The Indian Economy Blog

December 17, 2006

Liberalize Indian Education

Filed under: Education — Atanu Dey @ 5:12 pm

This is a true story. The faculty member involved emailed me a few days ago. Scene: an IIT professor interviewing a potential candidate for PhD in a technical subject.

“Suppose you have two integers, each between 0 and 5. You add them up. What is the range of their sum?”

“It can vary.”

“Sure, it can vary, but what is the largest possible value of the total?”


“I said sum, not average. What is the maximum possible value of the sum?”


[FYI, my original intention was to say these two random numbers were uniformly distributed and ask what the distribution of the sum was. This person had traveled to IIT by train, possibly using IIT money, to do an interview like the above, with the hope of doing a PhD some day. Your tax rupees at work here, folks. Lest you think there was a language problem here, I give another example below.]

“Consider the loops below:
for i = 1 to n
for j = 1 to i
loop body
How many times will the loop body execute?”

“n times”

“How much time does it take to sort n items?”

“Big oh of 1.”

["Uh oh"]

Let’s remember that this student has spent at least 16 years of his life in school (four of which in undergraduate studies). This is a telling vignette which is indicative of how woefully inadequate our educational system is.

Allow me a personal anecdote. Some years ago, my friend and thesis advisor Peter Berck at UC Berkeley requested me to receive a visiting faculty from Delhi University at San Francisco International. The visitor was coming to Berkeley for a summer teaching and research appointment. I went to the airport and hung about for about three hours fruitlessly. The guy was not on the flight.

Later that day I received an email from him from Delhi. It seemed he needed permission from some Indian governmental bureau to take up the summer appointment at UCB. They kept him waiting and denied him permission at the last moment. He did not get on the flight. He was severely disappointed as he was looking forward to being back, however briefly, in Berkeley where he had received his PhD.

Governmental policies matter. And they differ from country to country. Peter told me later that Israel not only allows their faculty to take short-term positions abroad, but that they actually encourage it. They give their faculty full pay even when they are working abroad short-term. They consider it a win-win situation: the faculty member grows professionally through contact with the outside world. The country gains because the terms of employment include the freedom to come and go as they please and therefore a professional is more inclined to work in the country.

I can imagine that really competent professors give up on trying to build a career in India after a few years of struggling with the bureaucratic machinery of India. Not only are the teachers paid poorly but to add insult to injury, they are arbitrarily denied the freedom to pursue their professional goals. The list of top-notch economists (just to take one small sample) that the Delhi School of Economics has lost to the US makes dismal reading.

The hollowing-out of Indian universities should be a major cause for concern. Without the foundation of great universities, it is unlikely that India will ever be able to compete in the world. We should take a break from patting ourselves on the back about how many BPO call centers we have and take a serious look at what ails our education system. Granted that many non-resident Indians are returning to India by the droves, at least as compared to before when the traffic was mostly one-way. But the picture does not look quite as rosy under even minor scrutiny.

The returnees are mainly those who come to India as ex-pats employees of multinational corporations such as Yahoo, IBM, and others. They are managers and executives whose contribution to the economy certainly cannot be ignored but is nothing as substantial as those of professors and researchers. If there is any flow which can be termed as “brain-drain,” it is the one-way migration of those who form the cornerstone of a modern economy, namely, top-class highly educated researchers and teachers, and who not just make the university but are the university. Ultimately they are the ones who train the thousands of bright young men and women who go on to build society in all its aspects—social, commercial, political, and educational.

Clearly, those returning are doing so for personal and professional reasons, just as those leaving are doing so. The liberalization of the economy from the clutches of the government has offered some degree of opportunities in India and thus the limited reverse migration of the managerial and executive class. That should give us a clue: to halt the migration of educators and indeed reverse it, what is needed is liberalization of the educational system. This may be equally, if not more, critical to India’s development as was the liberalization of the economy.

Liberalizing the educational system must begin with the dismantling of the bureaucratic control of the system. There are examples of countries freeing up their educational systems. New Zealand abolished their Department of Education and transformed their dysfunctional school system within a few years to one which is world-class. It is hard to fathom what good bureaucratic control of the educational system does in the first place. What do bureaucrats have to do with education anyway other than not allowing the moribund system from changing?

