Friday, June 12, 2009

There is money to make in education

Two pieces of News in the Bhopal edition of Hindustan Times 12 June, 2009, drew my attention. One was titled: Why Rag pickers prefer dirty landfills to school reported by Chetan Chauhan.

The report talks of two rag picking children, among many others, who went to special transitional schools under a India-US Labour Department joint project in five states in India – including Tamil nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and UP and Delhi. The project called INDUS worth about Rs 188 crores was launched in 2005 in 20 districts in the above mentioned states to improve the condition of 80,000 child labourers in the age group of 10-14 by inducting them in transitional education centres and upgrade their skills. Of the 40 children, 30 apparently are back to rag picking after the INDUS project ended in 2008.

Reason?

“I was promised Rs 100 per month for attending the school regularly” 10-year old Sheik who was enrolled in Balswa, north Delhi, special school said, “even a bank account was opened but no money came. Today, earn, Rs 20 per day which fetches me food and some money for my five younger siblings”.

“It was bound to happen”, said Amod Kranth, head of Prayas, an NGO that operated 14 of these schools. “There was no substitute for INDUS after the project ended. In the last eight not a single penny has been provided for education of child labour”

Please note, the Delhi government’s Labour Department opened a bank account for 2,300 children in March 2009, but many of them did not get any money. Of the 30,000 books published for disbursement in 42 special education centres, only 5,000 reached the beneficiaries.


Now come to the second news: India, US launch education Venture

Quick to act on PMs 100 days action plan, new Human Resource Development Minister, Kapil Sibal is stressing the need for better partnership with foreign educational institutions to ensure better –trained Indian workforce for global jobs. He is setting up a Joint Working Group on education with the US.

The decision to set up the group was taken by Sibal and William J. Burns, Under Secretary, political affairs of the US State Department.

The agenda of this group will be to focus on Institutional linkage in the field of secondary, higher and vocational education.


Now read between the lines:

(a) Do the two news items not sound similar, although addressed to different social groups?

(b) Does the underlying reason for this not lie in US wanting to outsource its educational liability of foreign students from India, to Indian Institutions?

(c) And if that be the case, will India be able to keep its own agenda of education in place or will it have to fall to the diktats of the foreign partner?

(d) What Kapil Sibal is finally trying to work out, perhaps is close to what a Call Centre in India is doing. All material is already provided by the foreign partner, the operator in India only has to learn and deliver like a parrot.

(e) Does this not require more public debate before the Foreign Education Provider’s bill get passed on the floor of the parliament?

(f) If this is to be followed, then will we not cause a further “brain-drain” on the teaching faculty as well?

(g) Will this not standardize education at higher levels to meet US requirements, globally?

(h) Will it not cause a threat of a different kind: In the age of knowledge imperialism, robot mind-sets may become the order of the day? Is it not something we need to fear about and be cautioned?

(i) By applying ourselves to becoming partners in such education groups, monetarily, it is the US’ gain – creation of workforce who is standardized to their requirements, at less than the cost of free education to a school going child in the US.

(j) And finally, has Kapil Sibal no eyes to see a more dire need in India – the need to increase focus on Primary Education on war footing? And ensure that better teachers and TLM ( Teaching-Learning material) are delivered to the end user at Public Primary Schools?

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