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Joy Kirt Sidhu

Himalaya College of Education, Ranwar, Karnal

Man is a social animal and with the advance of civilization has evolved as an
economic animal as well. Education is as much affected by the economic forces as any
other man-made social system. To blame the changing global scenario completely for the
decline in educational standards and quality would be wrong. The purpose of this paper
is to separate the emerging economic scenario from the declining standards in education
and linking it to human endeavour and will. It is man and man alone who adds quality
and value to a system. Commercialization has brought in fair and unfair competition
posing a threat and a challenge for the existing institutions. It is time to stand up and
take action, to tighten ones act and to begin performing and stop blaming.

The human child takes the longest time to stand on its feet and the educational system has
to be so designed so as to supplement and complement what he learns from his family
and environment. According to an African saying an entire village is needed to bring up a
child. Formal education was only for the select and the concept of universalization of
education was not there. Therefore there was no clash between interests and quality of
education was meant and designed only for the elite of the society. The rabble depended
on the home environment for education. Vocational education was passed on from father
to son and there was very little advancement in either the execution or the advancement
of technical skills as there was hardly any research and development at a large scale. The
village or the tribe was the world. The ‘Varna’ or the caste system is a unique social
system in the world found only in India. It means hereditary division of labour,
restrictions on inter-dining and inter-marriage. Education was restricted to the upper
castes and was considered a threat to the then existing social structure. Education of the
lower castes was opposed lest it threatens their positions.
The mother is the first teacher and the home is the first school a child learns to become a
social being in a unipolar world, where the fundamentals like ‘Sanskar’ and values are
transferred. The explosion of knowledge has led to the need and the emergence of
educational institutions outside the home. The breaking of the ‘Varna’ system has led to
the break up of the traditional family vocation making it imperative for the young people
to look for livelihood beyond their homes. This breakup of the traditional family norm
has been one of the outcomes of the industrial revolution. Education imparted at home
can be compared to a cottage industry where quality depends on the family and the
village. The advent of industrialization has led to the widening of the sphere. Education
has passed on into the hands of the professionals and the global forces decide everything
or so it should have been. Unfortunately it is not the professionals or the academics that
decide the fate and guide the path of education but the industrialists and their allied
Manufacturing or producing for profit is industry. The finished product has to be market
friendly. Industry is a blend of land, labour, capital and organization to produce the goods
that can be consumed by the market at a profit. The profit decides the viability of the
process. In industry marketing and publicity is done by wholesalers, distributors and
retailers and the consumers. An industry follows the rules of economics.
Karl Marx says, “It is the economic change that brings about revolution—the
fundamental change in the social superstructure.” Education promotes class
consciousness. Education for the masses makes it universal in character. Economics is
the railway line on which the bogey runs. Mass production heralds a boom and it results
in mass demand for the consumers for the product being produced. If there are no
consumers the factory has to close down. The principle of demand and supply play one of
the most important roles in economics of a system.
In the feudalistic society education was of the ruling class by the ruling class for the
ruling class since they controlled the economy. With the advent of industrial revolution
power changed hands and went from one class, the feudal lords, into the hands of another
economic class, the Industrialist who owned the means of production.
In modern India education is in the hands of the central and the state governments. Lower
education is in the hands of the states and higher education is in the hands of the central
government. The policy decisions are made by the ministry of education. The tax payers’
money from the public exchequer is used for the implementation of these government
plans and schemes. These have been funding the government and government-aided
institutions all over the country. The emerging economic forces have led to the re-
planning and reallocation of the monetary resources being generated. Globalization has
forced the traditional barriers to break and countries like ours have been forced to accept
and implement liberalization. Liberalization has led to privatization of even those sectors
of economy which were hitherto held by the government alone. Privatization is not a new
concept. It has been running parallel and has been doing well if not better than the
government run institutions in the past.

