About us    Campaigns    Research    Support us    Publications    Media Room    Join Us    Contact us
 

Why ‘profit’ is not a bad word

Education, For-profit education

26-03-2014

Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Will for-profit institutes improve the quality of education in India?

There are few areas where the difference between what Indians want for themselves and what the government of India wants for them is more alarming than in higher education. Six to eight hundred thousand Indians leave for foreign universities every year. Yet foreign universities are not allowed to set shop in India. In September 2013 the government announced that it may soon open doors to foreign varsities. However, foreign universities will not be allowed to repatriate profits. Behind this policy lies a deeply flawed view of the consequences of profitmotive.

There is a reason why Indian students flock abroad. Aspiring Minds, a quality assessment agency, measured the performance of 40,000 odd technical degree students on job-related skills like communication in English and basic problem solving. About 60% to 96% did not meet hiring benchmarks of various industries.

Why is the quality of education so low? Is it because too little is spent on education? Hardly so. A year of education in India costs about as much as an entrylevel car. The per-student-peryear cost in many Indian varsities is around R2 lakh to R3 lakh. Yet while India is Asia’s second largest exporter of passenger cars, out of its 600 odd universities, only the Indian Institute of Technology and University of Delhi figure in Quacquarelli Symonds list of Asia’s top 100 universities. Why is it that India manages to produce quality cars but not quality education?

The answer is fairly straightforward. In the market for cars for-profit producers compete to satisfy consumer demands. The market for education works very differently. Foreign producers are kept out and the profit motive is barred.

When profits are legal, individuals engage in producing better products at lower prices because there is money to be made by serving consumers. When profits are illegal, producers have little incentive to improve the lot of consumers. This simple idea explains not just the state of higher education in India but also why the industrial revolution did not happen in ancient Rome or China. According to William Baumol, professor of economics at New York University, by first century BC the city of Alexandria “knew of virtually every form of machine gearing that is used today, including a working steam engine”.

China, before the conquest by the Yuan dynasty, in 1280 knew how to make paper, gun powder and waterwheels. Yet neither place saw dramatic improvements in the quality of lives of the ordinary people. because in both ancient Rome and China for-profit activity was looked down upon.

But what about equity? Would not for-profit education leave the poor behind? Here too economic history has much to say. Unlike ancient Rome and China, 18th century Britain and Holland saw unprecedented rise in the incomes of ordinary people. Both Britain and Holland were largely for-profit economies.

In India, it is precisely in those areas where government involvement is the greatest that the rich-poor divide is most colossal, ie, justice, health and education. Competition between for-profit firms lowers prices and brings products within the reach of ordinary people.

Nehru thought “profit” to be a dirty word”. The former education minister of Delhi, Masish Sisodia said that it is a sin to make profit in education. Economic history tells us quite the opposite. Nothing works like competition between for-profit firms; education is no exception.

Vipin P Veetil, Akshaya and Manasi Bose hteducation@hindustantimes.com The authors are part of a think tank at the Centre for Civil Society (CCS), a public policy think tank advancing personal, social, economic and politi cal freedoms

Comments Off

Education must not be a profit-making venture: Minister

For-profit education

The New Indian Express

25-Oct-2013

Experts said, present day policies have led to many privately held partnerships that stop energy, water or health care from being accessible to all. ?Privatisation of health and education because of a crisis is bad economics,? said Nuria Molina from European Network on Debt and Development/ActionAid/Spain, today at a conference on Re-claiming and Re-imagining Public Services, Perspectives from the Global South in the city at United Theological College. C R Bijoy, Campaign for Survival and Dignity in India, said at the conference, ?Public services are provided by governments through public finance and private sectors, directly or indirectly. The State has failed to take care of the basic requirements of its citizens.? Dr Sharan Prakash Patil, Minister of State for Medical Education said, ?There was no law to regulate medical education and policy when I came. The system is dictated by the Supreme Court because of this. They have specified the examination dates, where to conduct them, how to take in students etc.? The law made for such purposes in 2006, has not been implemented, yet. We will implement the law this year, he added. The Minister further said, merit must prevail, students must get quality education and citizens must benefit.   Education must not be a profit-making venture. Only costs can be recovered. CET is transparent but private exams like COMED-K by private sectors are not so. The SC said that private organisations can hold examinations. Admission Monitoring Committee will check irregularities in private entrance tests to medical seats. In the coming year we hope to have it all fixed, he concluded.