Bureaucracy rules in the Indian school system. Who is allowed to run a school, what is to be taught, who is allowed to teach, how much a teacher is to be paid, who is allowed to attend and for how long, who must be allowed to attend, how much can be charged—all these things are bureaucratically determined and no freedom of choice is permitted. The system lacks freedom and the not so surprising effect is the system is dead.

I am confident that Indians are no less smart than any other group. Indians are poor because they lack freedom to act, to perform to the best of their abilities. Given the opportunity, in free societies Indians do just as well as the others. It is time for Indians to build world-class schools and universities. It is time for Indians to have real freedom from the government of India, not just the political freedom won from a colonial power over half a century ago.

Right now, in the education sector there is severe competition for the market—a limited number of entrants are allowed. So there is limited competition in the market leading to high prices (and economic rents, part of which has to be paid to the operators of the state control machinery to gain their patronage). Limited competition in the market implies not just high prices but assures low quality also. The people, given the supply constraints, in desperation put up with high prices and low quality.

My prescription is simple. Allow free entry into the education business. Give absolute freedom to schools and universities to charge what they wish, to hire who they wish, to pay what they wish, and to admit who they wish. By allowing free entry in the education business, there will be no competition for the market. There will be competition in the market. Prices will reflect true costs and quality will improve.

One hears the argument that if you allow free entry, would not all sorts of shady fly-by-night operators open up schools and bilk the general public? Let’s paraphrase that argument a bit. If you allow anyone to open a bakery, would not people who have no expertise in baking open up shop and sell garbage to the general public and make tons of money? Now that is a stupid argument, is it not? After all, unless the general public is totally brain-dead, the bakeries with crappy bread will go out of business because given free entry, there will be other bakeries. It is only when the government hands out limited number of licenses for bakeries that the people don’t have any choice but to take what they can get from government licensed bakeries.

Of course, one must distinguish between different levels of education. First, there is primary and secondary education: all, irrespective of their ability to pay, must have access to that. The government must help those who cannot pay by financing their education. School vouchers is the mechanism. The government must not be in the business of running schools—whether primary or secondary.

Next there is college education. Again, the role of the government is limited here. For those who cannot pay and are credit constrained, the government should guarantee educational loans which are given by financial institutions.

That’s it. Get the government out of the education business. And within a generation you would have India really shining in education.


  1. The bakery analogy is fallacious on multiple levels. One, you can change your bakery in the blink of an eye, you can’t change your school or college. By the time you will, you would have probably wasted an year. Two, while a bakery does not discriminate between who enters the store as long as they can pay, in educational insts. there will always be the question of how to get admission. Three, differentiating between good and bad education is probably not as simple as differentiating between good and bad bread.

    That being said, liberalising education will do a lot of good to the state of education in India. However, there should be system of audit in place, if not by the goverment, who will probably do a shoddy job of it, by a body composed of all the players who will enter this space once its liberalised.

    Comment by Ashish — December 17, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

  2. I agree with Atanu!

    Ironically today -compared to all other professionals-where the government salaries are a fraction of what the private sector offers, the teaching profession that finds itself in an unenviable situation where the private sector pays much lesser than the ‘UGC scale’!!

    So its a situation where one exhausts all other options -before taking up a teaching profession-which at best again, is a stopgap arrangement -as one is constantly looking for greener pastures elsewhere. Most often -it is those unemployed alumni who come back as lecturers..

    Even in the premier institutes, those graduating from campus placements probably earn more than their illustrious mentors/guides/professors whose qualifications, research and teaching experience- are hardly as commercially rewarding!

    One is shocked to see the facilities (eg lab) of the innumerable capitation fee colleges that have been allowed to mushroom under the garb of liberalisation- most only have imposing buildings to boast of-nothing else graces the portals!

    It is not a surprise that with so many lakhs of engineers graduating, hardly 15% are employable-another bunch similar trainable!!

    Very little interaction between the corporate world and the academia- again increasing the gulf between the desired level of exposure and those skills available!

    Yes, a robust education system would help build the nation!!

