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Privatisation of Education
Those are the bygone days when the university campuses of west bengal
were decorated with slogans against commercialisation of education. The
youth comrades of the SFI/DYFI, youth organisations of the CPI(M) were
martyred in Kerala while opposing commercia-lisation of education.
Whereas in West Bengal they are implementing commercialisation of
education, as a part of the liberalisation policies. But unlike others,
the CPI(M) has a double face. Its hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Big business and the imperialists are in need of such an education that
serves their unhindered production, for maximisation of profits. It
serves them in many ways. It creates a social and cultural lease for the
imperialists’ penetration. It supplies trained labour as per their
necessity. Moreover, it opens a new front for lucrative business.
With globalisation, new industries are emerging. Consumerism is
engulfing entire society. Computers are making their way into the
suburban and even rural trading centres. Cellular services like cell
phones have facilitated fast track communication even in some remote
rural areas. All these, demand that the rural illiterate population
should be literate to an extent. A survey shows that a literate farmer
can increase the sale of fertilisers, seeds or any other items of
multinational corporations by 25%. Consequently, imperialist capital
does not lag behind to take up the challenge.
This position was marked by the Ashok Mitra education commission report
of 1992. It stated that there is a "deficiency of a minimum
infrastructure — there are 30% schools with one room, deficiency of
teachers are eminent. More than 30% of schools are run by one or two
teachers. There is a lack of commitment of the teachers. They are
engaged in many economical activities besides education, etc..." The
CAG report of 1998-99 also pictured a dismal scenario. It stated that
since 1991-92 there have been no grants for primary school education. If
such is the situation, then without going into details it can be
concluded that this is not a conducive atmosphere for imperialist
capital to operate. Consequently, the Overseas Development Corporation
of the British government is engaged in the ‘spread’ of primary
education. The program started primarily with 5 districts since 1994.
Now the area of operation has increased. The State government’s share is
15%of the total expenditure. There are other projects meant for primary
education run by the UNICEF. Moreover, the West Bengal government has
plans to solve the problem in its own way.
The West Bengal commerce and industry minister has appealed to the NRIs
and business houses to build up their schools, thereby justifying
private educational institutions right from the primary level. Now, in
Kolkata and the suburbs numerous kindergarten and Montessori schools are
coming up. These spurious institutes are only hankering after money.
They charge huge tuition fees. The government of West Bengal, though in
its Commission in 1992 opined against these institutions, it takes no
step to control their activities. On the other hand Buddhadeb
Bhattacharya is busy training English teachers through the British
Council. Moreover, a UK govt organisation, has made clear its real
intention with regards to its concern for education. It stated that, "profit-making
is the driving force of progress." This profit-making attitude
delivers no secured job for the teachers, non-teaching staffs etc.
The government, in line with this, is introducing primary teachers’
recruitment on contract basis for Rs. 1000/per month with no PF or other
facilities, under a central govt scheme named ‘Sarba Shiksha Abhijan.’
Thereby the government is legalising the inhuman exploitation of the
teachers/non-teaching staffs. It also justifies the hire and fire
policy. The school education minister, when asked about this contract
system proudly exclaimed that there are 26 lakh graduate unemployed
youths and as such there will be no dearth of teachers. Of course, he
promised to appeal to the central govt to extend the tenure of contract
teachers.42 Oh, what a pity for the teachers and
commitment towards education!
The West Bengal government is utilising the noble idea that exists in
our society regarding decentralisation, for namesake. Actually, nowadays
the World Bank and its allied agencies are using this term to perpetuate
their exploitation. In the Bengal case, an idea is cropping up that
decentralised education through panchayats is beneficial for the people.
But the govt of West Bengal has not spared this example to also champion
the cause of globalisation. It is because the panchayat-run schools are
sure to face a fund crunch problem. Thus the schools are left prey to
fund-sanction/donations from the rural elite or will be forced to
increase fees under various excuses.
Thus, the entire programme of primary education, funded and guided by
imperialist agencies, seems to enhance the spread of education to an
extent. But who will be educated? Despite tall claims, sons and
daughters of the privileged families will be educated and others will
Higher education is the sector which has a huge potentiality for profit.
Consequently an idea is slowly championed by both the central government
and the West Bengal government, that higher education is a waste for
society. This idea is paving the path for privatisation, thereby opening
a vast area of profit for big business and imperialist capital. The idea
becomes further clear if one goes through the report published by the
research division of the World Bank’s education and training department.
