Education Under Siege is the outcome of the doctoral thesis of Nirmal Singh. The investigator has studied seven colleges under private management in the City of Kanpur at micro-level in the broad frame of the growth and development of higher education in India at the macro-level.
Private control in education emerged during the colonial regime as a result of Sir Charles Wood’s despatch of 1854, which recognized the need of mass education with private and missionary help. This was reinforced by the recommendations of Indian Education Commission of 1882, which gave a fillip to private agencies for the expansion of education.
Singh observes that the Indian private effort has been of hybrid character. It depended on the government initiative and was sustained on grants. Its character changed with the changing political context. The organization of Indian education is top heavy. More importance is attached to higher education rather than to elementary and secondary education, which should need more attention and form a strong foundation for higher education.
Another characteristic is that Indian education is marked by duality at all levels. The Education Commission (1964-66) had noted the parallel existence of the minority of private, fee-charging better schools meeting the needs of the upper classes and the vast bulk of free, publicly main¬tained but poor standard schools utilized by the rest. It is functional to the existing socio-economic power struc-ture. This is shown in (Table 1.1 on p 8). It is seen that at the lower level of education, private control is able to maintain high educational standards and meet the requirements of upper class clientele, but at the higher level of education, this role is played by State (government) control.
Students of sociology will find Chapter Two of immense interest. Here, the author examines the various methodological issues. For this study, the author has adopted the approach of a ‘sociologist as a self-conscious actor in society.’ It assumes that the activities of the sociologist are in many ways no different from those of persons he studies. The sociologists have to ask and try to answer the questions which could conceivably be of interest to ordinary actors in society. Further, a need for involvement in research is emphasized.
The study examines the role of managers in the appointment and promotion of teachers, class-room teaching, library and laboratory work, examination reform, student policy, autonomy in higher education, problem of innovation and differentiation and national values. Here, an attempt is made to evaluate the control mechanism of the colleges under study and to develop in a tentative way a logical interconnection between the control mechanism and the behavioural data gathered about the various human constituents of these institutions.
The data was collected during the year 1974-75 and made use of interview data and documentary evidence. Out of the seven colleges studied, three are managed by Dayanand Shiksha Sansthan, one by Sanathan Dharma Society and the other three are run by Christian, Muslim and Sikh managements. These colleges offer courses in general education that is Arts, Sciences, Commerce, Law and Educa¬tion and cater to middle class clientele. The author has analysed the structure and management of each of the seven colleges.
One of the factors responsible for the deterioration in the standard of education is the electoral politics. It gave further fillip to the possibility of converting control of educational resources into non-educational services and goods. The managers utilize the services of teachers and students for their elections and thus divert them from their path of teaching or studying. In this way, they began to occupy prominent positions into the State Legislature and University Academic Councils.
The academic standards of the institution are directly proportional to the interest shown by the management in education. This is also reflected in the educational standards of the various institutions. The changed circumstances have also seen the rise of second or even third genera¬tion managers of private educational institutions with educational management as a major occupation. It also gave rise to specialized pure maagement.
It was found that the private control on higher education has contributed to a weakening of commitment to know¬ledge both oh the part of teachers ‘and students by negatively rewarding the commitment. It has not served as a shield to academic independence and autonomy of institutions. On the other hand, it has hampered the democratic functioning of teachers’ associations and students’ unions. Further the managements initiated no educational innovations or experimentation.
The management of some institutions opposed the University’s efforts to improve the examination systems. It subverts the professed national values enshrined in the Constitution. The management of some institutions can be described as specialized ‘pure’ management, which rests on indulgency pattern, where the teachers did not teach, the students did not study and the management had no education to manage. The college was a ‘degree-earning’ factory with government grants and guardians’ money. The author has identified certain institutions as ‘Bastard Colleges’.
The author’s main conclusion is that the private managements are a redundant role and in practice they disoriented the teachers’ role and the students’ role and put them against one another as well as against their better selves and in fact against education itself.
In retrospect, it may be observed that Lord Curzon was not happy with the working of the private colleges managed by Indians. They devoted more to profit than learning; the teachers were underpaid; the buildings were unsanitary and unsuitable and the teaching superficial. Some depended on their existence wholly on fees and admitted students without limit or enquiry. Therefore, Lord Curzon advocated for stricter rules for recognition of schools and affiliation of colleges and a revised constitution of universities ensuring a greater governmental control on education.
The teachers’ organizations and the student bodies have considered the control issue as vital in the educational process! Some recent efforts at improvement have been made in Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. J.L. Azad (1984) observed that the private bodies have however, shown extraordinary resilience in that, in spite of the myriad conditions from so many agencies, the pace of institutional proliferation has been going on unabated. The private contribution that is tuition fee and private benefaction have declined over the years. He pleaded for more private benefaction to support higher education (Government support for Higher Education and Research).
Not long ago, V.P. Nayar was also concerned about the falling standards of higher education in Kerala. He attributes it to the establishment of a number of colleges without proper infrastructure, and securing jobs by unfair and even filthy means. It has its inevitable repercussions on the student community in whose ranks, discipline, despondency and frustration have become common.
The author stresses the need for a large-scale study on private colleges. It may be based on five parameters spelled out by late J.P. Naik—ends-means relationship, capacity, level of performance, efficiency and comprehensive evaluation. The book calls for a closer scrutiny of the fun¬ctioning of private control of education.
In sum, Nirmal Singh has done a fine job. All the insti¬tutions may not fit this des¬cription, but a good number of them may come closer to it. The book deserves a care¬ful study by educational admi¬nistrators and planners.