    Comment by Achyut — December 17, 2006 @ 10:24 pm

  3. Education liberalization is important – but I’m not sure that it alone will be enough to fix the problems of the education system. I agree that the government has to ‘de-regulate’ schools, but I’m not sure it will be beneficial for them to “get out of the business” altogether.

    After all, there are many places in India where schools would not be built if it were left to the market alone. The government (whether state or national) is the only institution which can fill this gap by either investing in a quality rural public education system, or creating the necessary regulatory incentives for the private sector to do so. This applies in particular to primary education.

    As for colleges and universities, I do think that the government can play a constructive role, again through structured incentives (how easy is it for private universities in India to receive tax-free status?) and investment via public-private partnerships.

    I am sympathetic to your view that our politicians and bureaucrats are venal and corrupt, so if you leave anything up to them, they will screw it up. But, in this instance, I think even the most devout free-market proponents have to acknowledge that the public sector has a rather important role to play in ensuring education for all.

    As a sidenote, I am also encouraged by the creative methods being used by some of the NGOs in trying to fill the education gap. I heard about an organization called Akanksha which started out educating slum children in Bombay and grew amazingly fast thanks to well-heeled donors in New York, London, San Francisco. Once the schools were off and running, they turned them over to the locals, and have shifted their efforts into finding and training quality teachers and getting them employed (financed generously by Lehman Brothers no less!).

    Another encouraging story was that the founder of the successful Teach for America program (which puts bright young college grads in underfunded schools for two years) is planning to launch in a big way in India. (Hopefully, there won’t be too many nitwits like the one you mentioned in your post taking up opportunities like this!)

    So take heart: the whims and fancies of our politicians might retard the growth of our human capital in the short-term; but I think there are forces more powerful than them at play which *may* yet allow for a turnaround in the Indian education system.

    Comment by Nanubhai — December 18, 2006 @ 3:58 am

  4. Completely agree!! What we need is more of individual liberty, less and less of government more and more of free markets and lot of Peace in the soceity that we live in.

    Government is interfering adversely with every aspect of our lives without understanding how much harm they cause to the people of the country. Government and the agents have taken upon themselves to systematically manupulate with the functioning of the free markets with the sole interest of some vested personal interests. I am hoping free markets will find its way to survival for the good of people into prosperity.

    The agents have taken upon themselves to stall at every stage in degrading the free-market institutions that we have in our country. The biggest symbol of free market instituion is our IIM’s and IITs and once they are inflicted and these institutions are degraded it would be easy for these agents to survive for longer further stalling the emergence of free markets and true democracy.

    But, I am sure free markets and the invisible hand will fight back. It will find its stranglehold on the necks of these agents who are perversly trying to degrade the society and curb liberty and freedom of citizens.

    After Manmohan Singh government has come to power, the structural and institutional reforms have come to a stall. Infact there has been actions taken increasing government control and stranglehold over the soceity.

    We need less and less of government and more and more of individual liberty.

    Comment by raj yashwant — December 18, 2006 @ 8:11 am

  5. Great post Atanu. With one of the youngest populations in the world, we need a large, functioning and a globally integraged education system. I think the biggest challenge this system faces is the shortage of high quality faculty/teachers. As Atanu mentioned, the ecosystem required to encourage developing and retaining high quality faculty is non-existant.

    Comment by Akhil — December 18, 2006 @ 10:36 am

  6. I do agree with some of the views disscussed here but I would like to bring out some important points in realation to liberalization of education.

    1. I do not agree with the fact that a complete absence of Government from education and complete privatization will resolve all the issues. If I go with the view of complete privatization and absence of Govt what wil be the scenario of our educational system
    a. Vertical differentiation of students with people having higher purchasing power having access to better resources. This will actually skew the educational system with excessive competetion among students. Even school/college authorities will pressurize students to do better. The selection procedure in private institutions will be very intensive with family back ground, financial status and parents education coming into picture. This will also drive the parents to pay higher fees to get better facilities. Do not forget the huge capitation fees that parents might have to pay. Under these circumstances along with academic performance, income will become another vital factor in the selection procedure. In a decade or so this figure is goin to get skewed more towards the people with higher incomes and will cause a gradual decline in the equlibrium. We can find few with enormous access to educational resources and a large number to very few educational resources. Due to the variation in the incomes the per capita availability will also be skewed. Since education cost will go high in middle level and primary level we can also find a hevay distortion in female and male ratio accessing education. If a family has 2 kids a boy and a girl. The parents might prefer to put their son in a better school and their daughter in a inferior one”. A acute condition would be availability of education to only the son.

