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(This was a critique I published in my personal blog, to the Right To Free and Compulsory Education act when the act was enacted a few months ago. It’s proper place is in this blog. )

The Right to Education act is being criticized in some quarters as being inadequate. The point of my criticism however is that it is an atrocious attempt by the Indian state to extend it’s iron fist into what should essentially be a private responsibility. The fact that it only mirrors the Socialistic form of public education already prevalent in some western countries does not justify it.

The name of the act – Right to Free and Compulsory Education. Calling a compulsory provision as a right demands an enormous perversion of the language – an art that the Socialists have mastered. I would attempt to show that it is not a compassionate measure and would not deliver the results it promises. It would in fact turn out to be a massive Social engineering experiment by the socialists who would stop at nothing in their missionary zeal to achieve compulsory mind-numbing Soviet style equality in this world and reduce all humanity to mere numbers.

( Before reading this critique please take time to read through the act first. It is available for download here )

First of all there is no such thing as a free lunch. As long as schools,teachers and books do not grow on trees, education cannot be free. But I will come to that later. Even assuming that this huge,bloated,corrupt,inefficient,constantly under deficit government has the resources available to finance this monster, there are a lot of other serious flaws. So though I do not accept the idea that government should have anything to do with providing education, I would try to prove that they are not honest even about that and are only going to destroy an entire generation.
In Chapter III of the act it is stated that all non-enrolled children will be compulsively enrolled in the neighbourhood school ( which the government shall ensure exists ). Now the concept of neighbourhood schooling is a tried and failed concept in the USA. Their socialistic public education system is a perfect example of how government interference can destroy a proud,productive people and reduce them to couch potatoes. Today American kids score low on every indicator of talent. (American higher education system is world class still. And that’s because it still offers choice to students, the universities are autonomous and run mostly on their own funds )Their neighbourhood schools are recognized to be the breeding ground of anti-social elements. The problem with compulsory enrolment in neighbourhood schools is that it removes the parent’s right to choose the school for their kids or not to school them at all ( Again when did these communists care about our rights? ) So even if you know that the neighbourhood school is filled with thugs, even if you fear that the monstrous teachers there would cane your kid to death, you have no choice but to place your child at risk. ( Any person who knows the state of government and aided schools in India would testify that I am not exaggerating. There are millions of horror stories )
So what does the act do to remove these fears? It provides for School Management Committees which some respectable people have hailed as the only good aspect. But I am not so sure. These communities are supposed to be constructed with three-fourth strength being parents and the remaining being teachers, local representatives and some education workers. On surface this sounds a good idea. Indeed it is welcome that parents have a greater say in running the school ( Do not forget that they still do not get to choose the school ). And the act also provides for the transfer of the physical assets of the state schools ( government schools ) to be transferred to these committees. Another welcome step. But I do not for a moment believe that the communists included this provision out of any respect for parents or property. I suspect that this is an experiment they are conducting on communal ownership of property. Now in a free society, people can choose whom to buy from. This is called consumer’s sovereignty. In a communist society, this is replaced by blackmail. If the “people” are not satisfied with a product/service they get, the only recourse they have is to threaten the producer of the good/service. This is the fundamental concept of communism. In place of the right each person had over himself, the communists give each person a right over every other person except himself. So the SMCs here too have been granted arbitrary powers to control the teachers. The SMC is supposed to ensure that the teachers are diligent and disburse salaries to them. Now the act also states that the teachers of state schools will be state cadre. So they will have to be paid bloated, union-hiked government school wages. So SMC actually does not have much say in this matter and will be powerless in the face of the powerful teachers unions. As a further addition the act also stipulates that the teachers should not be transferred once appointed. With all these vastly reduced powers, the SMCs would be owners only in name. The frustrated parents would make SMCs just a community of grievous individuals. So the stage is set for never ending conflicts between teachers and SMCs. Another dream of communists- a society filled with unresolvable conflicts.
The monstrous provisions of this act are yet to come. The act is a huge infringement on the rights of private schools. It stipulates that even unaided schools should allocate 25% reservation for weaker sections ( Another undefined word ). The government promises to reimburse the education subject to a maximum of what it costs per child in government schools. We know the state of government costs. The government schools actually put a negative cost on children by destroying their initiative. So the cost they fix will not be considered sufficient by private schools. How will they treat these kids forced upon them? Again the answer is simple. Define a term equitable education and threaten them to provide it. ( I seriously pity the kids who are going to be forced into schools like CV and SBOA. Even most middle class kids find the culture of these schools too hot to handle. And you are seriously going to take a boy from the slums and force him into the same school as a girl with killer looks wearing the trendy low cut tops? And then you are going to jail him for eve-teasing? Again how sick can you get? )
