Recently, I participated in conference on ‘Excellence in Education’. We discussed different facets of the topic. Here, I would like to focus on one particular facet – what is at the core of issues with our education system and what we need to do to change it. This reminds me of the story by Edward de Bono, in a book called ‘New Thinking for the New Millennium’.
The story is something like this: There is a ship and everything is wrong with it. The power generation is erratic, food is lousy, and there is a mutiny on the ship. The employees were angry. So they decide to bring a captain. With the new captain everything on the ship changes. Now the ship is clean, the food is good, and mutiny is completely quelled. There is only one trouble. The ship is still going in the wrong direction!
The plight of our education system is similar to that of the ship. While we are trying to fix many other issues in our systems, we are overlooking or refusing to address a very fundamental problem – government intervention in education. Let me explain. In order to improve the quality of education, government has been taking several initiatives such as increasing the number of teachers, increasing their salaries and incorporating technology into education. Yet, the outcome is not encouraging.
On one hand, the teachers are not taking their job seriously. While some are outsourcing their job to others, those doing the job are not motivated. After all they do not get any incentive for good job! On the other hand, students are increasingly migrating to private schools; numbers in government schools have come down. The cost of training a student in a government school has reached its peak. So effectively, we created a high cost education system that is not yielding results.
The point I want to make here is, the government can fund and regulate the education system, but it should not try to run or manage it. We see government making regulations on how much a school can charge students and what qualifications should a candidate meet to become a teacher. The cost of training a student differs between schools. If government tries to regulate fees, the quality of education will come down. Similarly, there are several teachers passionate about teaching and doing a great job even without a B Ed degree. If the government insists that every teacher takes formal teacher training, the country will lose excellent teachers.
Quality education comes from entrepreneurship and leadership. So instead of pumping funds into the government schools and the State universities, government should encourage private parties and trusts to actively set up and run schools. If you want to bring excellence in education, the starting point should be government reducing its interference in education. When government keeps away from the nitty-gritty of running schools, trusts will come forward to run schools. It is then the schools start competing for quality and the quality of education improves.