Make Educators the Bad Guys – Children Will Be the Losers

Civil libertarians might consider that bringing examination papers under the ambit of the Right to Information Act is a victory for transparency and fairness in society. However, I would suggest we stop and think through the implications for a moment. What other professional can have their work pulled out and ‘dissected’ by others to such an extent? Will it be assessed by a panel of the educator’s peers and fellow professionals? No, the public will be judge and jury, accompanied by some court judges.

Imagine a scenario where a student commits suicide because they are disappointed with their result in an examination (not that anyone SHOULD fix so much of their self-worth on an examination, and ought to have a healthy attitude that whatever result they produce is to be lived with). Now, the parents demand to see the young person’s ‘offending’ examination paper(s) and perhaps those of the class topper. Said parent concludes that their child should have got more marks, that there was something ‘unfair’, that perhaps some human error existed. Could the educator now face charges for abetment of suicide?

All this appears, to me, almost certain to lead teachers and educational institutes and examination bodies to go even further down the route of vacuous, objective answers only examinations that truly test nothing but the ability to regurgitate mugged up, rote learned factual information. And, so, 100% in English, Art, Physical Education and other silly nonsense will be concreted in to the system, while the tertiary education sector and employers will cry themselves ever hoarser about the unemployability of the youth. It will be impossible to ask students to write essays because the marking of essays is not an exact science. What right will we have to ask any educator to make themselves so potentially vulnerable?

If we had any doubt about the lack of trust in schools and educators, there was further evidence yesterday with the Delhi High Court declaring that private schools must be controlled in the issue of setting their fees. Despite being private, independent and autonomous organisations operating in a system of supply and demand they cannot be trusted. In the case of our school, we have all our accounts fully audited (on an accrual, not cash basis) by reputable firms of accountants. The audited accounts are shared with Managing Committees that consist of reputable figures from society and include members of the Executive of the Parent Teacher Association. They, in turn, have had all information shared with them.

Times of India – Court Mandates Panel on Fees

This issue harks back to the 6th Pay Commission. Staff salaries are typically 60 – 80% of the running costs of a private school. Therefore, when salaries are raised by 25 – 55% this inevitably represents a massive rise in costs. Somehow, the suggestion of government was that this increase should be ‘absorbed’ by the schools. Since the sixth pay commission costs for schools have continued to escalate rapidly. Inflation doesn’t just hit the public in their personal lives, it hits organisations in all their expenditure. It also feeds through in further salary rises including big DA increases. In the last 12 months alone teacher salaries are up typically 15% at least. Where are schools to find this money if not through fees? Are we such a unique group of people that we are to provide a service and charge less for it than it is worth out of some ‘commitment to society’? How does that help society if schools curtail vital expenditure in the future; less inclination to spend on teacher professional development, ICT, infrastructure enhancements, facilities for special needs children etc.?

I agree that there are some schools whose actions and services provided may be cause for concern. But, does that justify tarring all with the same brush, bringing in to doubt the financial probity of every school?

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