The act also stipulates that any new school should be approved by the government. There are already provisions requiring this. But now educating your kids in an unrecognized school that provides cheap, good quality education will be considered a crime. If you are not educating your kid the way the government wants you to, you are not educating him at all. And what are the norms for recognition? It states that every school should compulsorily have a playground. Every teacher should have the degree that government deems appropriate. Now there are lots of charitable organizations, NGOs, Christian missionaries and some Hindu charitable trusts that provide education for the most vulnerable sections of the society. Most of these operate out of houses or other temporary shelters. They employ volunteers to teach who do a much better job than our union patronized B-Eds. Many poor parents are willingly sending their kids to these places instead of the frightening government schools. Now this act would not recognize any of these schools. The bureaucratic machine would step in choking all innovation. It would criminialize charity. And parents would be subjected to community service as a punishment for not educating their kids in a government approved school. Again how do these people have the courage to include all these monstrosities in a so-called right?
After setting up all these draconian arrangements, what will they do with our kids. Who decides what to teach? The act states that competent academic authorities will prescribe a curriculum which the schools have adhere to. Who are these gentlemen? What are their political affliations? How will the kids who have been made to believe that they owe their lives to the government and this act, have any spine? How will they exercise the cherished right to free speech our constitution guarantees? The act states that the schools should use mother tongue as instruction medium as far as possible for elementary education. We do not know how they define the word “as far as possible”. But still this is opposed to the cherished dream of most parents- to school their kids in English. This is not because they hate their mother tongues, it is because English is the global language and a path to success. But isn’t English the preserve of these elites. Masses should love their mother tongue right?
The act also stipulates that no child should be held back in any elementary grade. I am not a great fan of exams. But this provision will surely destroy any remaining semblance of quality in education. Why care to learn if you are gonna pass anyway?
All of the criticism above was directed at the compulsory provisions of the act. The free provisions are equally destructive. How is the government going to raise the 1.5 lakh Crores it proposes to spend over the next five years. Tax us more? But we already have a 2% education cess on all goods right? How to fulfil this promise without angering the already choked middle class? Simple. Deficit financing. Just print more money and put the blame for the inflation that results on forward trading.
The very idea that the government has a greater right over children than parents is nauseating. How sick can these communists get? Who are they to compulsively take a child away from his parents? Who decides what is education? If parents decide to teach their children family trade or home school them or send them to a place that does not fall under the “Government approved” definition of school, who are these people to question that decision? Every decent person must mull over the monstrous provisions of this act. This is a vulgar idea taken straight out of the Communist Manifesto which declares that the children belong to the community as a whole. The left intellectuals scream in pain when some rights of the accused were removed in POTA ( I am opposed to POTA too since it places the burden of proof on the accused. But I am questioning the double standards of our intellectuals here ). Here is an act that destroys the liberties of every decent parent in this country. And the intellectuals are celebrating.
If these people were atleast serious about their stated aim of universal education they would have gone for something akin to the school voucher system being successfully tried out in various places. The concept is simple. Just provide the poor parents with cash vouchers. They can enrol the kids in the schools they want by paying with these vouchers. The schools can re-imburse these vouchers by submitting them to the government. The system is not perfect. It still involves government interference. But atleast it actually helps the poor by removing all the bureaucratic bottlenecks. And parents get to choose. If it is so simple why didn’t our benevolent intellectuals choose such a scheme. This is where their real aim becomes clear. Power. Power over our kids. Take them in young is every totalitarian’s dream.
BJP which claims to defend our cultural values has shamelessly supported this huge assault on our family structure. It is time it got some spine. Conservatism is not about destroying mosques or molesting Christian nuns. It is about defending the institutions we value the most like property,family,business and religion. If BJP truly wants to become a middle class party again it should stand up against this communist assault. This isssue together with the rising demand amongst farmers for re-instatement of the right to private property that our liberal constitution originally guaranteed can propel BJP to the centre stage again.  Is BJP up for the challenge? Can it show that right wing politics is the true politics of the masses? Can it give us our own Reagan?

Addition:

Milton Friedman, that tireless crusader for liberty campaigned endless for introduction of some degree of choice into the American public education system. If compulsory neighbourhood schooling could have such harmful effects in a vibrant participative democracy like America, in a corrupt, unaccountable setup like ours, it will turn out to be a frightening Soviet nightmare. Below is a series of videos that the Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose network published to campaign for freedom in education. Let us demand too that our government leave atleast the children alone.

Note:

For informed critiques of the act, visit http://swaraj.nationalinterest.in/2008/10/31/right-to-education-bill-is-flawed/,http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/right-to-education-act-critique.html

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Written by Surya

September 21, 2010 at 3:34 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] Why do we have this never ending stream of rights – “Right to Food“, “Right to Education“, “Right to Health”, “Right to Internet” (Yeah you heard it right) ? […]

  2. […] Why do we have this never ending stream of rights – “Right to Food“, “Right to Education“, “Right to Health”, “Right to Internet” (Yeah you heard it right) ? […]


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