The ATS and APS?


Why do I feel that there is strong similarity between the low cost or Affordable Transport Services (ATS) and the so-called Affordable Private Schools (APS)?

Let us take a look at the ATS.  In Pakistan, there are also several not so AT services, such as the Daewoo Bus Service (DBS) and other similar services. DBS is an expensive service that–I can tell you from my personal experience–is far more superior than those old Greyhounds of the United States.  The poor, however, have to be content with using the ATS.  Now, before you read in between the lines, I am not arguing that state should start subsidising road transport for everyone.  Far from that!  If I could afford it, I should be able to choose between my Mercedes or BMW, and why should that be a problem.  But while I may have the choice, I know that for poor the choice is a false one between the X or the Y service, both of which have no incentive to follow any safety standards.

And this is precisely where the importance of regulation is strongly felt. Imagine living in a country where, somehow, human lives, whether of rich or poor, had come to be valued.  Wouldn’t things be a tad different?  You would certainly be able to look around and find an elaborate list of safety standards and someone with the constitutional authority to enforce them.  The state, in such a country, won’t permit people to drive without a properly earned driving license. The car manufacturers, regardless of the wealth of the consumers, would need to adhere to the safety standards. It would be a place, where the automobiles would be recalled if a safety hazard was discovered in them even after they were sold. Here the consumers would be presumably compensated if the producer of a good [or provider of a service] was unable to deliver the good/service in ways that protected their legal rights.  The ATS [or not] your life would be safer on the roads.

But what to say of the ATS in Pakistan. As my aviator friend Mudassir Hashmi mentioned in his comments: “By seeing the pictures of the bus wreckage, we can easily make out it was not a big collision, the bus [simply] overturned at high speed. Since the bus shell was not designed properly with no roll cage, no seat belts, no safety structure, the hapless occupants got crushed…The bus construction is a cottage industry in Lahore and Gujranwala which is light years away from science and technology, all it takes is some iron bars and a welding torch to construct a bus. No license regulation, no driver tests, no safety instructions.” True my friend! But this is not an issue which is being discussed by the powers that be in the provincial and federal capitals of Pakistan.  They are looking for a ‘culprit,’ and after they find one, which would most probably be the school proprietor or the bus owner or some other from the same set/class of people, the case will be closed, until another bus gets overturned and more children [and adults] die. And then the ritual will be repeated all over again.

Incidentally, I just found that there indeed exists a Pakistan Automobile Manufacturers Association.  Its site is flushed with the pictures of the four-wheelers that its esteemed members produce.  Here is a list of its members. It also has a page on safety and quality standards for the two wheelers and the three wheelers.  That’s all, only the two and three wheelers!!  But that is not as far as the institutions running on public monies are concerned.  Like many other nations on this planet, Pakistan’s tax payer too is supporting a Standards and Quality Control Authority (SQCA) working directly under the Ministry of Science and Technology.  It is not clear, if this authority exercises any jurisdiction on the cottage industry that makes the ATS in Pakistan ticks. But most likely there is no interaction between the Low Cost Bus Market and this authority.  Why should we not blame PAMA or SQCA or, broadly speaking, the state itself for not adequately protecting the public interest and hold them directly responsible for the loss of 38 precious lives. The PM, the president, the CM and the governor of Punjab should go a step further than simply expressing their grief.  They should also openly acknowledge the failure of state that led to the loss of 38 lives in a ravine near Kalar Kahar.

As an aside, the ATS market is perhaps hardly different from the other ‘dynamic market’ that many of my economist friends advocate as a possible response to the formidable problem of universalising education in Pakistan, the Affordable Private Schools (APS) market.  While they may as well be a solution to this EFA problem, they are, like the bus bodymakers of Pakistan, unregulated entities.  They may be producing slightly better results in math, science, and reading but are they also protecting public interest within the realm of education.

Be that as it may, yesterday’s gory accident was certainly a result of a transaction between these two [unregulated] private providers in the ‘free’ market, the ATS and the APS.

For my readers in the US and Britain, the APS that I am talking about are the ones that–as some influential American and British economists such as James Tooley believe–should inspire the public in your respective countries to get rid of your own public schools [See this and this].

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About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

One Response to “The ATS and APS?”

  1. I beg to differ on usage of the term ‘affordable’. An online dictionary defines the word ‘affordable’ as follows:
    • to manage to bear without serious detriment
    • to be able to bear the cost of
    From the above definitions, it is logical that the term ‘affordable’ is a relative term which is user defined and unique to each individual. Moreover what is affordable to one individual might not be affordable to another, even when the price is the same. In your case, DBS is ATS for you because you can easily manage to bear its cost. In my case, I can easily manage an access to an elite school for my children and that is APS (affordable private school) for me.
    Similarly, the terms low-cost and low-fees are also relative terms in the context of Private Schooling. Privileged people may find an elite school low-cost but many others (who may find Tooley’s types of low-cost private schools reasonable) would define it as high-cost. For poor of the poorest, Tooley’s defined LCPS may also serve as ‘beyond their means’.

    Note: I strongly feel that to understand recent trends of education, one need to understand theories of economics rather than learning-related-theories, children’s psychology and philosophy of education.

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