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Can money buy everything?

S Nabiha Shahram
Money has been an important part of human history for the last 3,000 years; before that it was assumed that a bartering system existed. Bartering was a trade of goods and services. In 600 B.C Lydia’s king Alyattes minted the first official currency from electrum stamped with pictures. Little did he know at that time how commercialization, trade and money would control the minutiae of human world. This currency now rules the world and to such an extent that consumerism has become a global phenomenon. But the most unfortunate part of this dominating consumerism is that education has also become a commodity. Parents are forced into believing that more expensive schooling means better schooling. In the absence of good-quality public schools, private schools are the only option left. The private sector holds a monopoly in such matters, setting terms and conditions which parents have to accept.This reification about the fancy schools put the parents in an ever-increasing financial burden. Schools are run as a business where the students are treated as more of a commodity. They go through a robotic and monotonous curriculum and over-stressed examination system. If a child shows interest in an extra-curricular or activity-based program, the parents have to pay an arm and a leg for it.The economic classes also contribute towards the hierarchy of schools such as the schools for the elite, for middle-class and for lower middle-class students. According to Pakistan Education Statistics for 2007-2008, the percentage share of the private sector at middle level is 61%, high school level is 59%. Only at primary level, the public sector is the leading provider of education with a ratio of 89%. Between 2007-2008, the number of private educational institutes has increased by 69%, as compared to the governmental increase in institutions i.e., 8%. The government provides considerable forms of grants-in-aid to the private education sector. According to a recent study, Rs. 5.2 billion was granted to the private sector in 2009-2010. Despite this huge segment of private schools, policymakers lack data and research on the syllabus and characteristics of the different types of school. This system is based on a simple model. Invest money, reap profits and then further reinvest. The mushrooming industry of schools is producing education without any standardised quality control. Despite the heavy fees schools charge, teachers are underpaid. The result is the monotonous workload on the teacher. There is the sheer absence of any genuine student-teacher relationship. If a ten-year-old accidentally loses his lunch money while going from computer lab to the other class, the teacher is asked to help him find it. Showing their authority, teachers order the children to stay quiet. A lecture delivers a temporary lesson, while observation builds lasting impressions. It is the day-to-day handling of minor issues that nurtures confidence in a child.

In the words of Greek philosopher Aristotle, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. Amid all this chaos, one wonders where are the values of character building, acceptance of diversity and raising the sense of good citizenship in our educational system?

Parents despite giving huge fees are frustrated as almost all the children need extra coaching and tuitions. Heavy school bags, overburdened teachers, over-stressed children and financially overburdened parents are the most dominant features of schools. Schools fees are increased now and then; money is extracted in different names. There is an absence of a standardised teacher -student ratio, fees regularisation and teacher training program.

Videos go viral on social media of parents complaining how children are made to sit in the school office or face bashing in front of the entire class on fees delay issue.

All marketing gimmicks are used in the educational industry starting from fancy campuses to fancy functions. On the other hand, children going to public schools have to bear poor standards of education and most of the missionary schools have badly deteriorated too. These students end up taking tuitions on a daily basis and cram up the books. After sixty-nine years of independence and 23 educational policies, we are still clueless of our direction. In the absence of any national policy on the goals and aims of education curriculum, there is a chaos. Finland schooling policy is considered to be among the best in the world. Teachers are highly respected and appreciated there. The selection of teachers is very tough, out of 5000 applications only 10% are accepted by the department of education in Finish universities. Finland has improved not by constantly testing children or fancy schooling. But they strengthened the education profession and nurtured capable teachers.

The grades rat-race and a standardised evaluation is not the prime objective of education. Few grades cannot define the entire personality and aptitude. Critical educational theory emphasis on education as one of the key factors for social transformation. It is the only instrument to thrive. The educational policy, syllabus and its agenda need updating and research. Any nation that sets the educational policy as a mean towards social and national progress leads towards nation building. Otherwise, it will just end up being trapped in a fake state of consciousness. As Lenin put it “through the schools, we will transform the old world … the final victory will belong to schools”. If education means commercial education, it will lead to a production of a weak generation prone to commercialism, lack of character building, understanding and accepting mediocrity as an institution.

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