Beyond profiteering

editorial A multitude of messages assail your senses every waking hour, advertisements in the morning newspaper, notices pasted on walls despite the ‘stick no bills’ warning, superhuman size hoardings popping off rooftops and lining the roads, signs on buses and autorickshaws, and even on the backs of schoolbuses. The battle for our eyeballs is being fought every second by the millions of commercial – and supposedly civic – interests – that control our lives. And in the middle of it all, I fi nd this notice –“start a smart school, and make smart profi ts!” It was a call to would-be entrepreneurs to invest in a venture that was foolproof in its promise of fi nancial success. A play school for profi teering? Accepted, every effort must have returns of some kind; and we are well aware that many ‘educational’ foundations operate on a mix of motives, both social and economic/fi nancial. For any venture to be successful at any level, it must rest on a solid, sustainable fi nancial model. Education is, after all, a service. But there are some services that a welfareminded state assumes must operate above and outside the profi t-making business model. Health and education are primary among these. So while it is perfectly acceptable for a school to aim toward achieving good fi nancial health, it is not acceptable that profi ts become primary to its activity and decision-making. This is a space where the ends do not justify the means, for the means are an indication of what we perceive education to be. And if this is to be dismissed as idealism, then we are missing the boat on the core purpose of education, and of schools. It’s important for those who venture into the business of education to remember that the only real profi t that can be made from the nurturing of minds is beyond the scope of any system of accounting.

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