Has education become a business?
I was thinking (and it is always dangerous when I do that) about what teachers and schools and education were all like when I was much younger. I remember teachers who seemed to be on a mission, a sort of crusade to educate, who wanted kids to open their minds to the possibilities around them. They were our counsellors, our mentors, the ones who guided us and listened to our sometimes extremely ridiculous ideas.
They encouraged us and never told us there was anything we couldn’t do. They earned our respect because of their passion for teaching, for the values they inculcated and for the integrity with which they conducted themselves. Were they a different breed? Aren’t there teachers like that anymore? A few of my friends have dedicated their lives to teaching, to illuminating the lives of children who were or are under their care. But I don’t know if there are many others like them out there. Teaching appears to have turned into just another profession.
Education has become a business – not that ‘business’ is a bad word. It is just that schools and universities have become such commercial enterprises that everything is measured in terms of profits. There is a professor who told me the other day that he used to teach two courses at university and that was tough enough and left just enough time for him to dedicate to some of the research work that really interested him. He also had teaching assistants who helped him with assignments.
Now the same professor teaches 3 courses, has no time for research and the teaching assistants position no longer assists. When he asked the management of the university where he works how he was supposed to teach so many courses and check assignments and projects all on his own, yet maintain the quality of the teaching he imparts, he was told that he could do away with the assignments (as we all know it is the project work that actually brings concepts to life and allows kids to experiment with innovative ideas). His objections to this suggestion were totally ignored.
That is the story that one hears at several universities in the country – that although fee structures are high and universities are very profitable, they do not want to invest in adding on more professors and teaching assistants. Instead they want to retain more and more of the profit. Is it any wonder then that the quality of education is not what it used to be a few years ago? Is there a way out of this situation? Perhaps we need to raise the consciousness of the University management. Perhaps we need to work on improving the teacher-student ratio. Perhaps more project work is what is required. We certainly need to tackle this situation, and we need to do it now- the status quo is just not acceptable.