The Indian Economy Blog

April 7, 2008

Education and The State: Seeking Balance

Filed under: Education — Dweep @ 12:23 pm

It is widely accepted that India’s education system has and continues to fail the vast majority of its population. Ironically, the country’s success in establishing a globally competitive service sector has, if anything, underscored that failure. Poor quality, however, is not the only problem. The other is access – vast numbers of children simply do not enter the primary education system or leave it too early. Literacy and enrollment are particularly low among women and other marginalized groups. This failure is most glaring when comparing India with China where illiteracy, at least, has been substantially eradicated.

These problems persist despite several initiatives by the Central government to improve outcomes. Increasingly, therefore, liberal economists, international development agencies, and philanthropies have called for a shift towards greater privatization of primary and higher education. In particular, calls emerge to disconnect the funding of education from its operation, through the provision of education vouchers.

Privatization has worked well in several situations in India. Yet as the belief that it works everywhere gains greater currency, there is a need to evaluate if education is also amenable to privatization.


The Basic Argument

The idea of private education vouchers was first put forth by Prof. Edwin G. West. More recently, high profile organizations such as the World Bank and the Orient Global Foundation (with committed funding of US$100 million) have given the idea new impetus.

The theory is simple – deregulate education and allow private operation of schools, giving parents the option to choose where they wish to send children (so called “school choice”). The resulting competition amongst schools for these “consumers” would lead them to improve quality and expand access. The obvious challenge of including poor students is solved by providing poor parents with vouchers funded by the government.

Voucher systems have been tested in several countries – developing and developed – and arguments exist for and against. But few have tested the underlying assumptions of the theory of privatization.

Testing the Assumptions

The success of a largely private system depends fundamentally on two things – a financial incentive and the natural competition of free-markets. The assumption of competition in turn assumes three things: a) that “school choice” is real, b) that it is not possible to cheat the system, and c) that information flows are reliable enough to evaluate quality.

Do these assumptions hold?

The fallacy of school choice: In a private system quality improves through competition. Yet, experience shows that true competition is unlikely here. This is first, and foremost, a matter of supply and demand. Demand for education vastly outstrips supply in India and will do so for the foreseeable future. This remains true in the most affluent areas of Delhi, where it is common for parents to apply to several schools to secure admission for their children. Further, the cost of switching schools is high, marked by a social cost to the child of readjusting to a new environment and the administrative/financial cost to parents of the process. Finally, and as pointed out by Charles Wheelan, schools tend to restrict supply simply to maintain quality. Consumer power, then, is so limited as to make “school choice” more of an illusion even in the most “privatization friendly” situations. And if it doesn’t work here what hope do parents in small, remote, poor villages have where exclusion is largely social and thus not corrected by vouchers?

The problem of cheating: The second assumption is that faced with strong incentives schools will improve actual outcomes rather than cheat the system. It is illustrative, here, to note that in response to the No Child Left Behind act, public schools in Chicago were found cheating on grades (they also underreported violence). That these were public schools is irrelevant – what is important is that faced with a top-down incentive to improve quality, schools preferred to cheat the system rather than make the necessary investments to improve actual quality.

Poor information for poorer consumers: This brings forth a final problem – that of evaluating quality. The education “market” is marked by poor information flows and by an inability of a large number of parents, who never went to school themselves, to evaluate objectively what a good school is. This again undermines the assumption that “school choice” exists. The truth is that we simply do not have a single definition of quality. Therefore, it is equally possible that schools that invest more in marketing and outreach – rather than in improving quality – will gain the most.

Unintended Consequences

There is one final test to which a private system must be put – even if private education were to improve quality, would it improve access and existing inequities in provision – or at least not make them worse? The two points cannot, of course, be delinked because any school’s outcome depends largely on the students it admits. Therefore, schools that receive students from academically poorer backgrounds must invest more to achieve the same outcomes. As Charles Wheelan said:

I expect that the Chicago Public Schools would be excellent if they had to accept only 1 of every 10 eligible students. (Indeed, the magnet schools in the system, which are allowed to select students competitively, are some of the best in the country.)

Second, education is often denied to children for a variety of causes and money or the absence of schools are only two of them. Others include the lack of roads, the lack of separate toilets for girls and boys (which prevents parents from sending girls), and the lack of “cultural capital” – such as supportive parents – which provides a select group of students with the skills to gain admission while depriving others of the same.

