Monday, March 24, 2008

It is not enough to pay and pay

Dear Parents, just as the discussions are getting serious, below is a somewhat lengthy piece contributed by a Type B parent with a Type C spouse. Curious ? read on...

It is not enough to pay and pay
by "Gullible Indian"

You and your spouse could be "typical" parents. And talking of types, there are a few noteworthies.

Type A: The head-in-the-clouds parent. This rare type is commonly heard uttering the mantra "I don't care". Thinks: "Why not, it is just a hundred bucks more, and I'm already paying thousands for ....". And after all, it is a charity, so why be miserly laah ! (Or, when fees are paid for by the employer, who cares!)

Type B: The head-in-the-sand parent. Reads announcements of campuses opening in Malibu and Lichtenstein and shakes his head. Might read this blog and shake his head even more, but always hopes that it will be the next guy who does something about the problem. Sometimes takes comfort in talking about the problem in return for a small amount of sympathy. And if it is something he can bear, like a 5% hike, he will pay up and not bother to find out more. In the worst case, he might switch his child to another school that offers some sops, like a deposit waiver (and let the cycle of miserable existence continue in the new school...?). This is the eternal optimist, as many of us are (or the spouse is).

Then there is Type C: the "value for money" parent. That includes most of us. Here reigns the "middle class" mindset.

Stirred by the crisis, the type B or C parent emerges (under the influence of a type C spouse ? or having overcome the contagious lethargy of the type A/B ?). With new hope kindled by the apparent "listening mode" of the management, the emergent B/C parent makes the approach.
Dusting out their pet issues, they venture the same old questions about the service level being dished out... contrasting it with what was promised in 1864, in the pre-inflationary era.

And will any of them have to return disappointed ? Never. Lots of quality is being promised. As much, as the "Gullible Indian" can stomach. "You just need to agree to this one fee hike, this one time, and we will then do our very best for the next three years". The surplus (if any, do we even need to say?) will be used to increase the quality even further, and make it shoot through the roof and vanish into the sky (only to re-appear in far-off places such as Auckland, Mumbai and Nagpur).

The "$urplus" ? Before you scratch your head at this new word, the ocean of quality will be churned before your very eyes.

And what will emerge, will depend on your vaasanas, your desires, the pet issues you were most vocal about. You WILL always hear the "right thing".

If you are the type that asks about library space / books / better labs / IT lab, you will be told:
"We will use surplus funds to buy more books and revamp... "
" -ditto- IT lab..."
" -ditto- science laboratories "

Those who asked about teacher shortage will be rewarded thus:
"we will hire even more expat teachers using the surplus..."

If poor infrastructure in QT was your main obsession, you hear : "we will use the surplus for renovating QT, we will improve infrastructure.."

If you weakly mention the lack of audio-visual equipment in classrooms (spotted in the 'rival' school), you will soon hear :
"we will gradually install AV equipment in all classrooms using surplus funds ..."

If lack of A/C in the auditorium for Badminton CCA was the cause of your itch [Sporty types will sweat - Ed], this is how you shall be soothed:
"we are planning to install an AC with the surplus funds so that your kid will not sweat... and that is exactly why we need..."

If you ask about the doubled workload of the teachers, what emerges is:
"we are doubling the number of teachers we have currently.. and that is why we need to raise the fees.."

If you ask about toilets and the inadequate cleaning, you will be promised:
"yes! we want to have 62.8% more cleanliness which means the cleaning costs will go up by 96%.."

And so on...

The 'unity in diversity' of all of the above, is that your dharma, as a parent, is simply to agree to the fee hike, and create the "surplus". "Surplus" is the new mantra. Any existing profit is not "surplus". Do not let your senses fool you. The unspoken message is that without surplus (= additional profits) none of the above will happen.

[It appears that the Type C spouse took over at this point. Notice a distinct shift in the style of the prose ? -Ed].

We have two key points:
1. As long as detailed cost break-up is kept secret from the parents, all these promises can only be taken as worthless (if we take them to be in good faith) or deceptive (if we take past history into consideration), or both.

GIIS has had enough time to improve quality when costs had not gone up, and when there were only two campuses in Singapore.

Instead of focussing on quality then, the management went on an expansion spree and 'show-bazee'. That is the historical record. Management, how do we trust your word ?

2. If we do agree to a certain hike (say 5%?) and create a "surplus" (that is, surplus on top of existing profit level!), then... why is it, that only such "surplus" can be deployed to do what urgently needs to be done ?

Their "appearing to listen" and mouthing quality mantras has just one purpose: To make you agree to the hike and walk away, so that you continue doing your thing, leaving them in peace to do theirs.

[We can almost hear the Type C spouse walking away now -Ed]

That brings us to our main point. It is not enough if we pay. We have to remain engaged with the school (whichever the school).

To quote the worthy William Lowe Bryan (Er, who was he ?) :

"Education is one of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get."


Type D said...

Good piece. I was looking for the majority - Type D! ' all-vital-juices-sucked-off-and-nowhere-to-go'parent !

Really, all this can happen only in an Indian institution and only with Indian clientele.One feels very uncomfortable saying this but it is true, is it not? All of us- Type A to D know that we have been had adn we are still debating.

IC-mum said...

I agree with commentor "type d". Gullible, argumentative (that adjective is courtesy of Amartya Sen !) and incapacitated - that holds for all the types :-)