Comment

THE FOR-PROFIT POSTSECONDARY SCHOOL SECTOR: NIMBLE CRITTERS OR AGILE PREDATORS?

For-profit education

Authors: David J. Deming, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz
Working Paper 17710, NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Private for-profit institutions have become an increasingly visible part of the U.S. higher  education sector. They are today the most diverse by program and size, have been the fastest growing, have the highest fraction of non traditional students, and obtain the greatest proportion of their total revenue from federal student aid (loan and grant) programs. They are, as well, the subjects of high-profile investigations of late and are facing major regulatory changes.

Today’s for-profit postsecondary schools were preceded a century ago by a group of proprietary schools that were also responding to an explosion in demand for technical, vocational and applied subjects. Business, managerial, and secretarial skills were in great demand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and a multitude of proprietary institutions emerged that taught accounting, management, real estate, stenography and typing. The numbers and enrollments of these institutions were greatly reduced when public high schools expanded and increased their offerings in the business and vocational areas. But many survived and morphed into some of the current for-profits, such as Blair College (established 1897; now part of Everest College), Bryant and Stratton College (1854), Gibbs College (1911), Globe University (1885), Rasmussen College (1900), and Strayer University (1892).

Today’s for-profit postsecondary schools were preceded a century ago by a group of proprietary schools that were also responding to an explosion in demand for technical, vocational and applied subjects. Business, managerial, and secretarial skills were in great demand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and a multitude of proprietary institutions emerged that taught accounting, management, real estate, stenography and typing. The numbers and enrollments of these institutions were greatly reduced when public high schools expanded and increased their offerings in the business and vocational areas. But many survived and morphed into some of the current for-profits, such as Blair College (established 1897; now part of Everest College), Bryant and Stratton College (1854), Gibbs College (1911), Globe University (1885),  Rasmussen College (1900), and Strayer University (1892).

In this article, we describe the schools, students, and programs in the for-profit higher education sector, its phenomenal recent growth, and its relationship to the federal and state governments. As a starting point, for-profit postsecondary enrollments have grown considerably during the past several decades, particularly in degree programs and at large national providers with substantial on-line offerings. Fall enrollment in for-profit degree-granting institutions grew by more than 100-fold from 18,333 in 1970 to 1.85 million in 2009. During that same time period, total fall enrollment in all degree-granting institutions increased 2.4 fold from 8.58 million in 1970 to 20.43 million in 2009 (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, Digest, table 197). Thus, for-profit enrollment increased from 0.2 percent to 9.1 percent of total enrollment in degree-granting schools from 1970 to 2009. For-profit institutions for many decades also have accounted for the vast majority of enrollments in non-degree granting postsecondary schools (those offering shorter certificate programs) both overall and among such schools eligible for federal (Title IV) student financial aid.

To read more: http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/forprofitpaper.pdf

Comment

Private Enterprise and Public Education

For-profit education

Frederick M. Hess,    Michael B. Horn

Teachers College Press

June, 2013

The growth of for-profit providers in the K–16 education sector has generated more than its fair share of controversy. From the emergence of charter schools to postsecondary options such as the University of Phoenix, for-profit providers have been lauded for their capacity to serve historically underserved populations but derided for their pursuit of profit—which, critics argue, happens at the expense of the public good.

Private Enterprise and Public Education (Teachers College Press, June 2013) takes stock of the debate, neither demonizing nor celebrating the for-profit sector, to understand what it takes for for-profits to promote quality and cost effectiveness at scale. Contributors address how policymakers and other education stakeholders can create an environment where the power of for-profit innovation and investment is leveraged to better serve students. The role that private enterprise can and should play in American education needs to be brought to the forefront of reform discussions. Editors Frederick M. Hess and Michael B. Horn move beyond heated rhetoric to offer a thoughtful and probing analysis that will enable stakeholders to craft a viable future for public education.

