The paradigm shift in higher education from service to business is a growing concern today. The decade of 2000s has been associated with the process of expansion, privatization and internationalization of Indian Higher Education sector. The commercialization of education has a dreadful effect which is so subtle that it often goes undetected. Another worrying aspect of this commercialization is that the interest of the youth and the kind of education that develops his/her full potential and wholesome personality is sidelined. There is a need for government intervention correcting systematic anomalies. If commercialization persists and continues to grow unchecked, anything and everything will be exploited and manipulated for profit in higher education. Various aspects of commercialized education system affects the students’ psychological state as well as general behavior.
“Mata shatru pita bairi, yena balo na pathita. Na shobhate sabha madhye hans madhye bako yatha.” This is a Sanskrit saying espousing the importance of education. It means that “A mother and father who do not encourage their child’s education are his enemies indeed, an illiterate among educated are his enemies indeed, an illiterate among the educated ones is the same as, in a group of swans the crow, is neither wanted nor admired.” It helps man to indoctrinate values and apply the technical know-how in real life situations. Today India has the largest student population in the world of 315 million. Traditionally, higher education was viewed as a vehicle for dissemination of knowledge which would further assist in getting a good job. Higher education was viewed as an instrument of personal development of individuals to have a better standard of living and an instrument of production and economic growth; and thereby ensuring the economic well-being of people and societies. The traditional function of dissemination of knowledge is under threat. From the concept of a ‘knowledge society’, the thrust has shifted to ‘economized knowledge’ making knowledge a valuable commodity subject to commercial transactions. The global commercial strategy of internationalization of higher education has resulted in germination of a serious debate between the fruit-bearing capacities of education as opposed to its light-bearing quality.
Commercialization of education may be liberally defined as a process of private ownership and management of educational institutions whereby investments are made with the motive of earning profits. The decade of 2000s has been associated with the processes of expansion, privatization and internationalization of higher education. These have been reflected in policies of various ruling governments, reduction in government funding, ownership and production of higher education by private players- both ‘for-profit’ and ‘not for-profit’ and the emergence of foreign providers of higher education. The economy in expenditure achieved by withdrawal of subsidies and raising fees in higher education clearly indicate the lack of political will to abstain from its constitutional obligation of provision of education. In a predominantly public educational system, private institutions must be fit in clearly specified ways. Besides this, the public should have ready information related to the private institutions so that they can make decisions. In addition to checking the general reputation and accreditation, parents and students should get the opportunity to visit the campuses of private institutions and universities, interact with faculty and students and attend a few classes. Further there is a need to differentiate the wheat from the chaff as all public higher education institutions are not good and all private higher education institutions are not bad. The impact of this commercialization of education on the students is that it not only affects the quality of education but also the perception of educational institutions in general.
Impact of Commercialization of Education on Students:
Today university students increasingly view education and the time they spend at university as a means to an economic end, a way of ensuring profitable employment. This is not to say that there should not be an economic benefit to their obtaining a degree. However, while the outcomes of a commodity-based exchange in the free market are easy to measure and quantify, the outcome of education, unless it is erroneously equated with the degree as an ‘embodied’ form of capital, is not easily quantifiable. The social and cultural trends that foster a mentality where education equals a degree serve to further obscure the benefits of education that are not easily quantifiable and not immediately cashable. However, in the context of the growing commercialization of higher education and its increasing coding as a commodity that can be purchased like any other, the concept acquires distinct market undertones. This contributes to the perception that students are consumers of a service for a very specific reason seen in limited, commercial terms- mainly as a ticket to a well-paying job. In that sense, students are implicitly encouraged to approach in very similar terms to, say, purchasing a car. Colleges and universities, in turn, feel increasingly compelled to cater to the apparent market-driven demand for utility and choice. The consumer attitude towards education results in the view that liberal arts and value-based learning have gone out of vogue; which has direct consequences for an area of education like ethical citizenship, which is by definition value-based. Given the fact that both the institutions and the students live in a commercialized world where everything can be valued in monetary terms the teaching and learning of ethical citizenship is increasingly difficult as students and the public tend to perceive many of its aspects as theoretical, irrelevant and disconnected from the world outside.
Students often internalize this utilitarian and corporate conception of education and incorporate it into their views of themselves and their role in the world. This conception significantly impedes their ability or willingness to embrace the values of ethical citizenship, rooted in responsible action aimed at pursuing truth and knowledge for their own sake, or acting for the benefit of public good. One of the consequences of this process is that students are becoming alienated from the social experience; education is increasingly seen as a disembodied experience and the classroom experience has become sheltered and isolated – divorced in other words – from the community. The dominant corporate trends of the society do not encourage students to see their presence at college or university as a valuable process with a qualitative and unquantifiable benefits resulting in a broadened perception of self, others, the world and the categories of good, evil or justice, in a sense that transcends the interests of any single group or individual. Instead, the prevalent value structures of the society often encourage students to see post-secondary education as an obstacle to overcome on the way to the perfect job. In this circumstances, and with the increasingly commodification of higher education, students are increasingly less likely to perceive the connections between knowledge and ethical practice, less likely to see education as something valuable in itself, and less likely to reflect on the application of classroom education to the world and society outside with the aim of furthering society’s moral wealth.
The important thing for the government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all. The role of the state in higher education has to be redefined. There is a need for careful planning, enhanced financing and evolving an enabling policy framework to make higher education accessible, equitable and qualitative.
About the Author:
She is currently pursuing BS.L LL.B from DES Navalmal Firodia Law College, Pune. She also holds a diploma in cyber laws. She has also been volunteering for the Green Peace foundation.