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Education as a Right Vs Education as a Commodity : Tribals, OTFDs & Rural Communities



Education as a Right

As per Constitution - Article 21A - The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine. This gets translated to Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Education is a concurrent issue on which both the State & Centre can legislate. The Act has specific provision that give direction for implementing provisions at all the three tiers of government. It aims to address the issues of education as a service available to the children of the nation. It is subject to the limited services of the government (central, state, municipal schools etc under schemes). In addition to reserving private services (private schools etc) for the disadvantaged.

These provisions have legitimised the current layered education system for all these years without much innovation. For the Tribals, OTFDs and rural communities this has been largely about awareness. They have been informed through different sources (NGOs, Individuals, Advertisements etc) that education is free.

What is the tangible and intangible of this information? What are the daily experiences to experience it? The trickle down of information to the community is coloured. Each individual representing an institution (schools, departments, local bodies etc) have shared information that works for them in particular. This may be limited to specific actions to be performed by the respective institution (like distribution of dress, books, bags, shoes, enrolment, paintings on wall etc). The central role of coordinating a long term response from community towards education in lieu of this fundamental right is a lost cause. To each his own!

Education as a Commodity

The commodity is a basic good used as input in the production of other goods and services. In the current scheme of market in India there has been a successful commoditisation of education. Not to say that this process has been ongoing for decades but the markets have expanded significantly as have the purchasing powers. The rising number of people who can spend more are looking up to technology, access, affordability, variety, options, services etc on offer.

The education and ed-tech market can be divided into 5 segments: pre-K, K-12 and test preparation, higher education, continued learning and B2B ed-tech. According to the report, the education market is expected to grow 2x to $225 billion by FY25 at a CAGR of 14 per cent over FY20-25. [Business Standard. 2020]

Are the Tribals, OTFDs and rural communities are a part of the markets. A big resounding NO. Why? Reasons galore, a few - access, availability, affordability, market friendly etc. These communities are at a distant even when it comes to being prepared to experience the commodity in the form being offered. Language, Context from the product & Technology usage as a consumer are still far off.

Education - Right to a Commodity

It is essential to define markets for these communities - Tribals, OTFDs, Rural folks.

A few tenets for such an endeavour :

  1. The Market is to be supported by interventions which are looking at a not for profit approach.

  2. Efficacy is definitely called for but over a longer period of time. This largely because it needs a generation to reach the levels of consumer-hood. A point in time where they have overcome the issue of understanding the systemic gap due to lack of education through experiential learning.

  3. Education as a commodity here needs to looked at as a whole with complete responsibility of the State supported by the Market.

  4. The collaboration with State & Market for underserved areas is to be systematic (by agreements with a standard policy in place)

Prashant (Co Founder, Samanta)

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