Prince will never study at Princeton – excuse the pun! But Prince is actually a very real human being and one that does us proud. He came to us many years ago as a primary student. A seemingly shy and withdrawn boy, Prince was nevertheless always first in class and a very serious student. He passed all his Board exams and recently joined a B Com course. His dream: to be a teacher and that is why he came hesitantly last week asking us whether he could join pwhy! Undoubtedly we said! And today he is one of the team: a secondary teacher at the Okhla centre. Another dream come true.

You must be wondering why I mentioned Princeton at all. A new venture or should I say adventure is being crafted by our new Minister of Education. If all goes is way, then very soon foreign universities will soon set shop in India and the moot question is whether their will be a quota for economically and socially backward classes. According to our flamboyant Minister foreign universities are private and therefore free from any commitment to social inclusiveness when operating in India! All this spells danger and a further division of education. One had hoped that the new Minister would have walked the path leading to leveling education rather than creating more layers. Now you will have the super rich who can go to Princeton and the not so super rich who will enter the portals of Princeton India if that university decides that India is a lucrative business. A repeat performance of what happened with school education when the middle class opted for private schools leading to government schools becoming schools for only the poor.

The article presents a probable scenario which I cannot but agree to: the creamiest layer – using at word now politically correct I presume – will continue to go to the real thing for the ambiance, the ersatz will be for those just below them. And for all others it will be the local colleges reputed or not quite so. And then there is one more question lurking: if branded universities do land on our shores, will our best teachers leave their present jobs and join the more lucrative options? And thus quality higher education, just like quality primary education will only be for the privileged.

Where are we going Mr Minister! Education was the only hope for the teeming millions of Indian children to whom our Constitution has finally granted the right to free and equitable education, to break the cycle of poverty they are enslaved in. From 1983 to 1999 overall education expenditure has declined from 80 to 67 %. Is education for all a farce or a sad joke played on poor unsuspecting and voiceless children. And yet the children of India beat all odds. Prince always stood first even though he lives in a squalid hole. His father is illiterate and drives an auto rickshaw he does not even own. Things would be right if Prince one day could join Princeton, where this temple of knowledge even open its doors in India.