Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Education business

Last month my relative’s came Kathmandu for his higher education after passing the School Leaving Certificate Examination (SLC) with distinction marks. He came to me and asked for help to find out right higher secondary school (often known as college) for him. I was puzzled where to send him as I could see that there are colleges every nook of my residence, New Baneshwar. Although I have not counted the number of colleges, I can see that new Baneshwar chowk is already covered with colorful and big flex boards projecting the advertisements of various colleges. There is no any place left to put even a single more board. With my puzzlement, I suggested him that he had to visit as many colleges as possible and choose one which he liked. With his excitement he visited some colleges but he was not able to decide which college he had to choose.
He had collected attractive brochures of many colleges. Some colleges have offered him scholarships, free hostel and transportation as well. He also said that in some colleges he was welcomed by beautiful girls with garland and offered him breakfast. But his excitement declined when he didn’t see infrastructures printed in the brochure in the college. Neither there was that attractive building nor the basketball court. Classrooms were under a tinned-roofed cottage.  Although they said that the seats were available only for limited number of students, there were no any students enrolled. This is only an example of how private colleges in Kathmandu are operated with mere business purpose rather than for academic excellence. I am not saying that all private colleges are like the one as mentioned here but it is true that the operation of private colleges has become no more than the operation of a bank in which some filthy rich people invest to become even richer exploiting poor and innocent people like my relative’s son.
It is interesting to see that majority of private colleges have put various renowned professors’ name in their brochures and TV advertisements to attract more students. As they see the names of professors and Drs, students believe in the academic quality of the colleges. However, it is not transparent that whether those professors really take classes in those colleges. What are their roles and responsibilities? This is not clear. In many cases, students do not see those professors’ face during their study in the college. I have also seen that distinguished public figures from different sectors have been used as ambassador of various private colleges in Kathmandu. My humble request to all distinguished personalities is: Could you please ensure the quality of education that the institute you are involved with? Could you please make it accessible to even poor but deserving candidates? Could you please not promote unhealthy competition in education by stopping propaganda strategies in the advertisement of colleges?
An issue emerged with the mushrooming of the private colleges is the commercialization of education. It has already indicated that education institutes are being established only for the purpose of earning money rather than helping to fulfill the mission of the providing quality education to the students. We could see that there is no any strict rule and comprehensive mechanism for monitoring overall operation of private colleges. It is ridiculous to see that the founders of colleges rent a building and start a college after getting permission from Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB). And they charge expensive fees to the students to cover rent and expenses for other infrastructure. It is also bizarre to see that HSEB is giving affiliation to a large number of private colleges every year without any comprehensive feasibility study of infrastructure. Another interesting issue is that HSEB does not have any scientific criteria regarding the distance between colleges. We can see that there are more than four colleges within the same locality in the Kathmandu Valley. At the same time, due to lack of supervision from HSEB, private colleges are also exploiting students by putting them into a cramped classroom and by not providing them with basic facilities e.g. library, playground, drinking water, laboratory and so on.
There are so many disadvantages of providing affiliation to a large number of private colleges especially in the Kathmandu valley haphazardly. On the one hand, there is unhealthy competition among colleges and on the other hand, education will be simply an ‘object-for-sale’. We have already seen that different private institutes are split due to dispute among the founders and they have opened their own private colleges after getting affiliation from HSEB easily. They have left no stone unturned to attract students in their colleges. In order to stop such a commercialization of education and to promote quality and sustainable education institutes, HSEB should stop providing affiliation to private colleges to run 10+2 classes especially in those where there are too many colleges already. We could see heavy traffic jams due to a large number of students during office hour in Baneshwar, Kumaripati, Lagankhel, Tinkune, Chabahil and other areas in Kathmandu. Instead, HSEB can provide its affiliation in rural areas. 
HSEB should also make a policy which gives students equal opportunity to get admission in private colleges. It is not fair to bar students, who secure low marks from government schools and rural areas, from getting admission in any college in Kathmandu. But as this trend is prevalent now, two kinds of private colleges are in existence – colleges where students from rich family and urban areas with distinction mark study and the colleges where students from poor family with poor marks study. This distinction has already created a clear social division in the society. If this situation persists for longer period higher secondary education will be no other than divider in the  society and business for the filthy rich people.