Where Knowledge Is Free

I don’t know how many of you have ever had to switch schools in tenth grade and/or have kids who switched schools in tenth grade. If you have, I think you’ll agree with me when I say that it is, in the truest sense of the word, an ordeal.

For the past ten years, my academic career (OK, it’s not exactly academic… let’s call it my schooling) has taken place in Vidya Niketan School of Kempapura, Hebbal in Bangalore. This year, though, for reasons we need not go into, we decided that I was to switch schools. We began by shortlisting five different schools. Now, I might be wrong, but I think that’s a bit extreme. To ask a tenth grader to shortlist five different schools on account of he might not get into some of them strikes me as a touch insane, but there you have it.

Then we had to fill out the paperwork. You will not believe the amount of paperwork that these schools make you fill out. Many of the forms were 12 pages thick and required that you attached approximately half a dozen documents. Luckily for us, not all the schools require that the application forms be handed in at this time, so we only had to do this twice rather than five times. I can tell you, though, it wasn’t much fun. And if I, who only had to append my signature to every third page or so of the forms, found it this trying, then I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like for my mother, who was dashing from school to school collecting and returning the forms while simultaneously trying to find all the documents that you are required to supply.

But that’s not enough for these schools. Oh no, that’s just the beginning. After that, you have to go through their rigorous testing stages. These consisted, in one of the schools, of writing two essays and, if those were judged as satisfactory, an interview. The other school just made me take an entrance test. When I say entrance test, by the way, I don’t mean, “15-minute multiple-choice questionnaire”, I mean, “four-hour handwritten exam paper-type thing.”

One of the schools, my first choice, has put me on their “deferred” list. The other school has accepted me. But here’s the thing. I don’t find out if I’ve been accepted or rejected at my first preference till next month. The other school has demanded that we pay a large fee there within the next week or two. In other words, either I have to commit to the school or drop it.

Now, all of this has been an exceedingly circuitous way of expressing a certain point, namely that education – and to some extent, knowledge – is most certainly not free. These schools demand large enough sums to leave even me looking aghast. Considering I’m not the one paying, these are, obviously, some pretty large sums. The bottom line is that the quality of education you receive is directly proportional to how much you’re willing to pay for it, and somehow, that really doesn’t seem fair.

If you happen to be a leading educationalist/not leading educationalist/some other variant of educationalist, please leave a comment below telling me what you think of this whole thing. Even if you aren’t an educationalist, leave a comment. Please?


  1. Ravinder M A says:

    Ha ha! Welcome to the world of “non-profit” education! Almost all schools in India have to sign-up to be non-profit through a Trust. I can appreciate the need to cover expenses (teachers + other running costs) plus to get funds for major maintenance or growth. The concept of pay full year fees in advance is quite ridiculous. At the next level, some colleges try to force students to deposit their original certificates with them. This is their way of ensuring that if the student wants to leave mid way for some reason, they can do so, only by paying the full fees. Karnataka High Court has ruled this as illegal. Not that it is likely to stop others from trying to apply it in the next academic year.

  2. Tushar Kapila says:

    Little off topic : at least you were able to apply. I was barred from applying for my four year old son on Xavier’s school, Electronics city, as he is December,2011 born. Apparently too old (by 6 months) for LKG! Need to plan your child to be born in the academic friendly months for some schools. That should be illegal and enforced.

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