The Curious Case of Accountability
It shouldn’t really be a matter of contention that Accountability is quintessential in the working of a all structures that strive to achieve efficiency in their contributions. But, the Education sector has a different story to tell.
Lets go to Hyderabad. The population density in Hyderabad is about 19,000 people per square kilometre. A lot of those people have children. Over the years, low-income private schools have sprouted like hot cakes. There are a lot of private schools(as compared to the rest of the country) and thus the supply-demand rule is put in force in the ‘education market’. Healthy competition between private players should be great for the services to become better and people should benefit. But, its quite the opposite happening in Andhra Pradesh.
Every year- ALL schools spend lakhs of rupees on hoardings advertising their schools as the best so that the rate of admittance increases. They flout all Student-Teacher ratios, RTE Infrastructure norms and reservation criteria but still continue to function. Teacher Salaries and student intakes aren’t quite the priorities for these low-income private schools.
But, the customers of the schools don’t quite see the above rules to be a priority either. The parents of the children studying in the school are least bothered about how their child is treated. they are infact okay if the child is beaten up and ill-treated in front of his peers. Once the parents admit the students- its almost as if their job is done. The parents don’t go to check on if the classes are meeting the promises mentioned or if the education is provided to the level that it should be. This leads to teachers being complacent about their work. This further affects the learning outcomes of students and they turn out to be much less competent than they should. This incompetence multiplies at each grade level- until finally at Grade VIII- 40% of the kids dropout.
In rural Bihar, too many cases have been found where the same child is admitted to a Government school and a Private school, both at the same time. No official is checking if the child is even attending schools or not. Hell, I’m unsure if the officials are attending schools or not. This results in the parents taking all the benefits from the government schools- water bottle, tiffin, mid-day meals, school bags, books etc, while the child goes to a private school to study everyday. The parents can afford the private school fees and believe he can get a better education there. So, they enrol the child in the government school only for the additional benefits accruing from that transaction at no additional cost. And this continues year after year and nobody cares to find out if the child is really attending school or not.
In both scenarios, depending on who the stakeholder under questioning is- it is always the others’ fault. The parents could always say that its the teachers’ fault that the kids aren’t interested to study and the teachers could blame it back on the parents citing their lack of interest in the education of their child.
But the larger overarching question is, where does the responsibility rest? Who is accountable and to whom? And if that is not defined yet- why not? If that is known- why isn’t it being practiced?