Educational institutions are looked upon as the gateway to a child’s future, a place where they can be groomed in a safe environment to become the best versions of themselves both academically and personally. But are they really fulfilling this role?
In developing nations, particularly in Pakistan, private schools are seen as the benchmark for academic excellence and seen as the best option for raising a well-rounded individual. They provide opportunities that public schools do not and are seen as the sole means to secure a future for the child. Although it is perfectly reasonable to want these things for your children, and to turn to these schools if you can afford since we all want the best for our children, we must ask ourselves: at what cost are we sending them to these schools, apart from the obvious financial one?
First and foremost, private schools promote elitism by creating a divide between those who can afford to attend them and those who cannot. The exclusivity of private schools is reflected in their often-astronomical tuition fees, which can make them inaccessible to many families. This exclusivity is also reflected in the student body, which is often made up of the children of the wealthy and powerful. What this means is that we are intentionally creating and promoting a class division within our society, when in reality, we should be focusing on eliminating this gap.
The conditions in which public schools operate are usually below par, and when those children are exposed to the world and see just how sheltered the others have been, or the opportunities they are being presented with, it prompts resentment within them.
The elitism of private schools can also be seen in the way they operate. Private schools often have a sense of entitlement and privilege that is not present in public schools. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as the expectation that students will be given preferential treatment when it comes to admissions to prestigious universities or the assumption that students will go on to lead successful and affluent lives.
In Pakistan, this presumption actually holds true not just because of the fact that private schools can secure them admissions and jobs, but also because of the reason behind this. Recruiters and admissions offices will assume that a private school student is more qualified, well-bred and will therefore be a better fit for them. So institutions that are supposed to promise equality and guarantee uniform treatment, in fact practice the opposite.
Furthermore, private schools also tend to fuel capitalism by perpetuating the idea that success can be bought. By charging exorbitant tuition fees, private schools are essentially selling access to a better education and a better future. This can create a sense of desperation among parents who feel that they must do whatever it takes to ensure that their child has access to the best education possible, even if it means sacrificing their own financial stability. This can be seen being practiced round Pakistan as parents simply do not feel that any other form of education will give their child the future they deserve. However, the blame for this does not rest on one party alone. The conditions of public schools can in fact be improved monumentally so that more people are confident enough to want to send their children there, knowing that they will be just as successful in life as someone who has studied at a private school.
Moreover, private schools can exacerbate existing inequalities by providing a more privileged education to some children while leaving others behind. This is particularly true in low-income communities, where private schools can siphon off the most motivated and capable students, leaving public schools to struggle with the remaining student population. This can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, where children from low-income families are less likely to get the education they need to succeed in life, while children from more privileged backgrounds are given a better shot at success.
However, the damage that these schools do does not exist simply in relation to those that are denied entry. The environment within these schools for the kids that actually attend them can in way be deemed as healthy either. Private schools in Pakistan also fuel capitalism by creating an environment of competition, where students are encouraged to constantly strive for better grades, higher test scores, and more extracurricular activities. This can create a sense of cutthroat competition among students and an emphasis on winning at all costs. This can lead to students becoming more focused on personal success rather than on building a better society.
Students are so wrapped up in securing their own success that they will eventually learn ways to bring others down as well. So a place that should be focusing on producing future leaders that will work for the benefit of the society actually ends up giving them a first-hand lesson in how to ensure your own success at all costs, a concept that may seem necessary or even good, but when examined closely, we see that this means that because they are always striving for perfection, a simple push could lead them down the path of exploitation, bribery etc.
The sense of entitlement that students studying here possess usually means that they growing up believing that wealth can buy and ensure anything. This belief often manifests itself through incidents of bullying in school and then translates to more serious matters as it follows them through adulthood. As the children grow older, they end up sending their own children to these schools and the cycle continues. Another generation then grows up around the same beliefs and contributes to the elitism and cycle of exploitation and abuse of power continues. It is time we stopped focusing on the results of these problems and instead, focus on how they are created in the first place.