Can a largely private system ensure that schools help students overcome these barriers? Alternately, as education becomes a commodity, provided to the highest bidder, can its ill-effects be suppressed by ensuring necessary investments are made – such as arranging buses, building toilets, or helping disadvantaged students overcome their skills deficit through corrective courses? The obvious solution, of course, is oversight through regulation. Yet, to paraphrase economist Joan Robinson, “any State that has the capacity to prevent the ill-effects of the commoditization of education can also prevent the commoditization of education altogether; and any State that cannot prevent the commoditization of education lacks, ipso facto, the capacity to prevent its ill-effects.”

Is Privatization Necessary?

The preceding suggests that a private system is not a sufficient condition to better quality and access. Is it, however, a necessary condition? Or, is there another way of solving the problem through a public system?

There is no better argument that the same results are possible from a public system than China. As this comparison shows, China has done better than India both in providing quality and access to primary education, yet done so through a largely public system. Recent moves to privatize and deregulate education have been largely limited to higher education, with universities being encouraged to raise their own funds and endowments.

Clearly, then, privatization is not the only game in town. Nor is there any reason to believe that private schools are always preferred. For instance, a recent study in slums found that the vast majority of parents sent their children to “budget” private schools. This does not indicate a preference for private schools, but rather a lack of sufficient and good public schools. Moreover, very often in cases where both are present, private schools may be preferred not because of actual quality differences, but because of a social preference for private providers (seen as status symbols), or due to perceived rather than actual quality differences (bringing us back to the problem of defining quality).

Taking The Best of Privatization

It bears mentioning that despite its limitations, privatization does offer insight into the core problem – that public systems in India currently lack any compelling incentive to provide good education. The question should therefore be, how can incentives be built into public and private systems that ensure greater access and better quality without the negative consequences of a fully private system.

Clearly, this is possible. The American No Child Left Behind Act, despite its problems, is one example. In recent years, Delhi too has improved primary education, largely by providing the right carrots and sticks to schools and teachers. Finally, one must also consider that the majority of government schools in India are poorly funded and managed. Simple measures such as a better working environment for teachers and basic infrastructure that indicate respect for their work would go far to provide non-financial incentives for improving quality. Indeed, without such changes comparing public and private schools is comparing apples to oranges.

Conclusion

The argument for privatization is at once political and ideological. It is political because it reflects how societies feel about the role of the state in providing “public” services such as healthcare and education. It is ideological because proponents often supplement demands for privatization with terms such as “economic freedom” or “choice” to justify their preference. Yet, this last confuses means with ends. The existence of choice can hardly be viewed as an end in itself in this discussion. Not only does such terminology presume that choice is informed but it is relevant in this debate only if it improves actual educational outcomes, rather than the perceived satisfaction of parents.

It would appear that privatization is neither necessary nor sufficient for better quality and access to education. Nor is money the only or even best incentive available to improve either. Yet, the debate does offer valuable insights into why our system has not worked and how to fix it. The current system can, therefore, gain much through greater competition (possibly internal) and better incentives (possibly non-financial).

Finally, this debate must recognize that quality is interlinked with access and equity. The two require clear tradeoffs – high quality can generally only come by selecting the best and conversely by denying access to the most needy. Therefore, no debate on privatization can occur without debating the balance between quality and equity that India wishes to achieve. It is as much a debate on what India’s system should be like, as it is a debate on what our national priorities are to be –to be a thoroughbred meritocracy or to offer equality of opportunity to the majority of our people.

Note: This is cross-posted from The Discomfort Zone. Throughout this text I have used the American English term “public school” to imply a “government school” (the British/Indian English equivalent).

22 Comments »

  1. Isn’t private school education the default already among the middle class and rich already?

    Comment by SJ — April 7, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  2. I find it just amazing that religion is not even mentioned in this article. It is obvious that the Hindu religion is THE decisive reason for the dismal state of India’s schools. Private schools may help but from my experience in Nepal it is a fantastic way to make money with complete disregard to any quality.

    Comment by Hans — April 7, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

  3. absolutely..no one wants to send their children to govt. schools they are forced to…also with private schools the thing is that they are so selective, they gauge everything parents education, income, etc. they want children belonging to a certain section..with fees so hefty they ensure that!!!!

