Education Thoughts

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Catholic schools in Imphal are open once again much to the relief of everybody, but especially parents of students studying in these pioneering institutes responsible for the initial spark that ignited a revolution in school education in the state. From all indications, there was a compromise reached with the militant group which was demanding a reservation of 15 percent seats in these schools, and in a less insistent way, in other premier private schools as well, for children of economically weak and underprivileged sections of the society. We do hope whatever the compromises reached to bring the faceoff to a conclusion were, they would not affect these schools adversely, for these are private institutions which run on their earnings, and therefore compelled by the basic logics of economics to live within their means only. But let all be reminded that it is not so much admission into these schools and tuition fees which put the burden on parents, but more so the cost of books and uniforms. Surely the schools cannot be expected to meet these expenses as well.

The spirit behind the demand however was honourable therefore we are happy a solution has been reached amicably. It was meant as a means to bridge at least some of the widening disparity between the well off sections of the society and those left behind by circumstance. But the matter has left bigger question unanswered. If the intent is to have the masses access good school education, why are there no serious campaigns to ensure government schools are capable of providing good education? Unlike private schools, which run on the money they earn, government schools are run on public tax money, and therefore available free or else at greatly subsidised rates to students. Teachers and staffs in these schools are much better paid than their private counterparts, and the funds available for the upkeep and expansion of their infrastructures, at least on paper, are much more liberal too. The vital thing lacking in these institutes however is commitment of the government authorities as well as staffs running them, to the mission of spreading education. These vital qualities are enforced rigorously in private schools by survival needs.

Had this been otherwise, and if government schools were as good as the best private schools, which they can very well be, given the commitment, imagine the benefits, not just for the underprivileged sections, but everyone. Parents then would only have to worry about their children`™s admission to the school nearest to their residences. None would have had to pay more than the taxes due under the education head. The egalitarian society this would have ensured would have been unmatched. In such a situation, opportunities would have been extended equally to all, and whatever differences that emerges thereafter would have been solely the result of the aptitude and industry of the individual students. Such differences would no longer have resulted in any sense of injustice too. This is very much a reality in Communist countries, China for instance, but it is not exclusive to them. Capitalist welfare states too have done well in the regard. In Britain for instance, as in India, government schools are run on public tax money, therefore virtually free. Parents can send their children to exclusive and expensive private schools, but those who do not, have nothing very much to lose. This is the reality in most other developed countries too, regardless of political ideology followed, for they all know improving the quality of education is investment in the future.
Once upon a time, government schools in Manipur were competitive and committed. A look at the alumni of government schools of the first half and mid 20th Century will testify this. An ever growing culture of corruption and nepotism thereafter marginalised talents, and thus sowed the seeds for the present decay. Why aren`™t all those who vow to bring egalitarianism and quality education thinking of revolutionising this sector instead of victimising the privately run institutes? It would not be wrong to say private schools rescued school education in Manipur, so should not the effort instead be to make government schools imbibe the examples this success story set? We also only wish there were the equivalents of Catholic schools in the higher education sector too, to spark another revolution of the nature school education has seen in the state.

Leader Writer: pradip Phanjoubam

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