Education is not a Business

Equity and access are the cardinal principles and virtues that should animate education at all levels- primary, tertiary, secondary and so on. And, education is a right. These assertions are in the nature of principles, declarations and ideas. In practice, access to education is skewed, the level playing field is not level and access is elitist. All this has a searing resonance in the schooling condition(s) of Kashmir. The shoddy education provided by Government schools has created space for private schools to flourish. But, private, schools, charge monies( at times, quite exorbitantly) which excludes the vulnerable and poorer segments of society. Education then has become an elitist affair in Kashmir. The sad irony is that even schools which ostensibly have a mission not to make money but provide education as a social good have begun to acquire an elitist complexion and hue. This is lent credence by these schools demanding income certificates from parents. Admittedly, a smooth income and cash flow would be a requirement given the operating expenses for running these schools, but the demand of providing income certificates is discriminatory. This is more pronounced in a place like Kashmir where uncertainty is the norm rather than the exception. Say, a business person who , under one permutation and combination, is financially comfortable but in another faces crunch amidst the uncertainty that defines Kashmir. What is he/she to do? The only class in Kashmir that has a guaranteed cash flow is that of those employed by the government. The income certificate demand then makes the children of this class as the beneficiary of good and better education. Moreover, talent and perhaps even intelligence is distributed unevenly by the Almighty. These are not contingent on the economic status and condition of people, in general. A boy or a girl , from a poorer background might be exceptionally gifted and talented. His/ her talent(s) can best be groomed in a better educational environment but for want of money, these talented youngsters are deprived of sound and good education which would groom them and their talents. The practice of demanding income certificates should be abandoned and models of education tweaked to make leeway and latitude for the children of the deprived classes. This is eminently doable and has been taken recourse to in many countries of the world. Let education be that public good which is defined by equity and access and not merely an elitist prerogative. Society will better for it.