    Comment by rahul — April 7, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  4. The evidence you present for your case of the “fallacy of school choice” is woefully inadequate. What makes you think for example, that demand will always outstrip supply after sector is liberalized? your post is full of this type of simplistic inferences.

    Then somehow you cite a cheating “public school” in Chicago as an example of this fallacy? sigh.

    I don’t have time for a detailed response, I hope someone will do you that favor.

    In any case, It’s rather telling you don’t cite a single example from India’s own experiments in School Choice.

    Everything in politics, is eventually idealogical. Don’t pretend you aren’t either. When you hear words like ‘Choice’ I hear words like ‘equity’ it’s far better if we just admit our idealogical biases and argue the case for what’s best.

    Comment by Deame — April 7, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  5. This is a specific comment to Hans,

    How on earth is HINDU religion responsible for the current state of literacy?
    If anything literacy among Hindus is higher corresponding to other religions, especially Muslims.
    Stop blaming religion unnecessarily.

    Comment by VJ — April 8, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  6. @ Hans

    ‘It is obvious that the Hindu religion is THE decisive reason for the dismal state of India’s schools’

    Not evident to me. For example, the South is predominantly Hindu (as is Nepal), but leads the country in education levels. If anything, this observation leads us to conclude the opposite of what you say. Do you have facts to support your claim? Or was this an emotional outburst from a frustrated person?

    @ Dweep

    Your statement about the ‘fallacy of choice’ isn’t convincing. Schools that don’t do a good job will lose students. In fact, you only need to look at today’s ‘budget’ private schools to know this.

    Comment by photonman — April 8, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  7. Unlike the rest of the commenters, I found the essay quite interesting. It does not come to any solid conclusion – not that there is one or I expect one of ‘Dweep’, but it is a start at describing the problems of and in the Indian education system. Having said that, allow me a ‘volte face’ so I may add some of my thoughts (generally in the order of points raised in the blog – euphemism for less than perfect organization of the following comments):

    The education system in India can and has accommodated both private and public sectors. The question here is whether the two are synergistic or work against each other. I believe that the co-existence of private and public schools has harmed more than helped the system. Private schools draw away most if not all the rich and the intelligent, leaving behind the ‘dregs’ for the public schools. Teachers at public schools, performing their duties without financial or professional incentives, can almost be excused for going through the motions of teaching the less-fortunate and the less-motivated students. This private-public tug of war is the seamy side of competition in the provision of schools. It deserves immediate attention.

    I disagree that “Privatization has worked well in India”. If the intent is to foster improvements in the quality of education, it is competition, incentives and pursuit of excellence by both teachers and students that matters, not privatization. Privatization may have increased school choice, and the ‘budget version’ may have improved school enrollment, but there is a dark side to it. First, the budget schools for the poor are just as shoddy and perhaps more exploitive than government schools that provide mid-day meals for primary children. Second, private schools are often funded by trusts sponsored by religious entities and business houses. For all my knowledge, some private schools may also institute scholarships with funds from the shady dealings of politicians and businesses. Their admission criteria are often arbitrary and meant to reward those parents who tow the line of the school sponsors. What use is school choice when that choice is limited to the chosen few?

    Finally, a word on vouchers. I happen to be a believer in education vouchers. A voucher system, designed properly, has the potential to foster equity while emphasizing the core beliefs of inter-school competition, academic excellence among students, and incentives to teachers and management at both public and private schools.

    Comment by Ganga Prasad Rao — April 8, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

  8. @Dweep
    Nice and thought provoking
    But…

    The fallacy of school choice: Agreed we don’t have enuf schools but doesn’t that tie up with the fact that govt. doesn’t have enuf capital/money for our govt. schools ..we almost spend around 3-4% of GDP(which is far less than the target set of 6% in 1968!!). Simply putting shouldn’t a simple solution can be inviting private capital? Will it not help opening new schools and give out more options after all “Pecunia non olet” Money does not smell

    The problem of cheating: I think the bigger problem in our country is teacher absentism (we even beat Bangladesh/Nepal in this!) in govt. school and its not easy to say make them accountable transparent etc. they are one powerful body and end of the day most of the rural election centers are actually schools under the teachers as the observer( so there is strong political unwillingness to take strong action against transparency/accountability of teachers). I think a better solution to this kind of “moral problem” does not only lie in gamut of policing.

