EDUCATION SYSTEM CAN NEVER BE MONEY MAKING BUSINESS… REALLY??

Few years back, I did a series of courses from an organization named “Landmark Education” (this line might have been repeated across many articles that I have written in the past). They are an organization that work towards transforming people’s life in a positive way through remarkable courses and seminars. I won’t go into details of the course itself but would like to highlight their business model. They are a US based organization and is extremely impactful. However, each of their courses are quite expensive and only a certain class of people can afford these courses. They run on a business model of networking which means if I do the course with them – I am supposed to get my own people into it (of course I don’t get any money for it) because I want them also to see the benefits of transformation and live happy life.

There are three courses in the basic curriculum which I had completed. And by then I had got a lot of people from my life registered with Landmark and also I was doing a lot of voluntary work for them which meant working throughout the weekends to organize the courses (again of course no money was involved). I was doing all this because I saw immense benefit through it. It was my way of spending weekends working for the fulfilment of the society.

Then there was a seminar which was about the concept of Landmark Education itself. It was a seminar where this organization was questioning its own existence. I was a passive observer in that seminar but I remember one argument very clearly.

There was a man who had done a lot of courses with Landmark questioned the organization – “Why do you call Landmark Education a business? It should not be a business. It is all about knowledge. I come here because of the fulfilment I get by doing this work. I don’t come here because I want to be an employee of this organization and earn lots of money. Even if you offer me money, I will not take it. Stop calling it a business!”

The lady on the Dias was an Australian lady and the shock on her face was clearly visible. “What is wrong is calling it a business? We are an organization like any other. We have services to offer and we charge for those services.” She said as a simple matter of fact.

“Education can never be a business.” The man shouted from where he was sitting. And this time a bit angrily.

Another person shot in at the right time. Of course, the tension in the room was quite tangible by then. He explained to the Australian lady – “In India, education is considered an act of social service. Most of the Indians will not agree with teaming Education with Business…” And the discussion continued on these lines thereafter.

I did not sit through the seminar post that argument. And also my interest and my time with Landmark reduced drastically thereafter. I am not sure if I agreed with the man and related to his anger. Maybe not. But at some point of time I started to feel that – eventually it is all about the money and the motivation to go there week after week went down.

Now as a parent I get reminded of that conversation again and again when my son’s school demand the quarterly fees.

My son goes to Nursery to an International school. His annual fees is much higher than what my parents paid for a year of engineering in a government college for me. We often joke about this. We often say that Education loan would probably be the highest loan that our kids will have to take even more than our home loans. The air is filled sarcasm as soon as the topic of school fees comes up amongst the parents. Worst part is that the teachers who work in the schools are still paid peanuts. It is franchisee owners, the landlords etc. who make the money from the fees that we struggle to pay for our kid’s education.

I am not sure what is right or wrong. On one hand we are also earning much more than what our parents earned when they were our age, so the high fees is justified to some extent. Of course, the staff needs to be paid well and land needs to be paid for. But there is something more to this business mentality of educational institutions than just money. The problem is that they only care for money now. I wouldn’t mind paying the schools if I would be confident that my child is safe and taken care of – but that peace of mind is slowly vanishing because of all the crime that happens in schools and indifference of school management towards it.

The mentality – “I will only care for my money and I don’t care what happens to your child’s future” is now becoming more and more apparent.

Education system has become a huge business now in this country and I wonder how angry that man I met in the seminar must be feeling at this.