On an average, parents in India spend around Rs 12.22 lakh towards their child’s education from primary school up to undergraduate level. In US dollar terms, this translates to $18,909 and is about 43 percent of the global average of $44,221. This puts India 13th in a list of 15 countries drawn up by HSBC, which includes the likes of US, Cada, UK, France, Chi and Australia. While Hong Kong (average educatiol cost $1,32,161), UAE and Singapore make up the top three, France figures at the bottom with $16,708. Doubtless, the HSBC’s ‘The Value of Education’ series gives us only a small number of countries, but it does throw up a few trends. As far as India is concerned, as much as 89% parents are helping to fund their children’s education. And the commitment extends to their child’s postgraduate education, with most parents believing a PG degree is necessary to land a full-time job. Many parents are making fincial sacrifices, including spending less on leisure activities (44%), while almost a third (32%) work extra hours in their existing jobs to pay for their child’s education. In such parameters, Indian parents figure high in the HSBC study. The funding pattern is also interesting — 59% parents fund their child’s education from their income, 48% parents use general savings including investments and insurance, and 30% parents use specific education savings or investment plans. In a country where less than 10% workforce is in the organised sector and food insecurity stalks over two-thirds of the population, such figures tell their own story. It needs however be appreciated that the HSBC study is based on the views of 8,481 parents received from 15 countries, a decidedly small sample size. The reality is that legions of middle class parents in this country are forking up their meagre earnings towards the education of children, not bothering to save even for their own future. And the costs are rising fast.
In Assam as elsewhere in the country, children and parents are turning away from government schools where education is free of cost from 6 to 14 years. Average monthly fee in a private school can be anything between Rs 1,500-2,000 to Rs 9-10 thousand. An Assocham study found that in 2015, nine out of 10 parents in metro cities were finding it difficult to meet the Rs 1.25 lakh yearly school expenses for a single child. Apart from school and tuition fees, expenses has to be incurred in uniforms, books, stationery, transport, sports & extra-curricular activities, contributions to school fund and other heads. The total expenses for learning for a single child was such that many parents revealed in the survey they were not planning to go for a second child! Now consider that government aided medical colleges are already charging Rs 5-10 lakh per year; the costs are almost the same in government aided engineering colleges. A general degree from a government aided college could cost Rs 10-15 thousand a year, while an MBA degree would cost in the range of Rs 20 lakh. In March this year, AICTE vice-chairman MP Punia raised concerns over the galloping cost of higher education in this country, wherein investments made are so high students are not able to recover these in their entire life, even after qualifying as professiols. With per capita income at Rs 60,000 and the cost of studies and associated expenses at around Rs 2 lakh, the gap has already become unsustaible, he warned. In this context, Punia also attributed the cost of education as part of the reason for low gross enrolment in India at 24% presently, whereas the corresponding figures are 40% in Chi and 87% in the US. A survey by tiol Sample Survey Office (NSSO) showed that between 2008 and 2014, the average annual private expenditure for general education (primary level to post graduation and above) shot up by 175% per student. During the same period, the annual cost of professiol and technical education jumped by 96%. For both urban and rural households, it turned out that private coaching accounted for 15% of the average total expense on general education. This in turn was a reflection of how idequate classroom teaching in schools had become — forcing parents to pay the price. Distorted government policies don’t help either, like the higher subsidy to university education which benefits the well-off — while at the school level, poor parents have to make huge sacrifices from primary school level onwards to ensure that their child gets a decent headstart. There are now fears that at the government level, plans are afoot to cede even more ground to the private sector despite the Right to Education law. This is where informed public opinion should put pressure on the government to check extortiote practices, put in place a student aid mechanism, and ensure a healthy investment scerio to fund education.