    Here are my 2 cents
    Can we have independent agencies(not one but many few public few private) who are paid by the schools/colleges itself to be rated and lets have them publish their results on regular basis for free.Lets start with higer education only

    I know it sounds very very crazy but wht the heck…

    PS:Please don’t bring in the recent debacle about sub-prime and rating agency, just because of my profession I’ve seen one company claiming it should be given BBB+ else will go to another rating agency, but this system has worked well long enough

    Comment by swap — April 9, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

  9. Yes this too is also an interesting topic Indian schooling scenario, If really India ha to get the demographic dividends, you need to put 190 Million little ones in schools and give 10 years of schooling.
    It is easier said than done, it is a stupendous challenge which is lying in front of the whole sensible society, it is not about making ivory towers by expensive private schools which a miniscule part of our population can afford to put their kids.
    We must draw a plan like U.S. NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.
    Our Sarva Siksha Aviyan is an absolute failure ,successful implimentation is requred.
    Warm Regards,

    Comment by Debashish Bramha — April 12, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  10. I am not sure how is it possible to gauge the success or failure of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA)…….in whichever case, the government has increased the allocation to SSA to reach Rs. 13,100 crores and along with it the Mid day meal scheme will get Rs. 8000 crore. Clearly the govt does not think it is an absolute failure. And moreover if a country as rich as USA has to have a scheme like No child left behind, then it says something about the general difficulty in implementing successful primary education throughout the country. I am no way saying that i am pro govt in this regard. I am just highlighting the govt’s point of view which may or may not be similar what i think.

    On a different note, the increase in the overall quota for in the Central govt institutes is utter non sense and nothing but vote bank politics. I was really thinking that the UPA govt was about to impress me in this tenure but sadly one bad move has made me rethink on their politics.

    Comment by Mohit — April 13, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  11. Mohit,
    Interesting comment, as for your comments I take that SSA is doing fine in India, but I have got some Ideas.
    Idea No 1.
    You say for example a private entrepreneur like Subhash Chandra of ZEE made the KIDZEE successful by franchisee systems in metro and Tire-I and Tire-II. I know that you will differ with me on the KIDZEE or EUROKID models, but if retails systems in education stars working in India it is very very good.
    KIDZEE/ EUROKIDS models may not fit for mass education in India, but a lower format of KIDZEE can be tried out with public private participation.
    I have noticed that Sikkim Manipal University is doing roaring business
    teaching BBA, BCA, MBA, MCA in a retail format and Govt Of India, UGC is encouraging distance education. Of course not approved by AICTE, but Bank’s Educational loans are available.
    I know very well the quality will suffers, but on a 10 point scale if an IIMA student scores 9.99 the Sikkim Manipal MBA will score 0.09, but still SMU retail format is giving education. Of course exceptions are always there.
    “ Something is better than Nothing”.
    Primary education systems can be retailed out in a lower format, SSA should not only be restricted to govt schools it should be retailed out it will be like a Kinara shop of primary education (Sorry to say) but the condition of elementary education is really pathetic in rural India. A strong vigil and the check on the checker should be there.
    Even the quality of Engg and MBA’s coming out from the 2nd and 3rd rung Institute is not employable and also not trainable. Engg/MBA/MCA in distance education, thru VSAT, VoIP, though they don’t work 90% of the time are getting students, the business is ticking. At the end of 4 Years the students are getting B.Tech, BBA, BCA, MBA, MCA certificates.
    Acute shortage to teachers, faculties, infrastructures are basic problems if these people are not motivated nothing is going to happen. The moneymaking business at least with primary education should stop.
    Idea No 2.
    Private & Foreign Banks & Insurance companies those who are trying to tap the rich rural Indian market, RBI should give licenses to open branches /ATMs if they run primary schools and they should manage it.
    It is a part of the corporate social responsibility for these BFI sectors which is trying penetrate in the rural market of India, not only lending money as Educational loans.
    Now it is global phenomenon the EDUCATION IS AN INDUSTRY you have to accept it. India is a part of it.
    Motih thanks for the comment. Dweep waiting for your comments.

    With Warm Regards,

    Comment by Debashish Bramha — April 15, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  12. Swap – both points you raise are good. Yes, you are absolutely right that we are simply not investing enough in education. Both as a percentage of GDP, as well as public expenditure as a % of total expenditure on education, India lags behind.

