Education has always been a sacred subject in the ancient India. But, this phenomenon has undergone change in the recent times. The main reasons are: privatization and globalization in the education. Thus, there should be control and regulation on the privatization and globalization in the education sector in India. There must be clear national education policy in this regard, especially in relation to higher education. There must also be changes in the law and the policies. Commodification of education is against the Indian traditions. We must reinforce the Gurukula tradition and values; and implement it in the modern context in India with suitable changes.

“State itself must provide higher education and the citizens cannot be left at the helm of certain private educational groups and interests, etc. for their educational needs.”

Author: Bhavya Nain

Advocate, Supreme Court of India; and Former Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Published in: Contemporary Researches in Education, Edited by Dr.Asha J.V. and Naseerali M.K.


Outside India, educational institutions have been compared to McDonald shops (Nesar Ahmad, 2002). The occupation of education is treated as a business. Student is treated as a consumer. Education is treated as a commodity. All these effects in the educational field are due to the excessive commercialization of education abroad. We must not allow the same to happen in India. Use of terms like globalization, internationalization and privatization of education should not be allowed to be a garb for excessive commercialization of higher education. It is a false premise that if an occupation is internationalized or globalized, it will be definitely better. It is a false premise that if an occupation is privatized, then there will be definite progress. Everything has its merits and demerits. The author by way of the present chapter would deal with the merits and demerits of commercialization of higher education. This approach will help in scientific analysis of the said issue and lead to a concrete and definite outcome.

Ancient Indian Tradition


Before, we can discuss the utility of globalization/ internationalization of education in the Indian context and scenario, we must understand the Indian style of education as existing since long. The ancient Indian Education System was indeed very effective and prosperous. It was appreciated world over. Renowned Dr. R.E. Kaey, in this regard, has pointed out, “Not only did the Brahman educators develop a system of education, which survived the crumbling of empires and the changes of society, but they also, through all these thousand years, kept aglow the torch by higher learning.”(P. Annie Amala, 2004). As per Kewal Motwani (1947), in order to preserve the continuity of this national heritage and add to its richness, India built large institution of higher learning from time to time. They served as the repositories of her spiritual, philosophical, scientific, artistic and literary achievements and as the media of transmission of this heritage to the future generations. Thus, it is clear that the education system in the ancient India was powerful and effective. Now, we must understand as to the key ingredients of the ancient Indian education system.

As per A.S. Altekar (1944), there were three key aims of all education in ancient India, these are:-

Firstly, the first aim was to make the student a useful and pious member of the society. Thus, the social function of education was given due importance.

Secondly, the second aim was to develop the character of the student. The aim of the ancient educational system in India was to transform and ennoble the character and nature of the students. Morale building of the students was given prime importance.

Thirdly, the third aim was to develop the personality of the student. The aim of the ancient educational system in India was to go beyond learning of texts by the students. Holistic development of the students was the target for the educators.

The approach towards education in ancient India was entirely different. The function of education is clearly represented by the classical Indian verse: “Sa vidya ya vimuktaye”, which meant that which liberates us is education.

No discussion of the ancient educational system in India is complete without the discussion of the Gurukul system of education. As per R.B. Kokatanur (2013), Gurukulas were the dwelling houses of gurus situated in natural surroundings away from noise and bustle of cities. Parents sent their wards at the age of five years to nine years according to their castes after celebrating their Upanayan Sanskar. Pupils lived under the roof of their guru and under the direct supervision of their Guru. The students were like sons of the teacher and the whole institution lived like family.

The concept of Guru Shishya Parampara is also relevant. Under this practice, the Guru was more than a teacher and Gurukul was more than a mere school. Under this Parampara, there was close relationship between the Guru and the student (Shishya) and the Gurukul was like a kula (family) for the student. Under this practice, the students were prepared for hard work and austerity and were to maintain Brahmacharya (celibacy) till the education was complete (Kurian Kachappilly, 2003)., Generally there was a one-to-one relationship between the Guru and the shishya. The Guru was autonomous and decided the curriculum, the timeframe and the methodology of transaction. The Guru did not receive a salary nor did the disciples pay any fees. The commitment of the Guru to pass on the religious traditions was exceptional. Besides, it was his duty to pass on sacred texts and customs. There was emphasis on self-learning apart from the correct recitation and pronunciation of the verses.

Even the Buddhist learning system which eventually replaced the vedic system was built on similar values (C. Panduranga Bhatta, 2009). The Buddhist learning system emphasised value based education through its universal 8 fold path:


  1. Right though: avoiding covetousness, the wish to harm other and wrong views
  2. Right speech: avoiding lying, divisive and harsh speech and idle gossip
  3. Right actions: avoiding killing, stealing and sexual misconduct
  4. Right livelihood: trying to make a living with the above attitude of thought, speech and actions
  5. Right understanding: developing genuine wisdom
  6. Right effort: joyful perseverance to continue
  7. Right mindfulness: trying to be aware of the ‘here and now’
  8. Right concentration: trying to keep a steady, calm, and attentive state of mind.

