Remembering government monopoly in education on Teachers day


Teachers Day is day dedicated to our hypocrisy with respect to education and blind rhetoric about teachers and their greatness.

I am not use I should be happy or sad about the fact that my generation and my parent’s generation had the opportunity to study under some wonderful teachers. The reason why I feel sad is that many of the teachers I studied under were overqualified for their job, the country simply did not have enough economic opportunities for them and they ended up become school/college teachers. Many of these people could have been doctors or engineers in a modern day and time. It was their misfortune and student’s fortune that they ended up becoming teachers.

I sensed the change in society when I entered the pathetic institution called Goa Engineering College. The college faced a strong crunch of faculty, our department did not even have a building. Solution ? Those senior students who could not find a job anywhere were hired as contract faculty and then made permanent. Imagine the despair. Those people who in 4 years could not gather enough skills to be employable were hired to train young minds to be productive and employable.

This is not the fault with the government. This is the fault with the values of Indian society. On one had we blabber about knowledge based society, greatness of Indian traditions of learning and importance of Guru-Shishya tradition, on the other hand we value job security of incompetent teachers more than the quality of education they are capable of imparting.

As a society we give more importance on keeping the costs of education low than giving importance to quality of education. That explains the sad state of our education, low salary of teachers and pathetic quality of education.

One of the biggest fallacy in Economics is that prices can be controlled without affecting the quality. When government steps in to control prices, depending on the price set either there is smuggling or drop in quality. For example a school that decides that it will go strictly my government decided fees, it has 0 incentive to improve anything because that does not result into any kind of additional revenue. Those schools and colleges give better quality education take donations and other type of money from the patrons to cover the costs.

One of the best examples of why our schools have failed can be seen from the Tution business. Our 11th, 12th education has failed student expectations so badly that students are happy to pay more money from their pockets and visit tuition classes instead of demanding better education from HSSC colleges.

Are tuition teachers greedy ? are HSSC teachers worthless ? Are student foolish ?

Not at all. HSSC teachers are unable to teach what student want. What student want is not what HSSC teachers are teaching. Tuition teachers have identified this need and they have stepped in to provide the solution. Tuition teachers are not greedy on the contrary they compete on quality. I remember my physics tuition teacher was so good thatĀ  I got 95 out of 100 in physics and the lost 5 marks were because I simply forgot to answer one question on the last page. He was a very good teacher and students flocked to him in such large numbers no matter what fees he charged. He could have auctioned the seats but he stuck to first come first serve method.

Were my HSSC teachers worthless ? Not at all. In fact they were easily among the best in the country. My Physics Prof was main trainer for Indian Physics Olympiad team for years.

The real problem was that Chowgule College had to stick to the guidelines set by someone in Goa University, which was eventually controlled by Goa government. No matter how good the college was they could not prescribe their own notes, could not decide on their own college timing, could not decide to number of tests they could take or the amount of fee they would charge.

The government control meant students had no option but to take tuition which were sometimes provided by the same teachers who taught in HSSC.

One one hand we want teachers to get more salary but vilify those who earn money through tuition. That is the hypocrisy of Indian society.

The pathetic nature of Engineering Education

Goa Engineering College was a nightmare for me. I learned more about computer science and engineering from internet, from peers and books than what any of those lecturers could ever teach. Some of the stuff they taught was outright wrong.

The number of GEC teacher I feel indebted to can be counted on fingers of my one hand and still more fingers would remain uncounted.

Again I don’t blame the GEC management of lecturers. The fact that they have no incentive to improve anything given that the Government’s goal is `mediocre education for all` and doing anything outside it is generally illegal and unlawful.

The maximum salary that can be paid to teachers is linked to some random pay scheme which takes nothing into consideration about actually performance of the teacher but purely his degrees and seniority. A college simply can not hire person by paying him more salary even if the college management is charitable.

Scenario in non-medical, non-engineering areas is even more grim. Most of them stick to hiring only contract based temporary teachers. The simple reason is that there is huge surplus of non-science graduates in the country with little direct employment opportunities. Most of them are more than happy to work as contract faculty with lesser salary and no job security. But the moment you hire them as permanent faculty members, you need to pay them based some what some babu in Delhi working for UGC has determined arbitrarily. Not to mention the job security actually changes their attitude towards process of education as well.

Summary

Quality education needs resources. The resources include both material infrastructure as well productive people who act as teachers. All this is expensive. Either students or the government need to pay for this quality. Using the Milton Friedman’s law of expenditure, the expenditure will be economical when students spend money on education they need rather than when government spends taxpayers money on students.

More ever when students spend money they are the paying consumers who will drive competition. Competition will lead to suppliers (colleges) innovating to make their business more and more economical and delivering more and more value.

When government pays for student’s education it is essentially killing any possibility of competition. Draconian institutions like UGC and AICTE ensure that all colleges stick to the bottomless pit of mediocre education.

Finest example is how Ms Irani dealt with Delhi university and IISc through UGC.

Less hope

There are clear indications that Narendra Modi government will do nothing to change the situation. Both Irani and Modi have made it clear that they will only strengthen the government control of education. Change in rhetoric is the only change we could expect.

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