“The aim of education is social development, and not profit-making. ‘Education shops' must either not be allowed to function or must not have profit as their motive,” said Anil Sadgopal, presidium member, All India Forum for Right to Education (AIF-RTE). Announcing that the State Platform for Common School System (SPCSS) along with the AIF-RTE will be organising a two-day all-India conference for ‘Abolishing commercialisation of education and building a common school system' later this month, he said that excluding disparity and including diversity were necessary to come up with a new system of schooling. The abolition of commercialisation in education is a pre-requisite to achieve a common school education system, he said.

The two-day conference, which will be inaugurated by historian K.N. Panikkar, will delve into issues that will go into the creation of decentralised, locally administered, government-funded and facilitated neighbourhood schools. The conference will look into issues such as whether an amendment could be brought in the Constitution to ensure the possibility of the including those below six years of age through a fully state-funded common school system from pre-primary to class 12. The possibility of guaranteeing entirely state-funded and cost-free education from kindergarten to the post graduate level would also be explored.

Contending that the RTE Act, 2009, was a means to divert public funds into private hands, Professor Sadgopal, noted that the act would allow managements of private schools to hike fees for those students who do not fall within the 25 per cent. It would develop neither government schools not private schools, and institutionalise the multi-layered schooling system. He called for a common school system which will be funded by the government, but not controlled by it, and where governance would be decentralised and democratised to include active participation of teachers and parents

Ramesh Patnaik, Organising Secretary, AIF-RTE, said that this was part of a larger movement against commercialisation which has become rampant following the adoption of neo-liberal policies over the two decades.

According to Prof. Sadgopal, the conference would be on the lines of the conference that was held in Wardha by Gandhiji in 1937, wherein two key aspects were emphasised —linking education to productivity, and providing free and compulsory education. It was discussed in the conference how there was no dearth of finances, and that it was matter of setting financial priorities, which the case even today, he said. Believing that a common school system was an achievable goal, he cited examples of countries such as Finland.

The national conference which will be held at Valluvar Kottam on June 30 and July 1 will have eminent speakers from around the country and abroad. Some of the sessions that will be held are – ‘Constitutional and judicial imperatives for educational policies and laws' by Justice A.K. Ganguly, in which Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of Madras and Delhi High Courts will participate; ‘International experience in building state-funded CSS and engaging with neo-liberal assault on education' which will see participation from Cuba, Venezuela, Germany and Australia. Other sessions include ‘Historical, socio-economic and political perspective of the struggle for Right to Education and Common School System (CSS)', and ‘Chennai Declaration: presentation, recommendation and endorsement' among others.

I.P. Kanakasundaram, President SPCSS, and Vice-Chairperson, All India Conference Steering Committee, P.B. Prince Gajendra Babu, Convenor and Member Secretary, All India Conference Steering Committee, and, Vikram Amravat, National Executive Member, AIF-RTE were present.

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