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Monday Musings: Affordable education, a shining example

It is high time India takes steps to control the escalating cost of education

pune Updated: Dec 18, 2017 15:47 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Monday Musings,Affordable education,a shining example
Many schools today don’t hesitate to charge exorbitant fees and then increase it every two years in complete disregard to protests by parents.(HT FILE PHOTO)

Like a number of private hospitals which are bleeding and cheating patients for the sake of high profits (Fortis Hospital, Gurugram being the latest example), a number of private educational institutes have been doing the same by charging excessively high fees from students.

This no-holds-barred commercialisation of healthcare and education has been going on decade after decade in our country and corrupt bureaucrats and politicians

have preferred to look the other way, rather than take corrective steps.

This being the prevailing environment, a recent visit to a school in Pune was overwhelming because it demonstrated that imparting good education need not mean high fees. It was only about a year back that the Jidnyasa Prabhodhan Trust’s Vidya Niketan English Medium School at Bibvewadi, raised the annual fees from ₹15,000 to ₹ 20,000. This SSC board school with a beautiful playground has about 2,000 students and runs from nursery to junior college.

I found the students bright and spirited and the teachers passionate and dedicated about education. Whether it was the students, teachers or the parents, there was a deep sense of belonging with everyone taking pride in the school, its philosophy, and its achievements.

I sensed that teachers at this school were passionate about their work. They felt that they were treated with respect by the school’s management. Issues and problems were sorted out with care and understanding, just as one would do with family members. The alumni were pursuing promising careers, with at least 100 in the

United States alone, and the few that I met, in the leading IT firms of Pune.

At 74, the founder-chairman of this school, Subhash P Shetye and his wife Subhashita Shetye, who is also the director, are deeply involved in the school operations. The Shetyes returned to India in 1989 after serving in Germany for two decades, and decided to devote their life to education.

They have firmly and consistently believed in the holistic development of children, rather than emphasising on just books, marks and degrees. “Let the new generation know that we care and we serve with our heads and our hearts,” says Subhash Shetye in his message on the school’s website. His dream for his children is a world “without tears, without fears,” and a world “full of love, hope and peace.”

Established in 1991, this school has not only maintained high academic standards but has also produced national and state level junior champions in karate, chess, taekwondo, badminton, swimming and kickboxing. School students have won Cyber Olympiad gold, silver and bronze medals. What more should we expect from our schools?

Till the 1980s, many of our schools were focused on education and all-round development of students. The commercialisation of education began with the demand for capitation fees in medical and engineering colleges, followed by top-ranking private management institutes and then descended down to schools.

Many schools today don’t hesitate to charge exorbitant fees and then increase it every two years in complete disregard to protests by parents. One school in Delhi contemplated air-conditioned

buses for the children to deal with the pollution in the nation’s capital.

While shining examples in education such as the Vidya Niketan School need to be encouraged wholeheartedly, simultaneously, there is a crying need to put a cap on fees charged by schools. Just as there is a need to put a cap on cost of hospitalisation, surgeries and procedures. This is the way to go forward.

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 15:47 IST