Monday, March 12, 2012

Commercialization of education

Commercialization of education

Last year, we decided to skip our ritualistic trip to India during summer vacations, since we had to be there during the winters. We thought of showing the kids places around Dubai, since exploring doesn't gel well with school/office schedule in normal working days. Soon, we ran short of adventure options, mostly because they were hard on our pocket and our stamina level. Keeping kids engaged and happy during vacation (devoid of attention of doting grandparents, indulgent relatives and playful cousins) is a tough task on hand. With our patience and sanity plunging uncontrollable, we zeroed in on an educational summer camp providing a range of activities from craft, dance, swimming to public speaking offered by a school. Soon, however, we got a glimpse of a highly materialistic (apart from the regular fees) aspect of the "summer camp", which was supposed to be an educational as well as activity centre for children. These summer camps operated on sponsorship and hence every other day the kids would come home with a brand of noodles packet, some promotional materials by a toothpaste brand, etc. The kids would return home happy to get some so-called free stuff and then carry out the promotion for the brands- as intended by the companies. Children: The innocuous advertisers or should I say victims of the sly marketing strategy, which knows how to catch their eager customers young and cash on them. I understand that summer camps are not philanthropic learning centers and cannot run without financial benefits. However, when I come to think of it, I realized that formal educational institutes have a strong commercial aspect in them, which has a potentially dodgy consequence. 

The commercialization of education has given a financial dimension to admissions in institutes, be it private, public, kindergarten or university. The effects of this are reverberated in families, as well as on the conventional concepts of education, including the attitude and expectation from learning, teacher-student relationship and the basic objective of education. Commercialization of education means advertising the product (schools, play schools, university) in a way that appeals to the consumer (student and parent). The money put in advertising and infrastructural investment in keeping with the advertisement, is then remitted to the consumers. Thus, if consumers seek better education and educational facility, they have to spend bigger bucks. When a student is reduced to a mere consumer, then what is the fate of millions of poor yet deserving students. Every child has a right to not just education but also an opportunity to get the best. The goal of education is to harness the potential of a child, direct and channelize this potential in the right way. Education has to have an inherently moralistic module in order to achieve its real goals and not just commercial ones.  

The commercialization of education has a dreadful effect, which is so subtle that it is often unrealized. Just like advertisements of coke and popcorn in movie halls, it also affects children at the sub-conscious level. For example, a child returns every alternate day from summer camp carrying so-called free items like noodles, tooth paste, etc of a particular brand. The child is apparently informed about mouth hygiene while actually a brand is being promoted to them. Companies are reaching out to their young and innocuous targets using innovative ways. Are we ready for that kind of education for our children? I shudder to think of the day when questions in math's paper will be set like: If one toothpaste costs 20 DH, how much does five toothpaste cost. 

Another worrying aspect of commercialization of education is that the interest of the child and the kind of education that develops his/her full potential and wholesome personality is often not addressed. Education no longer is a noble profession but a business enterprise, a profit-making opportunity. Subjects as science and mathematics assume more importance than literature or art, merely because later on they provide remunerative jobs in the market. Thus, subjects and their importance is often market-driven and not necessarily for the development of the child's potential. The role of a teacher is increasingly reduced to that of an employee in such an enterprise. A teacher is no longer an important entity participating in decision-making and advocating the best interest of the child. A teacher is expected to follow the line and work for the best interest of the enterprise (namely the sponsors, trustees and managers). Teachers are supposed to attend sophisticated programs rather than use their best judgment based on their observation of the student to guide them. It is true that teachers too need to take bread home to feed their family. In the absence of monetary incentives and increasing alienation from the teaching process, there is a gradual erosion of talent in the teaching profession. 

Education does not entail mere knowledge accumulation. It is a crucial component for shaping a human for citizenship in the society, and become its contributing members. However, commercialization of education relegates the societal values and focuses on the material ones, reducing citizens to mere businesspersons.

  1. User
    CorpRattX RT @lmtv: What's your take on the commercialization of education?
  2. User
    esmecomfort Thoughtful article: commercialization of Education from The Times of India #abed #asba @albertateachers @LukaszukMLA
  3. User
    ccresourcectr What's your take on the commercialization of education?
  4. User
    lmtv What's your take on the commercialization of education?

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