The report stated that "unless educational development becomes less
dependent on public funds, developing countries well not be able to tap
fully the profitability of further educational development". The
report even advised to change the syllabus as per the needs of
industries. In order to hide its intention, it argued against subsidised
education that "most of the very few who benefit from heavily
subsidised higher education comes from relatively wealthy homes."
In this context the CPI(M) is operating from two fronts. Through one
action it is working in favour of commercialisation of education, fee
hike etc. Through the other, the SFI, its student wing is fabricating a
story/logic in favour of fee hike, as a compulsion!43
In West Bengal colleges and universities fee hikes are being carried
out. Sometimes the monthly fees, admission fees, examination fees are
increased more than 100%. Various colleges under Calcutta University are
run by part-time lecturers with minimum salaries per class basis and
devoid of any job security. But the fees are very high. In Paskura
college, a suburban college, the annual fees for the microbiology course
is Rs. 31,000 per month.44
Privatisation of education is so rampant that the state government has
even started an information technology college by one business house,
without any formal recognition from the All India Council of Technical
Education. The annual fees for the said college in the first year was Rs.
40,000. Now, in private colleges the government has decided the fees to
be Rs. 31,200 per year. But what about their opposition to the fees
hike? Previously, in the 10.10.’85 issue of ‘Ganashakti’, the
daily newspaper published by the CPI(M) in West Bengal, it was reported
that the teacher’s organisation of the CPI(M), the ABTA, has vehemently
criticised the policy of education of Rajiv Gandhi for its business and
profit-making orientation. It seems that in real terms the CPI(M) has
used that opposition to hoodwink the people! In Himachal Pradesh the SFI
agitates against fee hike to tap student support, in West Bengal the
same SFI not only supports fee-hike but physically attacks any students
who try and oppose it. During the general election of 1996, the CPI(M)
published a book titled ‘Merciless Marketisation : Education Under
Rao Raj’. Please read in between the lines — CPI(M) is against ‘merciless
marketisation’ of education, not against marketisation!
The desperateness of the West Bengal government in pleasing the business
houses is further evident in the recent row over the medical college
entrance. An eye-wash examination was conducted for the doctors who can
pay. It could rake in about Rs. 7 crore into the West Bengal
government’s coffers.46 A dental college has
already started, owned by one J Singh, on B T Road, Kolkata. It obtained
a no objection certificate from the state government. It has fixed the
1st year annual course fees at Rs. 2,90,000/-; Rs. 50,000/- as admission
fees and Rs. 40.000/- as refundable caution deposit.47
Still can we say that the West Bengal government is against capitation
fees and it is different from states like Tamilnadu or Karnataka where
education is on sale like any other commodity?
Previously the CPI(M) opposed the deemed university, the autonomous
college or the model schools because they felt these were to promote
privatisation, elitism, dual citizenship in education.48
But now they have changed their stand. The Presidency and the St.
Xavier’s College of Kolkata are first to apply for autonomy. It simply
implies that the colleges concerned, have to look after everything on
their own, starting from syllabus to finance. In line with this the
Shibpur Engineering College has been turned into a deemed university by
the West Bengal Government. A more astonishing fact is that the Bengal
Government has withdrawn its objections regarding model schools, a brain
child of the IMF-World Bank via Rajiv Gandhi.
It has also started a distance education programme under the open
schemes, like the Netaji Subhas University, Vidyasagar University etc.
These have minimum costs with maximum profit and no responsibilities.
Vocationalisation is always championed by multinational corporations for
supply of trained cheap labour. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya started to
‘impart a ray of light’ for 4 to 5 lakh students appearing for the
secondary and higher secondary exams. A maximum of students, according
to Mr. Bhattacharya, will be in 2nd or 3rd division. For them vocational
training will be conducted in schools. A committee headed by Dr.
Sparshamani Chatterjee has also been formed. Oh, what a well wisher! In
real terms, once the CPI(M) objected to vocationalisation of education,
for its imperialist inclination. Now, they have come out in their true
each and every aspect education is on sale abiding by the whims and
dictums of the IMF-World Bank and by business houses. Now, Birla is
setting the trend of computerised education at the school level. The
CPI(M) on its own has taken major steps to serve the purpose of