    However, what is the solution – to ask the govt to step away, or to ask it to do its due? I am all for private expenditure, but only after we’ve got our taxpayers worth. Clearly, the govt. should be spending more on education. Ironically, I believe that the debate on privatization leads us to the former approach, and an unintended consequence of that is that the govt. is actually encouraged to spend even less by passing the buck to the private sector.

    Yes absenteeism is indeed a problem. But you cannot divorce that problem from its underlying causes (poor pay, no job security, and generally pathetic work conditions). Indeed, turning to an all private system that professionalizes the teaching tradition, has the further unintended consequence of making money the sole motivation (rather than job satisfaction). This last is affecting our higher education system, by focusing teachers’ attention away from teaching towards lucrative industry-focused research.
    This is discussed in an upcoming UNESCO volume (I’m happy to provide the reference if you like).

    Comment by Dweep — April 15, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  13. Dweep,

    Very well-written article on the state of primary education in India.
    The public-private differences in quality can be seen everywhere. In hospitals,
    business organisations and also in primary schools.

    A few practical measures of determining quality of schools is the quality of faculty and “performance” of the school in the board exams. My impression is that the quality of faculty in majority of the primary schools, is very poor. Couple with this the bad working conditions, poor pay and reluctance of poor parents to send an earning member (student) to the school , you have a recipe for a disaster which is exactly the state of affairs.

    However, things are slightly better off in higher education where private players have entered the field of Engineering & MBA and continue to supply graduates to the service sector. Yes, quality & high fee is a problem over here in private colleges but students who would have had no choice 20 years earlier to study engineering if he had not got selected in IIT or RECs , atleast have a “choice” today of fulfilling his dreams.

    In the field of primary education, schools like DPS have today entered the rural heartland of Jharkhand & Chattisgarh as joint ventures with some local notable benefactors and are producing better outcomes.

    Finally, even after 60 years of independence, the fundamental need of the hour for majority of India still remains “roti,kaapda aur makaan” where primary education is a luxury with a large opportunity cost for many!

    Our country needs to solve these basic problems first. That will generate a demand for primay education where private players can participate. Otherwise , if the state wants to make primary education compulsory , it should revamp the faculty & infrastructure to generate better outcomes.

    Salty

    Comment by Salty — April 16, 2008 @ 12:00 am

  14. I’m not Indian, but I do find it strange that people could possibly imagine a wide scale privatization of education would be a good way forward.

    There are basically no advanced, industrial economies in the world with such a model in existence – at . That should perhaps tell you something. The China example is perhaps instructive too.

    Again, I’m ignorant here as to the precise cultural arrangments of Indian society, but I imagine, as someone with some background and knowledge of the sociology of education, is that the problem is cultural and has to do with what parents expect of their children and has little to do with schools. Privatizing education would probably simply lessen the incentive for many children to go to school, especially amongst the poorest and most marginal members of society. A voucher system is somewhat better in that it will help a segment of the poor population, but a considerably larger percentage – who come from background, remember where education is not necessarily valued, will find themselves consigned to the “losing,” dysfunctional schools – if in school at all – as they and their parents won’t care enough to fight for their places in a high performing school. And anyway, the high performing schools can only offer a limited number of places. Public systems are not perfect, but they do at least provide the potential to offer an equitable education to every member of society, even those coming from the most unfavorable backgrounds. This is something a private system can’t claim to do, because it abandons those who don’t care enough about their education – which in a society like India, I imagine, would be a very large number of people. Schools are tools for social engineering if you will. In a sense, they are like the military in the role they play. Its why its one of the few institutions communist societies are effective at producing good education systems and achieving high literacy and numeracy rates.

    Perhaps something you should consider is charter schools – basically the government funds education, but the schools themselves are given a lot of freedom to set curriculum/define the schools mission. This is basically the system in Britain and Sweden (and it might be elsewhere) – parts of the United States, particularly cities have this system.

