Friday, October 06, 2006

What Are Colleges for If Not for Education?

Before I knew it, I was arguing with my son.

"You know something, it's not good to cut classes, saying you have assignments and homework, which you should have finished when you were channel surfing. What do I pay your fee for? I pay almost sixty grand every year to your college. If you cut classes, that's going to be a waste. Besides this I pay tuition fees, pocket money, bike maintenance, clothes, not to talk of surround sound systems," I shout.

My ire is legitimate. This year the engineering college where my son is studying hiked fee from forty-six grand to fifty-six, without even a "by your leave."

"But they don't teach anything in college, then why should I attend it? My coaching class teaches better than them," the cool dude says.

"Then what are the fancy fee for? For chandeliers and leather sofas (there are quite a lot of them in the college he studies)?" I rave and I rant.

Writes Gurcharan Das in this article  in Newsweek about why so many Indians are succeeding in the global-knowledge economy [y'know call centers, and all], "Government-run schools are a mess: a national study by Harvard University faculty found that on any given day, one out of four teachers in state-run primary schools is absent, and of those present half are not teaching." I guess the same situation prevails in engineering colleges. I am told by a teacher friend that because teachers aren't available for scheduled caste teachers' vacancies [in India jobs are pre-reserved for members of certain marginalized and downtrodden people, segregated according to their traditional castes], colleges are employing teachers on a casual basis, paying them a fixed fee per lecture.

Then where is all the money the government spends on education going? Corruption exists on a level one, at least, you and I, can't imagine in these institutions. Would you believe that permissions for engineering and medical colleges are the preserve of a few politically-anointed individuals? And that money is the consideration for admission to these colleges, not merit?

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