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School education: 'Unjustified' to expect public exchequer to bear the entire burden

By Avarani Bose, Arup Mitra* 

Human capital formation is an indispensable determinant of rapid economic growth. This is not to undermine the role of technological progress, infrastructure endowment and financial resources along with good governance and effective delivery of state services. But human capital creates a completely new dimension, enabling a better understanding of the technology and resource use.
Without significant improvements in human capital under-capacity utilisation, resource waste and other leakages can be enormously large. Hence, human capital is seen to economise the present use of scarce resources and it fastens the contributions of the other determinants of economic growth. In fact, in economics science it has been observed that resource abundance is a curse; rather good human capital imparts the knowledge to get the best of the minimum and save for the future.
Even at the individual level it has been observed that returns to human capital are significant. Without adequate human capital ample financial and other resources take the form of extravagancy and unproductive expenditure, resulting in a massive deterioration in individual and household wellbeing.
On the other hand, in low-and-moderate income households without human capital earning possibilities do not improve, restricting the pace of upward mobility. The close connection between ethics and economics develops only in the presence of refined human capital. The connection is important because any economic prosperity without an ethical base is not sustainable in the long run.
Research on human capital has brought out a significant association between education in early life and later life. Not just that, school education in fact determines the future of an individual. The quality of education acquired during the formative years impinges on the entire career path, the income trajectory and the overall wellbeing in the years to come. What is learnt at the primary and secondary levels remains active and it decides the entire course of action in life.
For example, one may have acquired very high levels of education but if the schooling was weak, the individual lags behind. The inherent disadvantages one may have had will never get neutralised in spite of higher levels of education. Certain individual or community specific disadvantages and other familial hindrances remain dominant, reducing the performance and success of the individual at a later life notwithstanding the acquisitions of higher degrees.
On the other hand, it has been observed in social science research that good schooling plays a pivotal role in determining the success in the future life: even without tertiary education individuals with good schooling are able to make remarkable progress. Gender differences in the job market exist primarily because of the differences in schooling imparted in the early years.
Hence, the pertinent question is what determines quality education instructed at the schools. Other than the school infrastructure the quality and dedication of the teachers would obviously matter a lot. Reforms have been carried out in the school-education sector in order to attract some of the talented and creative individuals into this profession.
Shouldn't corporate responsibility be redefined to undertake the unfinished tasks of school education?
Monetary incentives are provided so that teaching at the schools become a primary occupation of those who otherwise would have chosen different streams. However, individuals who choose this profession should not be guided only by monetary gains and lucrative opportunities. 
A sense of dedication, willingness to render selfless service and the determination to contribute through diligence are some of the attributes that one must bear in mind. One will have to understand the seriousness of the work and the nobility of the profession.
Teachers with the right perspective hold the ability to focus beyond what is mentioned in the text books. At times we may find gender-stereotypes in some form or the other in the text books. It is the responsibility of an efficient teacher to help the students tide over the barriers which can create permanent impressions in the young minds.
Similarly, bad social and cultural practices sometimes do not directly enter the domain of syllabus revision committees. In what way the serious issues can be addressed at the grassroot level becomes an important responsibility of the teachers.
Given the effectiveness of schooling in designing an individual level and national level socio-economic profile, more research on education is warranted. For this reliable data on a wide range of variables need to be collected through dependable organisations. At times multiple organisations may be involved in pursuing the task so that innovativeness can be introduced in the collection process, reducing the possibility of manipulation or misjudging an attribute.
Similarly, more innovation needs to be pursued for determining the aspects on which information must be collated. Methods which are employed to do the quantitative analysis will also have to undergo change on the basis of new research. All this can be a costly affair; hence, expecting the public exchequer to bear the entire burden can be unjustified. Should not the corporate responsibility be redefined to undertake some of these unfinished tasks?
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*Avarani Bose is ex-teacher, PM Academy, Cuttack; Arup Mitra is with the South Asian University, New Delhi

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