    b. We can find a heavy distortion in the pedagogy in different schools. With higher demands and higher pay-packages the pedagogy will be of better quality in schools and colleges serving people in the higer income groups. The educational instituions in the rural areas and towns will still suffer. In the absence of government subsidies there will be slow demise of educational institutions in the rural areas. And the cost of education will be high. Education will become more of a business with profit making the sole motive.

    c. Quality of education: No doubt due to the better facilities and funds the quality of education will improve. Competetion will imbibe in pedagogy the urgency to impart quality education. Percapita availability of resources in institutions will be more. This will inturn produce “RICH” and erudite students. But are we just going to cater to these creamy and higher income group ppl. What will be the social structure if this system is operated for the coming 5 decades.

    d. Competetion: NO its going to be very high. The pressure will not only be on the teachers but also on the students and parents. We can find a similar level of competetion in schools and colleges as we find in the so called PREMIER institutes like IIT’s and IIM’s. What will happen to students who are mediocre. Is this the aim of education we are indirectly curbing the “RIGHT TO EDUCATION”. Institution will in a way work towards getting better results than catering to all round development. The students in colleges and schools will be categorised not only on their academic performance but also on the kind of institution they have studied from. We can find this line quite often then ” STUDENTS FROM ONLY PREMIER INSTITUTES WILL BE CONSIDERED”. Is this the motive of our educational system we need to rethink??

    Comment by Prade — December 18, 2006 @ 10:50 am

  7. Just remove Saddam and Iraq will be a much better place…

    Capitalism equals chaos.

    Anyone who promises it will improve something is being dishonest.

    Comment by alphie — December 18, 2006 @ 11:12 am

  8. “Get the government out of the education business.”

    What? How is Arjun Singh going to dole out those quotas and how is Manmohan Singh going to continue with his great social enginering project – providing those first dips – learning from the success of economic engineering project that he was such a part of for decades?

    alphie, socialism sure is orderly. How would you like spend 30 years of your life in jail for that orderly society? Now, now don’t be dishonest.

    Comment by Chandra — December 18, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

  9. Chandra,

    I’m a big fan of free markets, but…I don’t buy into the childish theory that free markets are a solution to every problem society faces.

    Where would America’s economy be today if the U.S. government hadn’t funded massive research efforts into computers, the internet, biotech, jet aircraft, software, etc.?

    There are some things that government can do better than the private sector and schooling is one of them. I hope India doesn’t sacrifice a generation of students to learn this obvious lesson.

    One of the best econ professors I had was from India, btw. Almost 30 years later, I can still recall his insightful lectures…

    Comment by alphie — December 18, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  10. Free markets will not increase “competition” among students, but actually decrease. I think the word to be used must be “pressure to perform” rather than the word competition. When there is few seats to be taken and there is large section of students vieing for it, there is excessive “pressure to perfom” among students. This “pressure to perform”(PTP) must not be misled to being competition.

    The “PTP has increased due to artificial control of government preventing free markets to come in and redue this pressure. If government were to de-regulate the industry, more number of institutions would crop, which of course would be different quality, but there wouldn’t be artificial shortage as seen today.

    Today we are seeing a situation, where though there is a huge difference in the quality of education among the best and worst schools, college in the system there is a scarcity of these opportunities, which has resulted in social tension.

    Government by putting artificial control has been the principal creator of the problem which would have found a solution naturally by itself.

    Free enterprise and policy to sustain them will find its way to educate even the poorest of poor. It may not be the same quality as the urban counterpart, but still it would not deprive them of these opportunities. With government control people are constantly waiting for government to deliver, while government is short of resources, is held hostage by perverse agents and due to many other beauraucratic and administrative constraints simply cannot deliver.

