The caste system penetrates all aspects of life in India, and for grade school children, this can mean an unnurturing and even unsafe learning environment. Even though it is illegal, discrimination is ever present in the Indian government school system, with lower caste children often being separated and teased by students of a higher caste and teachers alike.
The work of Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize winning economist, that combined economics and sociology, could provide the country with a solution. Becker’s application of economics to discrimination shows that discrimination increases when there is no cost involved. Government school teachers will be paid the same regardless of how they treat their students. The actions of a for–profit private school teacher, however, can impact enrollment in and productivity of the school.
In a private school, teachers would be encouraged to treat all students equally because any negative or unfair treatment could result in students leaving the school and enrolling in another. Fewer students means lower profits for the school, so owners of the school would want to monitor teachers to ensure students are satisfied with their learning environment.
The owners of private schools are not the only ones who would benefit from this new system. According to the Wall Street Journal, an academic survey of over 5,000 students found that “students in private schools felt more respected by their teachers than students in government schools.”
Some human rights workers advocate for harsher regulation of India’s government schools, but unfortunately signing legislation rarely does much to actually fix the problem. Allowing for–profit private schools, on the other hand, would create an opportunity for all children to receive their education in a safe and fair learning environment, regardless of where they stand in the caste system.