Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Saturday, June 06, 2009

the dichotomy of activists

i recently an invitation to a seminar/conference in my mail with this set of facts.
Do you know that,
• closing down of government schools, begun since mid 90s, is now being speeded up?
• government schools are being handed over to corporate houses/NGOs?
• government school system is being demolished, except for elite schools like Kendriya Vidyalayas?
• public finance is being shifted to private capital in the name of ‘promoting’ education?
• Public-Private Partnership is being pushed to set up expensive elite private schools?

Would you believe that the much-hyped Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA),
• promotes a multi-layered school system that exacerbates discrimination among children?
• fragments teacher cadre into parallel layers of varying quality?
• pushes excessive and unsound testing by NGOs at the cost of teaching and learning?
• receives diminishing allocations despite increased mobilization of education cess?
• violates the Constitutional vision of Fundamental Right to Education?
i did not know a few of them. i agree to all the listed items. it is true to the best of my knowledge.
the group was activisting towards a Common School System.
i fully support such a system and i think it is the ideal model for a just and humane society.

i could not attend this seminar, but i heard from a friend on the discussions and deliberations. i was told that rhetoric was the order of the day. that's not the point.

the point is..."How many of these activists send their own children to public schools?"
i would hazard an answer..."None."
For me, this dichotomy is sufficient reason to believe that such activism will fail or corrupt itself.

a story with beautiful irony is here...
Over a decade ago, in June 1997 to be precise, I had covered an agitation of farmers opposed to the acquisition of their lands by the state government to build this very same expressway that would reduce travel time between the cities of Mumbai and Pune. Now, here were the anti-SEZ activists insisting that I use the expressway!
if i had a child, i think i would send her to a government school.


Vanessa said...

If a lot of efforts, money and talent is infused in govt. schools, more people would definitely consider them.
In US, public schools are as respected as private. Nothing in the quality of education/ facilities is amiss. All desis send their children to public schools in US. But switch to private when back in India.
All being said, the children going to reputed private schools also need expensive private tuitions :) I wonder why.

csm said...

v - thats not going to happen by itself.
it has to be demand led.
the parents will have to demand quality.
but it is a reality that parents in the upper demographics are unable to ask for accountability from the better(?!) private schools.
private tuitions is one insidious pervasive cancer.

Purvs said...

REALLY interesting read!!

I agree with the author that "lack of political will is the inability of the silent majority... to press for equal quality education for their children." I personally know parents who are willing to beg, borrow to send their kids to sub-standard (read dysfunctional) private schools, not merely because they are private but because in most cases they are still better than the municipal English medium (free) options that exist.

I think the question of sending our children to public or private schools is irrelevant because in my opinion, there is no real choice ( at least at this point). If a public school can offer me what Riverside offers its students, there would be no question at all! I would pick the public school anyday.

Sriram- I wonder if parents are unable to ask for accountability because 1) they think the schools are already doing a good job i.e. they don't themselves understanding what schooling and learning should be about OR 2) they believe that in comparison to other schools, their kids' schools are far superior and hence they need not worry.

csm said...

purvi - my incisive attempts to keep my online identity a secret has been blasted into oblivion with your careless and casual comment ;-)

1. it is well documented through ASER that most of the private schools deliver better learning outcomes than govt schools.
2. large chunks of parents entrust their children with the private schools because their personal childhood experiences in government schools rankle.

wrt accountability query, i think neither of the 2 options are fair estimates.
in general, schools like to keep parents subservient/suppressed, i.e., anyone who has any semblance of power moves from use to abuse (ref latest post :-)).
there is another trait in parents to blame the children/students for failure, rather the school.
such historical and cultural factors are likely to be dominant.

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

well, you were bound to be out-ed sooner rather than later... :-)

schools are horrid. i wish i did not have to send mine anywhere govt or private. first of all they have uniforms constructed out of tent cloth. that is enough.