    Free markets doesn’t mean absense of government. Government is necessary where is abolutely essential. however, government should not come in the way of entrepreneurship in rural areas to deliver education and competition in urban areas.

    competition among educational institutions will ensure that they do not charge excessive premium for education. We need to increase the supply of education to such a large extent that the price of education falls rapidly.

    This is possible. Just like the price of mobile has fallen, liberalization, structural reforms can ensure that price of education falls to dramtic lower levels which we cannot envisage even now.

    Comment by raj yashwant — December 18, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

  11. Also, there is not incentive for government owned schools to perform. This can been seen in large number of government owned schools in various parts of the country, where the quality is so poor that even the agents of the system (bereaucrts and politicians) are averse to send their kids to.

    This is similar to any government owned institution in any sphere. Take the example of Hospitals. The principal reason is because the agents of the sytem do not have sufficient incentive to perform. They do not have sufficient threats in place which guard against their non performance. There is no competition which will natually ensure that they are adversely impacted due to non performance.

    Who can monitor one billion population of this country? How can it be ensured that they are all acting towards the best interests of the country? Obviously, one cannot. Each individual acts for his own self interest. Even politicians act to maximize his wealth. There is nothing wrong in politicians ambition to maximize his wealth, after all he is a human being.

    Why should we expect that politicians will act towards the best interest of the country, rather than their own best interest or the best interest of their community?

    Comment by raj yashwant — December 18, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  12. Allowing educational instititutions to charge what they will…it’s happening to some extent. As long as there are scholarships for deserving students, I think this is a good idea.
    However, we need to get educationists into education, not businessmen. That is what makes me cringe…businessmen heading educational institutions. As investors, they are alright, but they should not be allowed to interfere in the day to day functioning of the educational institutions. In India we have a strong hierachical structure and Principals are not strong enough to oppose the owners.
    But I agree with you on one thing. The government should loosen it’s grip on education. Wherever the government interferes, quality suffers. Just an example are the poorly run municipal schools.
    There is one institution which is running well though and that is the National Institute of Design. The government hasn’t ruined it. Maybe it is because Design was never considered that important…but now the field is growing and there is pressure on NID to take in students who are not properly equipped to handle the pressures of the various courses.

    Comment by Nita Jatar Kulkarni — December 18, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  13. very very well put article should say…
    you missed one point the diversion of funds for primary educations to the IITs and IIMs(because of the quota system..the point is clear but whats the use of us talking we are given a right to talk but who is hearing us??
    ask us 10th and 12th students we will tell you what good are schools are infact i was a guy with a mind set never to leave my country but now in 10th im seeing so many options and they all are better than this education system.a recent article in the hindu pointed out the fact that china and other asian countries are beating our system they have more universities than us which find a spot in the worlds best.
    one thing is quite evident nothing can work in this country until people like you who have gone through this all come with ideas and work them and get the system out.
    Another major point is that intellegence isnt importance in our system how much you can mug is the important thing(atleast in the basic system).
    a good point about the BPOs in a debate in my school(the topic was is india moving forward or backward- i was india is moving backward)i tried to point out the same point about how BPOs are hidden time bombs highlighting the fact that youngsters mostly without any skill are employeed here and one day when the BPOs lose their important say 10yrs down the line we will have a large group of middle aged people without any skill. well no the judge seemed to have other views and the person conducting to seemed not to able to understand(and he was a commerce student!)..

    Comment by vishesh — December 18, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

  14. I think the freedom to charge whatever the school wants is already there.
    They also charge exorbitant fees and still you are not assured of an admission as this is based on the kids and the parents interview
    Firstly I think quality education should be made accessible to everyone. Education business starts from the age of 3 when the child should play and enjoy the wonders of life. There is fierce competition from the Nursery/Junior KG level which is really unwarranted. These little children are going to be the future of India.
    They cant be tortured at such a tender age by asking them to give an interview.
    Schools also ask for documentary proof e.g. Birth certificate,Telephone bill/Electricity bill(for address proof) which is acceptable but recently I came to know that schools insist on the Ration card with the parents and the childs name in it.
    I think the Ration Card is the most fraudulent document used in the country and only the lower middle class use it.Is the birth certificate not proof enough of the child?