    Comment by Ben P — April 17, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  15. Dweep
    You are absolutely rite school infrastructure does play a big role in teacher absenteeism
    but I differ on 2 points:
    Govt. Teachers (I considering the majority in rural areas) are paid pretty well compared to other villagers’ income. Also one of the study actually shows higher paid teachers (head teacher etc.) were more absent than the lower paid or contracted one.
    http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/jeea.2005.3.2-3.658
    (I have a little bit of personal experience also in this as I hail from one of the remotest village)
    Also we can’t really say we should not allow any private funding in education until govt. has done its due, if it can’t meet its own targets in 40 years I think we should not wait for production of another generation of poorly educated/uneducated citizen as that in long term will harm this country only.
    PS: I was wrong with banagladesh (looks like we are doing better than them :-))

    Comment by swap — April 18, 2008 @ 3:50 am

  16. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the state of education in my state of U.P.
    a) Primary education in rural areas of late has seen some modicum of improvement mainly because of ‘mid-day-meals’. But lack of commitment and sincerety of the stake holders namely Village Panchayat & Teachers (BTS grade) combined with the hapless and resigned attitudes of inarticulate parents is resulting in no qualitative improvement. At this level a strong pull faactor from parents asserting their rights for better education for their wards could only improve matters. Such a groundswell needs to be catalysed either by local opinion leaders or NGOs’ otherwise there is no hope in site for the betterment of primary education in the rural set-up.

    b) In urban and quasi-urban and erstaz-urban areas there has been a mushrooming of ‘pre-nursery’, ‘nursery’ and 10+2 (recognized) schools and in the long run ‘market factors’ will decide their survival. Most of these schools have been started by first-timers with the aim to make a fast buck and commercial considerations in most of the startups gets primacy over quality of education. High fees and add-ons take a heavy toll on the parents disposable income.

    c) Professional and Graduate education has seen a revolution of sorts in UP. Overnight most of the MLAs and MPs have become educationists setting up a chain of such Institutes. Thanks to the innovative channelisation of MPLAD and MLA Constituency FUNDS, erecting massive physical infrastructure has been no problem. But time alone will tell how many of the ‘public-men-educationists’ would attain the status of mini-Madan Mohan Malviyas.

    AKS

    Comment by Anil Kumar — April 18, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  17. As others have commented, nowhere in the world is education delivery primarily in for-profit private entities. In countries where vouchers are used, the system does not extend to the majority of children, but only to a small proportion and mostly for non-profit entities. In developed countries, ‘choice’represents an alternative to a universal education system that may be considered stultifying (eg. charter schools in US). But in developing countries, there is no alternative to a common school system provided by the government, especially for a large country like India. Private educationists in India would be happy to have a voucher system in place where govt would pay for students, giving these schools the opportunity to expand. As pointed out, most Indian private sector education is poor, run by mom-and-pop outfits for making profits. Teachers are underpaid and exploited, amenities are poor, and children pay for every extra benefit. These schools are elitist not only with respect to income and social background but also with respect to merit. Children with illiterate parents or with learning and other problems can be denied admission. Elitism is a high price to pay for so-called efficiency and quality of private schools. Government has the funds to provide a good common school education system for all, if given the necessary primacy. It appears the government is considering 6000 model schools in public private partnership mode.Let’s hope these promote true ‘education for all’.

    Comment by Sharmila — April 28, 2008 @ 8:29 am

  18. Before posting a comment I appreciate the systematic analysis done.
    According to me the fact that privatization would add to the competition and help improve the quality of primary education in India would stand true if people in India actually think of helping the nation improve by empowering the human resource available in the form of youth. However going by the economic point of view and taking into consideration the basic assumption about ‘The Economic Man’ where it is assumed that every consumer tries to get maximum satisfaction from whatever he does or invests in, I don’t think the private sector would invest in education without looking forward to some kind of profit. This would only further worsen the situation and further widen the gap between the elite and the poor in terms of the quality of education provided. On the other hand I would not like to blame the teacher’s teaching in public schools as the conditions in which they are expected to work and help the children compete with the others who have better facilities is absolutely unfair.
    Talking about the school choice- it is completely unrealistic because the choice is limited to a chosen few! A small suggestion which may not be practical in the current situation but which surely can be implemented with some efforts is like in Japan ensuring that every area has a school which is affordable by one and all and compelling the children in that students to study only in that particular school until there are certain genuine problems which may be considered.
    Last but not the least, I think more than focusing on seeking ways of increasing competition and quality of education the government and people need to work towards changing the attitude of a lot of people towards education, be it the teachers who teach just for the sake of it, the parents who do not think it important to educate their wards or demand too much from the educational institutions or be it students who fail to have a passion for education. Yes it’s expecting way too much from our country but everything has a small beginning which can turn into a revolution… Yes it’s easy to preach and very hard to practice but that does not mean we give up without trying…hoping for a better future to our education system!!!

