Commercialisation of school education has its advantages as well as disadvantages. The advantages go to the upper and affluent classes, and the disadvantages to the economically weaker sections. The legislation to ensure Right to Education (RTE) seems to have had no real effect. Parents seeking admission to their children from kindergarten to college-level have to run from pillar to post, often seeking recommendations from influential people. The nightmare starts for parents months before schools reopen.

Schools with the commercial tag attached to them are unapproachable in the normal channels, and their primary criteria for admission are money, status and influence. Principals, Correspondents and officials in charge of processing applications are generally impolite, if not downright rude, during the admission season. Often they make parents call on them several times, before giving their “yes” or “no” answer. One cannot understand why these people in authority have to throw their weight around before the poor parents, who now have a lawful right to get their wards an admission in conformity with the provisions of the RTE Act.

It is not only the school authorities who are to be blamed but also parents, many of whom are fastidious about admitting their children in a well-advertised commerce-oriented school even if they have to make their children travel several kilometres up and down either in a crowded city bus or a packed school van, or drive them to school in their own cars. Everything depends on their financial capacity.

Economically lower or middle class people always want to compete with the moneyed class and want to put their children in a sophisticated school or college just for the sake of vanity or false prestige. They do not realise that the sophistication alone will not in any way make the child greater than others going to ordinary schools.

The admission problems are more prevalent in the metropolitan cities and commercial towns. In the villages mostly government schools operate. Students from those schools are equally, if not better educated, than the so-called sophisticated schools in cities and towns. In fact, they seem generally to be better human beings than students from many upscale institutions. The finest example is our former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

In some places in Tamil Nadu schools have introduced a system of lots to choose students for admission, reducing the tension a bit. But again the question remains: what happens to those children who were not lucky enough to win the lot? The parents still have to run back and forth to secure an admission.

The solution to the problem rests with the government. It could make school districts in the city/town areas. It could establish more government schools within that school district in a clean and wholesome environment.

The government could make it mandatory that all children within a district should be admitted to local schools without any questions being asked, applying RTE norms. Private schools also should be required to give preference to children from the given school district, and under no circumstances should admission be denied to any child.

Strict rules should be set down that a child from one school district be not admitted in another school district unless the school is within 3 km from home. This should be applicable to private and public schools. It is the government’s duty to facilitate good infrastructure including spacious classrooms and a clean environment in government schools. The prestige and dignity of studying in government schools should thus be revived.

bkalanjali@gmail.com