CHENNAI: While the students burn midnight oil to come off with flying colours in the board exams to find themselves on campuses of premier institutions, one nagging doubt at the back of their parents’ mind would be the size of the crack their children’s big leap would leave on their nest egg. This was one of the points made by Congress leader Sachin Pilot on day one of The New Indian Express ThinkEdu Conclave on Friday.
Debating whether there should be profit in education, Pilot spoke about what all were thinking, without saying - capitation fees. “We are fooling ourselves if we think there is no profit in higher education. Just because you (educational institutions) have an income surplus, it should not turn you away from the purpose of your existence: that of contributing to society by providing good education,” said the former Union minister, while making a distinction between income surplus and profit-making - a line that several colleges were ignoring, according to him.
Actor and politician R Sarath Kumar, apart from several well-received wisecracks like “politicians can become actors because they are both acting”, argued that only when there is an income surplus can infrastructure be developed. “Where did private infrastructure come from? Only if there is money from profit can they have it (infrastructure),” he said. Drawing attention to government schools, he said their infrastructure was not conducive to learning and a lack of funds was getting in the way of progress.
Moving on from capitation to capital, an interesting point was raised by Shaheen Mistri, founder of Teach For India, about the different types of capital that could go into education to fetch a different kind of profit altogether. “For example, research shows that children from families who sit down together for dinner have higher test scores, which is the profit attained from community capital,” said the 45-year-old.
As the chair of the session, Preeti Sinha, global convener of Yes Institute, asked what their big idea for education in India would be, Sachin Pilot, who stressed primary education said, “Dropouts from these levels are going to be an economic problem as they will be non-contributing factors to society, apart from being young and restless.”