Praise:

“The public and private sectors often interact in an uneasy and unstable dance of cooperation, but education has come later to the dance hall than other areas of public policy. There is much we still need to learn, and this broad and diverse collection provides an excellent place to start.”

—Jeff Henig, Chair, Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis, Teachers College, Columbia University

“No subject in education reform is more polarizing than the role of for-profit enterprises. But as Hess and Horn demonstrate in this volume of remarkably objective analyses, both the for’s and the anti’s have the issue all wrong. Business has important roles to play, but specifying them takes the kind of nuanced thinking that ideologues hate. Policymakers would do well to read this engaging volume and tune out the noise that has obscured serious debate.”

—John Chubb, Interim CEO, Education Sector

Comment

One Stop Shop for Education in India Is Looking for Investors

Edupreneurship, For-profit education, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

The idea of free educational resource stemmed from the fact that education as a sector has received huge attention from private players. Extragrades.com is equipped to become largest repository of educational content.

Our mission is to help students make sense of confusing schoolwork.

Why online tests when there are so many?

Each course covers the topics in detail. Our course material is self-explanatory and the chapters in each course are largely self-contained. However this guide gives a list of easily available books as recommended reading to give further insight into the subject. This is something that is missing from other so-called competitors.

Maharashtra Board:

Maharashtra board was a natural choice since we are based in Mumbai, besides there are statistics that compel us believe that this is an attractive proposition. Around 1.44 million students from 13,835 schools gave the SSC examination and over 800,000 students from 3,581 schools/colleges gave the HSC examination. This figures are just for class X and Class XII students, the figure is mind-boggling when we include the students in the group of class VI to Class IX. Our estimate clearly shows that by just focusing on Maharashtra board alone we have potential clientele of 5 million students.

Why there is a need for us?
Education as a sector has witnessed explosive activity in recent years with active participation of private sector. Sadly corporate sector is focusing its attention on establishing international schools and smaller private player’s sole focus is to sell the tests or test-series, none of which solve the problem a student faces.

Seeking answers to questions that puzzle them, our vision is different, it not only provides comprehensive notes (that too free) but it would also provide a testing platform where a student after revising a lesson can take different tests, what we mean by different tests is that each test is prepared on different parameters, a fill in the blanks tests only objective reasoning, while multiple choice may test his understanding, we even have short answers test where a student can input a short answer, this will test his understanding as well as his skills of writing a paper, presently the companies that are engaged in online education have tests based only on MCQ’s or fill in the blanks, this has very limited scope of testing a student’s knowledge.

We intend to be a step ahead.

Another fact that has prompted us to believe that we must have presence in Maharashtra is the fact that leading study guides publisher Navneet Publications Ltd. derives more than 100 crores of its turnover through the sale of study guides, this clearly demonstrates that there is a need for our products.

The arguments for C.B.S.E. and I.C.S.E. are same as above though I.C.S.E. has lesser number of students compared to SSC, yet C.B.S.E. and I.C.S.E. offers us an opportunity for international exposure since numerous students are located abroad, another argument for C.B.S.E. and I.C.S.E. is that they both have literature as a subject, literature guides have international demand since Shakespeare and other novels are prescribed in curriculums world over, this gives us tremendous edge since there is not a single website that offers comprehensive literature content, having a presence in international domain can benefit the company in terms of creating brand equity, something that will drive the value of the company.

Competitive exams:

Competitive exams present huge opportunity, in MHT-CET alone around 2.95 lakh students appear every year.

We strongly believe that revenues would follow. Investors can contact us for more information.

Rationale for the deal:

When we conceptualized the project little thought was given to monetization, in fact the revenue model was completely absent, we just wanted to become repository of largest question bank on internet, and our aim was to have a question bank of 100,000 competitive exams solutions and an equal number of school sections.