    Allow free entry into the education business but make it accessible to all. Atleast education at the school level should be a right either free or with the adequate fee structure.

    After saying all this I am readying myself to stand in the queue just to admit my son into J.KG hoping that he will get quality education at the minimum cost

    Comment by Ninad Bapat — December 18, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  15. “There are some things that government can do better than the private sector and schooling is one of them.”

    alphie, really? That’s a pretty broad statement. How do you know? Is that why most children go to private schools even in smaller cities, if they are available?

    Monopoly service is not the same as better service. Free up the education section from government monopoly and the utterly incompetent UGC (after all its a bureaucracy), let unmitigated private enterprise into education sector, wait a decade or so, and then make such a board statement. Until then you have no basis for what you are saying. In fact there is case for the opposite – the case that Atanu is trying to make.

    Comment by Chandra — December 18, 2006 @ 7:33 pm

  16. I suppose it depends on what you think would improve, Chandra.

    Lower costs?

    Smarter kids?

    A more pleasant educational experience for children while they are at school?

    A higher percentage of kids schooled in subjects your personal biases require you to believe are important?

    What’s the goal?

    Comment by alphie — December 19, 2006 @ 3:30 am

  17. Pls see the chapter `What is wrong with our Schools ?` in the
    famous book Free to Choose by Milton Friedman. Voucher system
    for govt scholarships in private schools, etc

    Comment by athiyaman — December 19, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

  18. I agree with alphie that liberalization is not the solution to every problem in this country. The country to which most Indian students go for ‘higher’ education is the US, the US has more public schools and universities than we do. The US has always put greater emphasis on research, we have never given the due importance to research. I would bet my lifetime earnings that as of today – December 19, 2006, the average R&D spend by American companies is more than that of Indian companies. Let’s take India’s ‘sunshine’ sector – Information Technology, do we really have great IT companies that create products – the answer is Zilch. Yes, iflex is one such product company but who owns it? Oracle, an US company. It ideally should have been acquired by some Indian company, which never happened, the reason is it spends a lot on R&D comparatively and the working capital required was something the Indian companies don’t like too much.

    Let us go back to our Indian schooling experiences. Remember, you were always compared to the guy/gal who came first in class as saying, look that kid is smart, he/she comes first all the time. As if!!!

    With regards to the competition to get into premier educational institutions, a smart and a progressive way to reduce competition and YET maintain IF NOT increase the quality of education is to increase the number of such premier institutions which will happen only if we invest in the necessary infrastructure in terms of land requirements, people requirements, curriculum, etc.

    Here is a blog that compares the govt. spend on education as a percentage of GDP over the years and makes some interesting points. Due to the lack of time, I could not do the same for the 2006-07, the figures are available . Let me assume for a minute that the average GDP spend is going to be 4.6% in 2006-07 too. With the Quota bill passed, there is going to be more strain on this fund, as they need approximately Rs. 16,563.34 crore to spread the shit that they just passed in the parliament. I got the figure from a rediff article and I was even more surprised when I was going through it I found a line which says that India spends 0.37% of its GDP on higher education. So there you go figure, what’s wrong is that we are not spending enough money on our education. When you are not going to spend money on your education, you are not spending enough on infrastructure, teachers, and per student basis to provide a full educational experience.

    Let’s say the Government gets out of the education business as you suggest. Who will have the money to do this on an All India basis. Remember, your contention is that there should be abundance of good colleges so the number of premier institutes increases in the entire country. So, you need a pan India solution. Would a private player have the resources to do so in a non profit manner? I doubt.

    This is why a public-private partnership is required. Wherein the Govt. plays the role which it can play quite well that is to spend or let us say fund the education and the private sector uses the fund.

    All schools should be registered as Non Profit Organizations but they would need to divulge the financial statements and subject themselves to audit by any body deemed fit to do so, create a Educational Regulatory Authority (ERA) on the lines of TRAI or IRDA. The ERA should consist of academicians, eminent & ordinary citizens, distinguished judges, businessmen, etc. Also, ERA should keep an eye on fees that are being charged by these educational institutions so as to ensure the accessibility to people who are not well off financially. Also, deserving candidates need scholarships, in India we do not get scholarships for undergraduation or graduation like they dole out in the US. ERA should also be able to allocate grants and scholarships. The corporate houses should be encouraged to create educational grants, a lot of Indian companies would be willing to do so just to improve their CSR profile.

