Thursday, July 10, 2014

Too much cost, too less of Education: Papa-Beta comparison

Today afternoon, my son gave me his quarterly fee slip and I was a bit shocked to find the increased fees increase totaling Rs.10,000/- for a quarter. It means Rs.3,333/- for a month. This is not a small cost per month by any Indian standards.  The figure irritated me a bit but I had no better option or the option to opt out. Somehow, I managed the discomfort within and remembered the good old days when I was myself a student as my son is. Suddenly, a question surfaced in my mind “What were my fees in the similar class way back some 32 years ago?” A bit of recollection helped me and I found that mine was Rs.30/- per month. My school was one of the top five schools of the city and it enjoyed fairly good reputation among the public. My parents were pretty satisfied with the school teachers and other related activities. In last 32 years, the fees jumped over a hundred times and my kid’s school should be rated not among the top five rather among the top twenty schools of the city. I cannot say that my son is really being trained for skills of the future or his teachers are really great or committed teachers. It means that the cost of my son’s education is over hundred times more than that of mine despite the fact that I consider the important factors of quality on the declining side.  In a period of 32 years, the hundred times increase seems huge. I enquired the same from a fellow friend who calculated his similar situation and said that his comparative ratio of father and son was 1:110. In order to be clear, I enquired the same from couple of more acquaintances and this figure turned out to be nearly above 1:105. What does that mean in economic terms? The inflation figures of foodgrains, fuel and electricity may be disturbing but have we ever bothered to think of cost of education and hidden inflation inside it. If calculated properly, this item would turn out to be the most inflation-prone one in last 25-30 years. During 1970s and 1980s, the factors like regular off-campus tuitions, coaching for competitive examinations, capitation fees etc were not very prominent but if these factors are added to the current cost of education, the actual financial burden of education would be really heavy for a middle-class family. The cost of educating two kids can sometimes take even more than one-fifth of a family’s total budget. In America, the student debt burden of the entire country has gone beyond $1 trillion and average debt per student is over $27,000. In India, the average of student debt may not be there because bank loans for education are not a regular practice here but if parents’ debt for kids’ education is calculated, it would not be less in terms of comparison. This is the debt that has to be paid back by skills and competence but are we really gaining in capacity for that? Are we really getting a good education?  Are our students really earning hard enough to pay back their parents’ loans? The skills deficiency is increasing day by day. Whatever we invested in our education is being sucked by inflation of degrees. Marks are turning less and less the hall mark of a good and talented student. How to handle this situation of perfect storm? This is a question for all the schools and colleges to answer. 

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