Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Speak for yourself, you comfy first-worlder!

We've had a number of posts lately on the crackpot, I mean... interesting theories of one "Comrade" Ivan Illich, whose plans for "Deschooling Society" sound great when you're sitting in a Starbucks, sipping your Double-Mocha Grande Latte with Whipped Cream and a Cherry on Top. Sometimes, however, it's easy to forget that the vast majority of the world does not exist in such conditions, and that for many of these people, traditional private education is the best, sometimes the only means of getting ahead.

Case in point: India.

From the article:
One obvious prerequisite for the Bangalore boom was India’s high-tech labor force...
...In the 1960s and ’70s, religious and philanthropic organizations picked up the slack by founding private engineering colleges of their own, often of substandard quality. But as the I.T. industry grew in the ’90s, so did the number of private engineering colleges and polytechnics. Today, four out of five engineering students attend private colleges, even though those institutions charge five to 10 times more in tuition than government colleges. The private schools also demand an upfront entry or “capitation” fee equivalent to about $3,000 to $4,000—a small fortune for middle-class families. The quality of these schools still varies a great deal, notes Vijay Menon of Progeon, the Bangalore-based outsourcing arm of the I.T. company Infosys. “But many of them have built a brand name for themselves by the stellar performance of their graduates on the American GRE,” he adds.

Furthermore, unlike government colleges, the private schools have a vested interest in delivering graduates with skills suited for the industry. “Otherwise,” Prahlad notes, “they can’t justify their hefty capitation fees.”
"Open webs of learning" sound nice to Americans with degrees in postmodernism. But for the residents of an impoverished society where vocational training is needed, and needed fast to put food on the table, private education will deliver the goods much more quickly than "self-directed education in fluid, informal arrangements." I think it's safe to say that there's a place for both in the world.

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