Thus, the ancient Indian education system was a value based education system. Education was never seen as a business, but as a solemn duty of the teacher. This education system should not be abandoned on the premise of better education by way of globalization and internationalization of education. We must learn from our past. Adoption of western educational system divorced of Indian traditions would be imprudent and detrimental to the Indian educational fabric.[/shc_shortcode]

The Modern Indian Scenario

 The modern day scenario is best summarized in the observations of the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court in D.P.S. Bhati V/s. State of U.P: education, these days, has become highly commercialised….. The opportunity and avenues as also the atmosphere has to be created by welfare Government of the country …… We can boast to have presently having mushroom growth of educational institutions including privately owned universities but the manner they are working is well known to everyone.”

There are many cases of profiteering, use of capitation fee, demand of donation fees, mis-selling of degrees by the educational institutions. This must be seen in the context that these problems have occurred due to over commercialization of education by the private educational institutes and organizations. The over commercialization of higher education is weakening the educational fabric of India. Now, students see the degrees and certificates as a mere ticket to a well-paying job. Now, professors see their job as a routine lecture job. Now, educational institutes treat education as a commodity which they sell. Now, the parents of the students see education as only a business investment. This is contrary to everything the ancient educational system of India stood for. The Indian Supreme Court also has tried to lament these practices and also has sometimes come to the rescue of the students. In Unnikrishnan V/s. Union of India[2], the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that commercialization of education is opposed to public policy and Indian tradition.

Need for Careful and Controlled Internationalisation & Privatisation in India

Privatisation of higher education has not worked well in many countries. For example, Latin American countries, Philippines in East Asia. This is because uncontrolled privatisation of higher education can lead nowhere. For economic and social development of the country, higher education must be rendered with a larger plan and objective. Leaving higher education at the helm of private institutes and bodies does not help. Uncontrolled mushrooming of private educational institutes leads to uncontrolled and un-measurable progress. Uncontrolled progress is only a little better than no progress. The attitude of the Indian Government on the issue of higher education is deplorable. A careful study of the ninth and the tenth five year plan makes it amply clear that the State wants more involvement of private institutes and private financing of higher education. It has also been the experience that the public expenditure by India in the education sector is notably less than many other countries (K.C. Chakrabarty, 2011). [shc_shortcode class=”shc_mybox”]There lies the problem. A fundamental fallacy which exists in the Indian way of thinking is that higher education is less important than primary education. This thinking also ails the Indian Government. There must be a clear education policy of the Government of India to the effect that excessive commercialization and commodification of higher education is prohibited. The lack of a clear policy to this effect has actually led to the present dismal scenario. Privatisation of higher education cannot be stopped completely. However, there is need for checks and balances. Without additional checks and balances, the educational fabric of the country would be tarnished because education without values is no education at all. The privatisation and globalisation of higher education must cautiously consider the following aspects:


  1. a) Resultant commercialisation of education,
  2. b) Obstacles in merit based admissions,
  3. c) Deterioration in academic standards,
  4. d) Encroachment in institutions & autonomy,
  5. e) Service conditions of teachers, and
  6. f) Education becoming subservient to market logic advanced by the private sector in the country (C.L. Anand, 1999).

Uncontrolled privatisation and globalisation of education should not be allowed to shape the higher education framework of our country. Instead, we should frame our own higher education agenda and try to use the opportunities created by controlled privatisation and globalisation of education to meet our higher education agenda (Deepak Nayyar, 2007). Laissez Faire policy cannot be allowed to be to determine the future of our educational framework. Laissez Faire Policy cannot be allowed to control our future through the education sector. There must be difference between an education university and an education factory. Education universities cannot be allowed to become knowledge/ education factories. Complete/uncontrolled privatisation of higher education is as bad as complete privatisation of defence or national security. Uncontrolled privatisation of higher education may lead to dispensing of the high moral and educational standards set by the ancient Indian traditions. The ancient educational values may become lost in this whole process. There must be some difference between selling of goods or commodities and selling of education. This difference is becoming blurred because of excessive commercialisation/ privatisation of higher education. There is an increase in the number of disputes/ conflicts arising between students and educational institutions. The reason behind this is only one and that is over-commercialisation of education in India.


Education is not a commodity. Neither is higher education. It cannot be allowed to become a commodity under the garb of privatisation, internationalisation or globalisation of education. We must fall-back on our ancient Indian tradition and values in order to determine our higher education policy. There must be a clear education policy in this regard. Ambiguity regarding the same has only caused over-commercialisation of education in India. We must correct this situation. Higher education cannot be allowed to go out of public control. Uncontrolled privatisation, is thus, not advisable. Universities cannot be allowed to become solely market oriented players. Universities must have certain academic independence. Uncontrolled privatisation reduces such independence of the Universities. This is a global phenomenon which has troubled the countries such as U.S., U.K., Europe, etc. We must learn from their mistakes. Blindly, applying their education to India and adopting all their education systems will only aggravate our problems. Privatisation cannot be the sole solution to the educational problems of India. This is because even if many private educational institutes open in all areas of the country even then there will be still less access to education because a large section of the Indian society will not be able to afford these private educational institutes. Thus, there is need for increased public expenditure on education; and there is also need for more State owned educational institutes/ universities. The State cannot be allowed to shirk from its responsibility in this regard. There is also a need for the educators to understand their roles. Educators should not see their job as merely as that of a teacher, but should see their job in the role of a mentor, guide and philosopher for their students. This has always been the Indian Tradition. We must reinforce this tradition and implement it in the modern context with suitable changes.

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