Privatization of Education, Not a Bad Idea

Education – According to a recent news report, NITI Aayog CEO, Amitabh Kant had spoken about schools, colleges and jails to be entrusted to the private sector, stirring controversy. There were predictable public reactions about what they perceived as a call to privatise education. Sensing trouble, Kant later explained that he was only talking regarding the private sector being involved in the physical infrastructure of schools, according to Firstpost.com report.

Right or Wrong

The report raises a pertinent question, what is wrong with getting the private sector more involved in the academic aspects of education? It is not as if it is not already present and it is not as if it is doing a terrible job of it. On the other hand, parents appear to be leaning more towards it, notes the report.

Focus on School Education

Citing data from the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE), the report says the enrolment in private schools is increasing and that in government schools, it is falling. If in 2013-14, the admission in private schools in Class I to VIII stood at 35.81%, in 2015-16, it was pegged at 37.95%.

At the same time, the data for government schools reflected a dip from 61.32% to 59.44%. Further, quoting Geeta Gandhi Kingdon of the University College London as saying, the enrolment share of private schools, on average, has doubled from 15.1% in 2005 to 31.4% in 2014. What is more, Geeta also had given figures of close to 18,000 government schools in Rajasthan with less than 20 children and 4,000 in Maharashtra and 3,000 in Chhattisgarh with less than ten students to the news portal.

Why Private Education?

The affluent class of society do not send their wards to government schools, and only low-income people do. Of late, even the low-income group also are giving preference to private schools. So why do they prefer private schools, that too when they will be forced to pay through the nose, instead of sending the children to free government schools, asks the report?

Value for Money

Geeta tells the news portal that the private schools give an amount for the money. Citing the Mining data from NGO Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) between 2010 and 2014, Geeta says that private schools are outperforming government schools in learning levels of students. Children in Standard IV who can do at least subtraction was 55.1% in government schools in 2010 and dropped to 32.3% in 2014. Children in Class V who can divide dropped from 33.9% to 20.7% over the same period, according to the report.

General Decline

There was a decline in the case of private schools also, but at higher levels. Children in Standard IV who can do at least subtraction were 67.7% in 2010 and 59.3% in 2014. Children in Standard V who can divide were 44.2% in 2010 and 39.3% in 2014. Geeta has similar findings for reading levels.

Take infrastructure. The UDISE data shows that regardless of the level of school – primary, upper primary or combinations of these with other levels – private schools have, on average, more classrooms than government schools. Ditto with an average number of teachers; the only exception is upper primary with secondary and higher secondary, where the average number of teachers in government schools is more senior than private schools. In fact, after a dip from 5.2 to 5 between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the average number of teachers in primary classes in private schools has risen steadily and stood at 5.3 in 2015-16. On the other hand, the average number of teachers in government schools remained at 2.8 between 2010-11 and 2014-15 and dipped to 2.7 in 2015-16.

Government Expenditure

Geeta tells the news portal that the government per-pupil expenditure is far outstripping private per pupil expenditure from t-12 times, across states. So, it is not the pragmatic approach to hand over the education entirely to the private education, says the report, pointing out, perhaps Kant would have been talking about public-private partnerships. Nevertheless, the report says the time has come to accept that the role of the government in education needs to change.

Public-private Partnerships

Stating that is not clear if public-private partnerships (PPPs) will work, the report goes on to ask whether the private party has to take on the baggage of unionised government school teachers and other employees. Quoting the editorial of Hindustan Times, the report says that the Rajasthan government had contemplated on handing over 70,000 schools to the private sector but had to drop the idea because of resistance from teachers. PPPs can also be tricky to design and could end up as dirty deals, adds the report. A better way would be to end the licence raj in education, adds the release.

Image source: Akson

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