It was bound to happen: Without the presence of a regulatory mechanism, schools throughout the country, specifically in Punjab, have resorted to embracing market mechanisms as a way of redefining aspects of school life. The fact shocks no one that the minimum fee being charged from a student is more than one month’s salary of an unskilled worker (fixed at a pathetic Rs 1000). In addition to tuition fee, these schools charge gigantic amounts in the name of admission fees, fees for security, building maintenance and transport fees – amongst other expenses. In bare and simple terms, here is what the commodification of education looks like.

The irony in this debacle is unsettling: Schools and universities are, instead of criticizing and opting out of these mechanisms, openly accepting the market values, identities and social relations that not only propagated cut-throat values that brought on about the economic crisis, but also put many of these schools in the dire financial crisis they suffer from in the first place. It perpetuates class stratification and justifies the differentiated quality of education depending on, quite literally, how much cash you can put on the table.

In addition to that, it prioritizes higher learning as secondary to corporate culture and becoming licensed storefronts for brand name corporations. Teaching is removed far from the language of social and moral responsibility and placed in the center of a rat race to see who becomes richer the quickest. By selling space and buildings and endowing opportunities to the upper class, our current education system – specifically private enterprises within it – relegate the poor man’s child at the bottom of the totem pole.

Education, whether elementary or higher, is one of the few sites left where critical thinking can thrive in our rapidly commodified society. But, with how commercialism continues swallowing whole all aspects of the common man’s life, there will be a day when our schools will cease being schools and become what they are: Business ventures.