Private Education – The Big Smoke Screen

Education is a basic necessity for every child and basic primary education is guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan. However, after the nationalization and complete failure of state to provide quality education, private schools came into being to fill in the void. For the past many decades, private schools have taken up the responsibility to educate the children of Pakistan, giving them a shot at success. Although the government spends colossal sums of monies towards education and by some estimates over 18 to 20 thousand per child, but it is common knowledge that government schools lack even the basics such as school teachers, boundary walls, washrooms, drinking water and in some cases even the class rooms.

Lately there has been a lot of hue and cry regarding the fee increase of Private Schools. A lot has been written on this matter and there are arguments by both sides of the aisle. But is it fair to demonize any particular service provider without understanding the basic workings of any sector? Private sector, like any sector have input costs based on which they calculate the fee that will charge. A very workable inflationary concept of Education Price Index or EPI was introduced when a committee to look into the school fee issues was formed in Sindh. The Education Price Index took into account the basic costs that are relevant to schools in calculating the school fee that they will charge. This includes rent, teacher’s salaries and payroll, cost of furniture and construction, cost of utilities, cost of training and other allied costs. A conservative estimate, based on this inflationary mechanism placed the increase in fee by about 14%. This basic calculation is far more than the arbitrarily suggested 5%. So what is going to be the impact? If the assuming that schools don’t get a fee raise close to the estimated inflationary mechanism, they will take steps to cut costs. This would perhaps be increasing the number of students, reducing the quality of teachers, reducing the facilities, cutting down on curricular activities.

This being said, the other shocking side of the story is that where is all the money going that the tax payers are paying for education and the government is allegedly spending on education? When parents are reeling under the pressure for trying to get quality education for their children, the government is conveniently missing. The government should be responsible to provide the education promised under the constitution but while the parents take a swing at the private schools, the government finds it very convenient to watch as a by stander while all the blame is being slapped on the private sector. If the cost of educating a child by the government is the same as education for a child by the top private school then where is the money? Logic would dictate that either the government should shut down its role as an educator and pay private schools to provide education and act as a regulator or the government should come up with the concept of Education Stamps and subsidize the fee for the parents. Many people that I have met have to do extra jobs just to try and get their children educated but to expect the private sector to fulfill the responsibilities of the short comings of the government is completely senseless. Then by the same stretch, government is also responsible for security so it should ask every security company and security guards hired by private sector to provide security to the general public, for people having generators to provide electricity and so on. In addition to this, to avoid blame and fixing of responsibility on itself, the government is misleading the adjudicators by trying to blind side them of the government’s short comings while the government continues with its ghost schools, ghost teachers and high level of corruption. The expense by the government doesn’t justify the absence of service it is providing. Now that the matter is in the highest courts, it is high and the right time to fix responsibility on those who are actually at fault and not to build a smoke screen to mislead the suffering citizens and the adjudicators alike.

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