We strongly believe that revenues would follow, yet one stream which can generate considerable revenue is advertising, companies are ready to take advantage of the booming student community needs, the educational accessories market have expanded and everybody are vying to reach the potential customers, it is here that we can bridge the gap between manufacturers and end users, advertising can generate considerable revenues, enough to recover costs and yet offer the content free.

Another way of monetization could be to offer the study materials at nominal fee say Rs. 120 for unlimited access of content, this would require expenditure on advertising as well preparation of content before adoption of this model, and while Rs. 120 or $3 may seem miniscule the logistics can be mind-boggling. In competitive exams alone one can easily target 20,000 students, on most conservative note this is easily achievable so revenues can be generated easily.

Another way to keep site free but have the user register, while this may not bring immediate revenues, this will equip us with a huge databank which can be utilized to sell as leads to manufacturers and service providers. For example justdial.com, a local search engine sells the calls it receives in form of leads at the rate of Rs. 30.00 per lead, being in a niche field the value of lead increases even more, by keeping the site free it is not impossible to generate 100,000 leads in a year and there is a definite market waiting to tap the leads.

Content Licensing:

One area that holds tremendous promise in terms of revenue is content licensing. The licensing can be done in following ways:

[1] Content licensing to commercial entities like coaching institutes can be hugely profitable, given the fact that most coaching institutes do not enjoy economies of scale and thus find it very difficult to prepare study notes, most of these coaching institutes source their content requirement from small publishers like Unique Solutions, our strategy is to offer content license where a coaching institute is free to use our content in their institutes for a fee, besides this we would also provide a test portal where the students can attempt online tests, thus the coaching institute not only saves money but it offers them an opportunity to re-brand themselves using online testing platform.

[2] The introduction of 3G has seen surge demand from telecom companies that are vying with each other to provide content that is useful to their users, besides gaming and other entertainment applications, education too is witnessing huge demand. Companies like NOKIA have already jumped the bandwagon by launching education in Mera Nokia app. Companies like Onmobile Global, that act as content aggregator has seen surge in demand in education through mobile learning.

Use of financing:

We require the investment for creating content, presently we have data bank of 4000 questions and we intend to scale the same to 50000 questions and solutions. We intend to offer mock-exams to students of MBA and engineering exams.

Our objective is to become one stop shop for education.

MERAR, 24 March 2012

Comment

Governments dual stand on RTE slammed

For-profit education, Private schools, Right to Education

BANGALORE: The befuddlement over implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in the state still continues. Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda’s statement during the state budget presentation has only added to the confusion.
CM D V Sadananda Gowda said: “The government will be implementing the RTE Act from 2012-13, and will seek full co-operation from privately managed schools.” This has essentially made RTE dependent on private schools, much to the anger of educationists.
Dr Niranjan Aradhya, a fellow with the Centre for Child and Law at National Law School of India University, who has worked closely with the government over RTE issues, told Express that the state is not obligated to seek approval from private schools.
“The main application of RTE is on the state. The state is obligated to provide education regardless of compliance from private institutions. Implement the Act first, and then face the problems as they surface,” he said.
With no specific budgetary allocation made towards the implementation of RTE, he said that the provision of grant-in-aid to private schools up to 1994 has dimmed the hopes of the Act being implemented.
“This shows the dual stand of the government. By providing aid to private schools, most funds will go to them. Where is the money to implement the Act?” Dr Aradhya asked.
With the issue of reimbursement of 25 per cent fees for underprivileged children in unaided schools still burning, calls for superceding private schools have come to the fore.
“This clause holds good only in cities and towns. There is a provision in the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, to supercede the management of private institutions. However, we will not have a clear picture until the state notifies the rules for implementation,” said a senior educationist.
Noted Kannada writer and thinker K Marulasiddappa said: “The RTE is meant for underprivileged children. Why even ask private schools? The government should force them. It is a farce, as it suggests that the government is not willing to enforce it, or that it wants the RTE to benefit private schools.”

