Determinants of social demand for education - equity, Microeconomics

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Determinants of Social Demand for Education - Equity

Perfect equality is not observed in any society. Hierarchy in status, standards of living, capacities for effective demand/purchasing capacity for goods and services, uneven spread of facilities and opportunities are common and especially so in developing countries like India. It is a situation wherein those who can pay the piper shall be calling the tune. A significant number of people are left out from the
mainstream of educational or other developmental opportunities. If there is no intervention by the state (i.e. an in-egalitarian situation), then the gap between the well to do sections of society and the weaker sections in regard to access to educational opportunities and the profits that flow from the same would go on increasing. This would then lead to the undesirable strengthening of in-egalitarian structures.

It is logical to assume that when individuals spend money on higher education, they would treat it as an investment and would expect to get returns on the same spread over a life time. Persons with the paying capacity for higher education would be recovering the same from their clients when they begin to use their higher education for practicing their profession, trade, business or occupation. Naturally, higher costs of education that are already paid out would demand higher prices for the services associated with them. The higher prices that clients would be paying for an engineer or a doctor or a businessman or an advocate or a pharmacist would in turn make good through their occupations.

This process would get circulated leading to an overall increase in prices of goods and services that enter the market. The groups which are outside this market system are the labour class such as the agricultural labourers, the subsistence farmers, construction workers, artisans, etc. who are not mobilised and organised enough to get their wages/profits on par with the  dynamic markets. It is also observed in certain parts of India that the state of affairs where wealth and status dictate higher education leads to an increasingly male dominated society involving gender discrimination and devaluation of women’s status. Rich fathers having daughters and nurturing aspirations for sons-in-law in the higher professions of life would become targets of extortion of money by the parents of sons qualifying for professional education. They would be paying a very high bridegroom price or dowry for getting professionally educated sons-in-law. The price to be paid for marrying off a girl shoots up in unreasonable and dehumanising ways. The status of women in society suffers from a backlash.

Thus from the point of view of equity in society in general and the merited students from lower strata of society in particular as also that of women’s equality, the state cannot be a mute witness to uncontrolled and exclusive participation of private enterprise in the organisation and management of higher education, especially professional education.

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