    I think that would be the ideal way to improve the quality and quantity of education. I would encourage your feedback and also criticism to my comment.

    Comment by Venkatesh Sridhar — December 20, 2006 @ 1:04 am

  19. Liberalize Indian Education…

    Liberalize Indian Education posted at…

    Trackback by IndianPad — December 24, 2006 @ 5:33 am

  20. I beleive the most important aspect of education system is basic elementary education or schooling. That is exactly where India is lacking. The initial schooling years lay the foundation for the principles and practices that are usually followed during one’s lifetime.

    Due to the variance in the socio economic structure of our society, I believe, it is not advisable to put our education system in private hands. It may be prudent to assume that children from the middle class families and upto the upper class of the society already are a part of school education system. The problem remains about children from lower income groups and the poorest of the poor. Although there may be some NGOs in the arena who are willing to impart education to this sector, but due to the vast majority of children’s population scattered across the length and breadth of the country in this group, it is very important that the government should take an active participation in educating them.

    It is sympathetic and heartening to know that our country lack primary and secondary education. Lakhs of posts of teachers are lying vacant. I would like to go to the extent to saying that instead of pasting a rosy picture of India Inc., a large expenditure should be made to popularize education. Basic schooling deserved to get large budget allocation and reasonable amount of susidies.

    Going by the present spending, we have a long way to go.

    Comment by Sandeep Kriplani — January 3, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  21. Why why why do we have so many socialists in India? and why the hell can’t they learn from the failure of central planning for more than 50 years?

    If there are a set of people willing to learn and a set willing to teach, why the hell should the government be in between them? if not to just be a conduit for stealing money in between…

    Comment by Abhi — January 8, 2007 @ 3:11 am

  22. Apparently the biggest issue with elementary schooling in TN is not enrollment (whose official figure is 96%) but quality. A good number of kids in 5th class cannot write and read simple Tamil. (Source Balaji sampath).
    I do believe that the government does not have an absolute or comparative advantage in anything especially in teaching. The job of the government is only to identify programme areas that need improvement per democratic principles and provide funding/incentives to those sectors.
    One way to do this could be to let free entry into schools and give a sum of money to institutes for every student from that school that passes a standardized exam. They should also maintain a database with quality rankings for them, so that every parent knows the quality of every school.
    For vacant teaching posts, decentralize recruitment, let the parents hire the teacher and let the govt pay his salary.

    Comment by Karuna — January 9, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  23. I think the problem is that in our country too much emphasis is paid to getting a “degree” – we have no respect for anything else.Instead of worrying about IITs and IIMs which anyways will always be available only to a certain % age we should focus on improving the basic qualiy of education upto Class X. this will ensure that atleast we have basic education and awareness among all strata of society – this I do not think can be done by Private sector – but only by the Govt.

    Comment by anuradha — January 13, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  24. Hey, I think all of us are missing the point. The present education system is based on physical classrooms, buildings and institutions–which can seat a finite number of students. This was suited to an environment 50 years ago. Today, in the age of e-learning, m-learning, video conferencing, etc why should there be a physical limitation on the number of “seats”? The “seats” can be unlimited. Besides, I see a lot of rigidity in the present system plus a vested interest to keep the “seats” limited so that the rats (who win the rat race) command very high market values (salaries) because of the much coveted “degrees”. The whole system is ridiculous. If there are institutions (even web based or remote) who are willing to impart education to the willing (who can afford), why should we artificially place a restriction by allocating “seats”? Also in the job market of tommorow nobody will care for “degrees from govt recognised institutes” (ha!) but will only offer jobs based on a set of skills (could be programming in C++, selling door to door, good public speaking, understanding IBM AS/400, designing piping,etc,etc. As long as you have a certain set of marketable and useful skills, there won’T be any value for a degree in say 10 years from now on.

    Comment by Mandar — April 4, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

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