It is often asked in the circles of common people as well as at the gatherings of intellectuals “Is it fair that children of rich and poor families should go to different schools ?“ Of all the things that make India a nasty place for the majority of its citizens, is that the educational system of India is bifurcated into two streams solely on the basis of income of parents— one for the rich and the other for the poor. First is the government school which is one of the many established wholesale without care for the quality of standards prescribed by the Central Advisory Board of Education. While the syllabi of these schools are good, their practical implementation is poor. The teachers in government schools, although well paid, always seek extra private income from groups of students. These schools have very few extra-curricular activities and their students obtain average marks in board examinations. On the other hand there are the so called public schools which are run by private reputed intellectuals or reputed education societies. These schools charge high tuition and other fees from the students but do justice to the provision of teaching and sports facilities. They have strictly intelligent teachers who know their job and can give inspiring lectures to students. Since they charge high fees, they prefer to admit children belonging to the upper strata of life or even upper middle class if the student is intelligent and can pay their high bracket expenses and some donations.
The quality of education in the government schools is so bad that all parents whoever can afford send their children to public schools different from government schools. These schools invest a good lot on equipping their schools with all teaching aids and best quality equipment for their science laboratories. They also make good provision for sports and send their children for sports championships. They try to mould their students into hard intelligent persons who obtain good marks in board and other examinations.
Government schools on the other hand are not well equipped, their buildings are inferior, facilities for libraries poor, and there is an awful atmosphere of all round low standards of education and sports. As the teachers even though paid well nowadays, sometimes prefer to make extra money from tuitions or group coaching of their own students near the examination days. The paucity of funds is written large on every student’s face.
The 1966 Kothari Commission report came out with the concept of so called neighbourhood schools. In these schools, it was thought the state would run schools that would be open to all children in a locality and where proper — if not excellent — standards would be maintained. It was thought that over time most parents would be weaned away from public commercial schools. The reason why such a common educational system did not develop in India was that successive governments never provided the necessary resources to develop it.
Unless the state spends money to improve the infrastructure and quality of its schools these would never turn into genuine neighbourhood schools where all children could study equably. While decentralisation and community participation would be essential for the proper working of such a system, funding must not be based on the income (i.e. tax paying capacity) of a community or locality, as in the US.
Looking into the future the PROBE report suggests two scenarios. The first is the scary one — that the two track system may become more widespread and entrenched. The second is that the state takes more initiatives to push for a schooling transition in which quality elementary education is provided to all children. Money is there what is needed is political will for educational emancipation of the poor.