I am writing this blog, taking into account an article I had read many years ago in the Indian Express editorial column regarding how schools, colleges, tuition and coaching classes, and other professional training companies, are fleecing everyone in the name of training!
And of course the title of my blog (and the original newspaper article) is derived from the wonderfully entertaining movie: The Great Train Robbery! In the movie, the antagonist Briggs is the hero; and Sean Connery depicted the character with charm. You love every wicked and clever move that he plans for the heist, and when he escapes with the loot, you clap! The entire story is based on an actual robbery that occurred on 8th August 1963 on a Royal Mail train going from Glasgow to Euston.
But I don’t clap at the loot that his happening in the education and training industry. There is hardly anyway that one can stop this trend, so everyone is jumping into the money making band wagon …………….to hell with all the principles of fair play in the education industry!
Is education (and training) a service industry or otherwise?
If education is perceived as a service, it is difficult to measure the ‘goodness’ of the service and if the customer is ‘happy’! The problem is that the customer is a student, and the paying client is the parents or someone else other than the student! So there is a mismatch of the person who receives the service (A) and the person who demands the service (B)!
The only way to judge the ‘goodness’ of the monies spent by B is if A is getting high marks, passing some exams, and getting into renowned colleges or obtaining a great job (if it is a high paying job, say in a multi-national company, then nothing like it!!).
For the poor, hapless, sincere and genuine student A, who cannot spend too much money on education, the ‘goodness’ of the service can only be measured many years later when they can apply what is learnt in real life situation. The cycle of return on investment is a very long one, and often the true meaning of what is learnt is completely lost!
If education and training is perceived as a product industry, then again there is a problem! The gratification on the monies spent happens many many years later……………it is unlike buying a soap or a pizza! Therefore, the ‘goodness’ of the product is hard to measure in short term.
Getting any formal education is a long, lonely and almost a personal journey………….and if the journey does not end with a meaningful and fulfilling job and life, it is a meaningless journey! (Of course, learning anything should be lifelong joy and a hobby………..but that is a point far apart from the main focus of this blog)
A few episodes that come to my mind right now (read somewhere on the net) and would like to narrate them:
- A history teacher from Yale moved to a community college. The students at Yale came from affluent background, and recommending them some expensive books to buy and read, was not a problem. But when he did the same to the students at the community college, the students asked: “If I buy a $50.00 book, how will it help me in future?” That’s when the teacher realized that measuring a return on investment in education, and justify the costs, is a very difficult thing!
- A vice president of a reasonably reputed training industry in India went to jail because parents demanded that the money they had paid for coaching their children did not give quality education as promised, and the teachers provided were hardly teaching anything! This was nothing but cheating!
Earlier in my blog: https://atabhagwat.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/schools-and-colleges-of-the-future/ , I have written how this great training robbery may be avoided, and perhaps halted all together.
Let’s hope that education and training is not perceived as a ‘social service’ by the providers on one hand (which implies indifference and low quality since it is a social service), and on the other hand it is not perceived as a robbery by those paying for it.
So let’s hope and pray for the best for the Generation Next that none of them feel robbed while taking their education!