    Comment by Nikhita — May 1, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  19. Well dear I read all the post, I too commented on this post; some body remarked that it should be considered as Social Engineering, and it is absolutely true.

    The whole mechanism of Education and Health care is not working in India.

    Why privatization should get priority in primary education the reason is as follows:
    Whenever I travel by train I buy a bottle of Aquafina, or Kinlay .
    Both are American MNC making and selling purified drinking water for the elite Indian so class educated middle class, who can afford to buy that.

    I really can not trust the drinking water of the Indian Railway stations or even in that case Indian Airport also they are so unhygienic.

    My dear friend even after sixty years of independence the govt is not in a position to give safe drinking water and sanitation, how can you think about giving quality primary education.

    If you go by Maslows Need Hierarchy, Roti( Wheat) , Kapra( Clothing’s) , Sanitation come in the Physiological need, primary education will be coming in the Safety need one step ahead of Physiological need

    Mr. Chidambaram said about 200 Mn Indian are still below the Poverty level.
    The basic mind set of the Indian has to change, a total paradigm shift in attitude is required and which is next to impossible.

    If you can keep a part of your population illiterate it is beneficial to the political parties, you can brainwash them easily works as a captive vote bank.

    Educations give deep analytical power which is dangerous for our political parties to win elections.

    A section of the population should be blind so you can have captive vote bank for political parties.

    At least the public-private cooperation should be there in the primary education.

    Mr. Azim Premji’s education foundation is doing an incredible job.
    Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal is also planning to come out with basic schools.

    I agree with you all, education gives a tremendous dividend in the long run, though your investment may be minimal.

    Comment by Debashish Bramha — May 1, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  20. I appreciate the careful analysis done on the present educational system.
    To supplement the efforts of the government and to improve the quality of education,
    private educational institutions emerged in recent past.The main aim of private educational
    institutions is to pocket profit.With this aim in view they have started capitation fees.The
    poor parents cannot afford exorbitant fees charged by these institutions and are thus being deprived of quality education.They are thus forced to admit their wards in public schools.
    To improve quality of education in public sector institutions,government should improve infrastructure facilities in those institutions and at same time frequently conduct orientation courses for teachers in the public schools so that standard of imparting education in these institutions will improve.
    It is necessary to bring parity in respect of educational standards run by public and private sector rather than privatization of educational institutions. Further educational institutions having high standard of education can coordinate with
    other public schools whose educational quality is below par and strive to improve their standard by acting as their mentor.A good educational institution should take 2-3 weaker institutions under its wings and try to improve them.
    Be it a public or private educational institution ,main aim should be on imparting
    first-hand knowledge and syllabus being job-oriented and not academics-oriented to make students more and more competitive.

    Comment by Ashwini — May 3, 2008 @ 2:22 pm

  21. Firstly lets try to answer the question “Has privatisation really happened in Education”?

    If you compare the sector with private sector investments in education in other countries the answer would be a resounding “NO”.
    If you compare with OTHER SECTORS in India like Telecom, Airlines,Banks, Insurance which have been through a regulated opening up process again the answer would be a resounding “NO”.

    So lets not call the half-baked initiatives that exist in India today as “privatisation”.

    And as for the comments that privatisation would benefit the profit-seekers and the rich – havent we heard these before when
    - telecom was being opened up
    - airlines were being opened up
    - insurance was being opened up
    - banking was being opened up

    The question really is can India learn from its OWN success stories in other Sectors and replicate quickly or do we have to agonize sector-by-sector and come to the same conclusions?

    Comment by Kiran P — August 13, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  22. Unfortunately for India the failure to deliver public education is very likely not the result of the government monopoly, even the soviet union managed to raise literacy of a largely agrarian population, nor will privatization be the savior, consider the difficulties of setting up shop in the thousands of tiny villages which need it most, instead the underlying cause is very likely beliefs held in the Indian psychology. For over a century, much longer probably, wealthier Indians have not been convinced of the need to educate the masses: the dalits, the tribals, the backward castes. They have no cultural incentive in that Hinduism does not offer any reward for uplifting the downtrodden, and there is no punishment for mistreatment, and without an industrial revolution, here, they have no economic incentive. Hopefully in this century the needs of industry will drive primary and secondary education forward. Of course India needs the industries of mass employment and to achieve that these absurd labor laws need to be done away with. The reforms cannot come soon enough.

    Comment by Jay — January 11, 2009 @ 9:39 am

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