BNlive, 26 March 2012

Comment

Let demand determine education in India

Edupreneurship, For-profit education, Government run schools

Madhav Chavan, CEO | Pratham Education Foundation

The Right to Education Act aims to provide free and compulsory education of good quality to all children between 6 and 14 years of age. Between 2004, when the education cess was imposed, and 2010, when the RTE Act came into force, rural Indian school enrolment increased from about 93.4% to 96% but school attendance has remained low at a national average of 75%. Northern states such as Rajasthan, UP, Bihar lag way below this average while Himachal, Punjab, and the southern states have consistently shown an attendance of about 90%.
Going to school is first a family habit. In many states it has become a social habit and in several states it has not. I suspect that sending a child to school or college is as much because the parents want them to learn as to keep them engaged away from home in care of an institution.
Keeping children compulsorily in school is also a policy strategy to keep them safe from child labour, and years of schooling are also correlated with many developmental parameters. But is schooling well correlated with formal-learning? A child who attends regularly learns more.
A school that functions every day with teachers engaged in teaching work results in better learning. This is well known, but relative. On an absolute scale, OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 provides another nail in the coffin after other surveys, which measure different parameters differently to arrive at the same conclusion of dismal quality of learning everywhere.
News media have highlighted the fact that among the 74 PISA 2009 participants, two Indian states are only above Kyrgyzstan. But after testing children who are still in school at the age of 15-16, the modal level of reading literacy among these Indian children is two sublevels below the lowest level on a scale of one to six. In maths literacy, nearly 60% children are below the lowest possible level on a scale of one to six.
To add insult to injury, PISA footnotes say the sampling conducted by government’s own NCERT was not up to PISA standards. It is like failing the dope test after coming last but one. Indian children are not dumb, clearly, and let us not jump to blame the teachers.
What PISA indicates is that we have never set standards of learning that are measurable, textbook-independent and oriented towards skills of reading, problem-solving, thinking, expressing and so on. We need to reorient the system. We should set stage-wise goals and a timeframe to achieve these goals. Governments are not working with any sense of urgency and do not wish to set measurable achievement goals.
In the meantime, people equate good quality education with private schools. Over the last seven years the enrolment in private schools in Standard 1-4 in diverse states such as UP and Tamil Nadu has doubled to nearly 45% and 33% respectively. In Kerala, an educationally advanced state, nearly 65% rural children go to private schools. As parental incomes and education rise, this proportion will go on increasing unless the governments put a ban on private schools.
RTE effectively is poised to do that because schools that do not comply with prescribed norms will have to be shut down. If the norms are followed, the tuition fees of the socalled ‘affordable’ schools will be anything but ‘affordable.’
According to Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that tracks the quality and efficiency of government services, the estimated national annual recurring perchild cost of schooling, without taking into account assets and mid-day meals, is about `6,300. In advanced states and metros, this is easily double. The government knows how to make education expensive. Does it know how to make it effective?
The government has recently started a Teacher Eligibility Test and defined the entry level preparedness of teachers in some ways independent of their school and college education.
Most professional courses have already made school certification and university certification more or less redundant. Similarly, it is time that industry and business stop asking for 10th, 12th, or graduation certificates from applicants for entrylevel jobs. Instead, the industry can create and support text-book independent Employment Eligibility Tests at different levels regardless of the number of years the applicant has spent in school as long as she/he is above 18.
This can contribute to creation of a pull factor for improved quality by setting standards. There is a need for industry and business to create a pull-factor to drive the quality of education. Education is too important to be left to the government alone.

The Morung Express, 19 February 2012

1 Comment

India’s next big growth bet: seriously, you need to study this

For-profit education, Private schools

If you’re hunting for a sector that promises big growth in future, you could do with a little (or a lot more) education.

According to an Anand Rathi report, India’s education sector ranks among the top 10 in value terms. Households account for about 35 percent of that spending, which is higher compared with other countries.

