Corruption Undermines Education in India

By Naren Tambe. Dr. Naren Tambe is professor of education . | The Christian Science Monitor, December 6, 1993 | Go to article overview

Corruption Undermines Education in India


Naren Tambe. Dr. Naren Tambe is professor of education ., The Christian Science Monitor


IN no other democratic country in the world is the development of education so caught up in political influence as in India. During a recent visit to India, many parents told me that they were fed up with corruption in education and subtle political interference in the day-to-day administration of colleges and universities. As one irate father remarked, "Nothing in education gets done in India without money under the table."

India has made impressive gains in education since it achieved independence in 1947. The literacy level has risen from 14 percent in 1947 to almost 52 percent in 1991. Emphasis on social services and development of a scientific attitude among students deserves praise, and India has made a national commitment to improve the education of the socially and economically backward classes. In addition, the federal government's National Policy on Education, adopted in 1986 to improve the overall system in India, is a step in the right direction.

But these gains have been marred by rising corruption and malpractice in education, the use of political power to influence the decisions of heads of educational institutions, and the alarming growth of English-language private schools.

With the split in the old Congress Party and the rise of Indira Gandhi as the new leader of the Indian National Congress (I) party in 1980, political interference in the judiciary and in education, as well as corruption in public life, increased rapidly. Mrs. Gandhi and her son, Rajiv, subjected the educational system to political abuse. More scandals broke out in education during their regimes than in any other period after independence. In Gujarat and Maharashtra, the chief ministers were charged with using their influence to change the grades of their relatives in medical schools. As a result, the chief minister of Maharashtra state had to resign in shame.

But that was then. In October of this year, 70,000 students marched through Bombay to protest against corrupt universities that are in the business of selling degrees. Shortly before the protests, a leader of the opposition party in the Bombay Legislative Assembly shocked the members by displaying a university degree he had bought! In 1991, one of the deans of a leading university in Gujarat was demoted because of a bribery scandal. Instead of reprimanding the administrator, the top leadership in the Congress (I) Party looked in another direction.

In India corruption comes in a variety of forms. Donations for school admissions have become so common that many middle-class parents who can hardly afford them have nonetheless become resigned to them. One of my acquaintances wanted admission for his granddaughter to a kindergarten. The school management asked him to pay 5,000 Rupees (almost $158). He paid the money. But when he insisted on a receipt, he was told to take his granddaughter elsewhere. The managers of private schools choose school uniforms, select textbooks, provide school transportation, and make money. To them, education is big business. In 1986, parents in Gujarat revolted against the rising cost of education and donation practices for school admission. The government agreed to take firm action against the management. …

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