Our lives are governed by the economic forces whether we like it or not. Marketing and
finance rule the day and without either of these no activity is possible. Student activists
from various countries who are all struggling against tuition fees, the increasing influence
of companies and corporations on universities and the privatization of Education in
general have launched an international call. During the last year alone, hundreds of
thousands of students, teaching staff, parents and workers struggled together across the
world to defend free public higher education for all. University buildings were occupied,
roads blocked and petitions signed.
Currently students in Chile, the Philippines, the U.S. of A., Spain, Germany, Austria,
Canada, New Zealand, France, England and other countries are struggling against the
commercialization of education. Since 1999 most governments in Europe have been
using the Bologna Process to challenge the status of education as a public good.
Consequently the Higher Education systems in Europe as well as the rest of the world are
getting more and more linked to private instead of public interests. Officially the process
is supposed to improve the international recognition of degrees, increase the mobility of
students and aims – just like every country in this world does as well – for our country to
become the most competitive economy on the world stage. Usually reforms are promoted
by promising more “autonomy” for universities and an increasing quality of education.
But with more competition between institutions a process of selection is encouraged.
The commercialization of education results in universities being run like companies:
students are being reduced to customers (no more democratic participation, be it by
students or teaching and technical staff) and employees will be exploited. With increasing
competition between institutions the creation of two-class education systems is being
encouraged. One class will consist of the “fortunate few” who passed a money-driven
selection process or are “high potentials” for the labour market. The majority of students
will have no choice but to go to those institutions that lose out in the competition with
huge financial problems. Why should the private sector finance an education system that
benefits the whole society anyway?
Education is too important to be exposed to market forces and private sectors. Education
should not be a commodity, but a right for all!
In support of free and emancipating public education all over the world students and
academics are fighting to preserve or gain emancipating education, so that people are able
to consider their social environment critically. Of course governments and economic
actors have no interest in providing such education. People who are able to critically
reflect their environment are less likely to be influenced and controlled. That’s why it is
up to the people to make sure that such a free and emancipating public education system
is implemented. It is in our own interest as active citizens of the world.
We shouldn’t tolerate that education systems are being reduced to companies “producing”
human capital for the labour market. We are not “resources”, but human beings and
citizens. All these are reasons why we reject the privatization and commodification of
education all over the world. It is not conformable with a truly democratic society. Career
fairs and campus selections bear ample testimony to the right promotion of the right
human resource for the right position so as to be of value to everyone involved in the
process, the employer, the employee and the people who will be getting the services.
The test of an educational institution is not merely the results generated or the
infrastructure and staff; it is the employability of the teachers graduating from these
institutions. Education belongs to non-profit segment. From our analysis above, we can
see that commercialization and capitalism do not always have negative characteristic of
profit making only. For example, enterprises in capitalist society sometimes are
composed of profit making and non-profit making segments. Research and development
department belongs to non-profit segment. The same goes with nations. Even developed
countries like Japan and the United States treat education as part of non-profit segment.
Just as what happened a few years back, the government privatized several national
enterprises such as Telephone & Telegraph, Banking, and Railways. These national
enterprises had had surplus revenues and were quite profitable. But now they are in the
hands of private conglomerates that handily reap huge profits. What we should strongly
oppose are the policies such as these: Pushing education into profit making sphere and
freely giving profitable national enterprises to business conglomerates.
Arun Nigvekar of the World Bank’s Task Force, 2000, “Globalization can lead to
unregulated and poor quality higher education, with the world wide marketing of
fraudulent degrees or other so-called higher education credentials”. It seems that
countries like India are likely to turn into “an increasingly attractive market for foreign
universities and hence other nations are going to use General Agreement on Trade in
Services (GATS’) provisions to their advantage”.

Education is to bring out the potential in a learner by providing the learner the most
congenial physical and social environment to help him realize his fullest potential. The
purpose of education is to create in the learner the ability and the desire to serve mankind.
Education aims at bringing about a positive behavioural change in the learner.
Education on the other hand is an industry and its commercialization is here to stay. The
emerging economic forces are leading to the formation of a new world order which
transcends all geographic barriers and borders. These form the basis on which depend all
aspects of our lives, political, cultural, emotional and social. All ideologies and
philosophies are converging to one and only one decider and that is the underlying
economic factor. Globalization and liberalization did not happen by choice. They were
the result of the changing scenario the world over.
Education must be accessible to all, and not be tied to age or financial conditions. The
commercialization of education is part of an international process shaped by “neo-liberal
ideologies” (see WTO; and the promoted competition between geographic locations) and
the thirst for profits. Long-time learning for life is better than simple professionalization
for the labour market. With this Call we must aim to defend this idea and encourage
internationally coordinated protests.
"Education is the property of no one. It belongs to the people as a whole. And if
education is not given to the people, they will have to take it." - Che Guevara.


A list of student and teacher protests against the commoditization of education (and the
resulting tuition fees) for the year 2007 can be found here:

A similar list for 2008 can be viewed here:

Chien Shu-Huei, coodinator of the Coalition against High Tuition translated by Karen
Hsu, Against Commercialization of Education,
Our e-mail
Hanushek, Erick A., Erick A. Ludger, [2008-08-05] Analysis of the World Bank's study
on "Education Quality and Economic Growth", launched in Brussels, Belgium. Education
International attended the launch and expressed EI’s policy and views on quality

Kaplan Dan, Education is not a commodity: Fighting the Privatization of Higher

Education Worldwide, March 25th report-back meeting from the International
Conference against Deregulation (held in Berlin at the end of February). the Berlin
Conference the Executive Secretary of AFT Local 1493 in San Mateo, Calif. San
Francisco at the Plumbers' Hall,

Kothari, D.S., J.P. Naik, (1964-66), India’s Education Commission, Chairman and
Member-Secretary that laid the foundation of post-Independent India’s National
Education Policy.

National Policy on Education in 1986(NPE-1986) and its accompanying Programme of

Action that promised child-centered, free and compulsory education up to the age of 14
yeas by 1995. the revised formulation of such NPE, made in the 1992.

Nigvekar, A. (2000), World Bank’s Task Force, Globalization.

Sagar, K V, (2005), Globalization of Education,

Schultz, T.W. and Becker Gary in (1961 and 1963), The new economics of education

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