments are made and yet they are not fully utilized.

As far as the question of mobilization of additional resources is concerned, a case can be made out for raising tuition fees. Though, the requirements of universities are too high even for raised tuition fees to sufficiently provide for, yet a beginning in this direction is most welcome. More so, because most of the beneficiary groups largely hail from the better off section of the society. In this context schemes need to be devised which would extract fees from beneficiaries according to their income ability or allow them to meet the educational expenses out of interestfree loans while the education of poor sections of society should be suitably subsidized by the Government.

Besides an upward revision of fee structure especially in professional courses other resource augmenting measures include full recovery of costs of education from foreign students, mobilization of resources from industry by way of initiating relevant programs for managerial and technical staff of industries and other commercial organizations, undertaking consultancy projects from industry, revising users charges like hostel, laboratory fees, library etc.

Thus, unless an equitable and efficient funding mechanism is devised the process of upgradation of human capital the sine qua non of enhancing resource use and productivity will be seriously handicapped. Moreover, productivity enhancing new innovations and technologies will also be difficult to come by from the conveyor belt of institutions of higher learning. Privatization of Textbooks

Privatization or denationalisation of textbooks is put forward as an extension of the process of privatization of education. Let us first see what ′ denationalization of textbooks means and what its implications are. Nationalization in its classical sense means the state or its agencies like the National Council of Educational Research and Training NCERT and its affiliates in the states SCERTs are responsible for the editorial, printing and distribution of textbooks. In this light one can argue that the debate on denationalization of textbooks is irrelevant because firstly prescribed textbooks exists on! for school level classes I to XII there are no ′ textbooks ′ as such for higher classes and secondly because the state does intent the private sector to share the enormous load of printing of textbooks and is completely dependent on the private sector for their distribution.

Despite, the at best ‘partial nationalization’ of textbooks that we presently have in India, to lobby of private publishers want this sector to be thrown open to them which means that they would be able to cater to the enormous demand of the growing school population. Normatively, there can be no objection to such a proposal if it will lead to better textbooks in terms of language, style, subject matter and production. The ability of private publishers to singularly meet the enormous demand and the cost to the consumer can be the only other considerations in this regard.

The prospects of private sector cunning out better textbooks are very bleak if the past performances of this sector are any indication. Mostly, private publishing is. a one man show with a majority of publishing houses lacking in even the mandatory editorial departments not to speak of production staff, proofreaders etc.

The ability of the private sector to handle the vast magnitude of demand is also suspect because no single publisher can possibly have the requisite infrastructure in professional staff, warehousing spaces, sales outlets etc. Besides the huge financial investment required. As far as the price to the consumer is concerned we can expect a steep rise in prices because the private sector does not work on the ecclesiastic principle of ‘noprofitnoloss’ Private sector works only for profit.

If what we have said above seems like an advocacy ofstatus quo ante then we would like to quickly state that what is required is a rational costbenefit analysis of the two extremes. The private sector should weigh its merits visavis the state endeavor and devise ways which maximize benefits to the society as well as the entrepreneur. Surely entrepreneurship cannot be given precedence over the subjective quality of education. Efficiency of resource utilization while at the same time ensuring quality in education so as to enable it to perform the sociological task expected of true. Education should be the only guiding criteria.