The cost of educational services in India is one of the lowest in the world — less than one-sixth of the global average, notes Anand Rathi. The cost of education in India is half of that in China, one-fourth of that in Mexico, one-tenth of that in Canada and one-fifteenth of that in the US. However, if measured in global average prices, yearly education spending in India, at $600 billion, is even higher than in the US, the brokerage said.

Public spending in education accounts for more than 60 percent of overall education spending in India. Yet, current educational facilities are inadequate in terms of both quantity and quality. As Anand Rathi notes, seats available for tertiary education are sufficient for just 12 percent of the population in the age group that needs such education. In addition, perceived quality gaps are driving even lower-income students to shift from public education to private education.

Given the serious budget constraints faced by the government, large private participation is required to create adequate access and improve the quality of education.

With greater number of students pursuing private education, private investments into the sector are increasing. Anand Rathi estimates the value of the private education sector at around $30 billion currently, and forecasts that it will expand to $45 billion by 2015. Why? Because the public sector is simply not equipped to meet demand for education either in quality or quantity.

Moreover, some key education bills are at different stages of deliberation in parliament. “The central government’s pro-active stance and supportive statements have created the impression that private investment in education is reaching inflexion point for explosive growth,” the brokerage says in its report.

Firstpost.Economy, 03 January 2012

Comment

India needs 2 lakh more schools, 1500 varsities

Access to education, Edupreneurship, For-profit education

How is the education sector in the country as a business proposition ?

India is fast becoming a knowledge economy superpower . A whopping 220 million children are enrolled in schools in the country. But still, 140 million students are left out. The gross enrollment in India at 12% is lower than the Asean countries. According to one estimate, India needs at least 200,000 schools. In higher education segment, the country needs around additional 1,500 universities and colleges.

At present, the quality of education in the country is not of a high standard. Therefore , there are huge opportunities for private players, not only in creating volume but also in improving the quality of education.

What do you expect from the government?

We hope that the government will get the long standing bills on education passed in Parliament to liberalize the sector so that the role of the private sector in higher education increases. We expect that 2012 will also witness the entry of foreign universities in the country. Opening up of the sector will increase the competition, which will not only lead to improvement in the standard of education but also will bring down the cost.

Will the Eurozone crisis affect the education sector?

The education sector is considered to be recession-free . Macro economic environment factors like dollar-rupee exchange rate, crisis in the Eurozone countries, inflation or rise in petrol prices do not impact the sector very much. Children still go to school. In fact, education is the last item on which the middle class will compromise.

What kind of growth do you hope for in the near future?

We expect that Educomp Solutions will continue to grow between 30% to 35%. I don’t think the economic slowdown will have any visible impact on the company.

What is your growth strategy?

Educomp Solutions focuses on providing digital content. We own the largest schoollevel content library with over 16,000 modules of rich 3-D multimedia content to reach out to 4.8 million students across 8,100 private schools and 6 million students across 10,900 government schools. Educomp sets up computer labs in government schools and provides multimedia content in regional languages, testing and certification in computer education, full-time assistants as well as teacher training and monitoring and supervision .

Educomp at present serves 27,800 schools and 17.9 million students and educators in India as well as the US, Canada, Singapore and Sri Lanka. We are also setting up pre-schools , high schools and professional and vocational education institutions. At present, it is running 1000 pre-schools , 65 high schools, 310 vocational training centers and eight colleges in the country. In 2012, the number of high schools will increase to 101.

The Times of India 01-01-2012

Comment

Many of India’s Poor Turn to Private Schools

Budget Private Schools, For-profit education, Right to Education

HYDERABAD, India — For more than two decades, M. A. Hakeem has arguably done the job of the Indian government. His private Holy Town High School has educated thousands of poor students, squeezing them into cramped classrooms where, when the electricity goes out, the children simply learn in the dark.

Parents in Holy Town’s low-income, predominantly Muslim neighborhood do not mind the bare-bones conditions. They like the modest tuition (as low as $2 per month), the English-language curriculum and the success rate on standardized tests. Indeed, low-cost schools like Holy Town are part of an ad hoc network that now dominates education in this south Indian city, where an estimated two-thirds of all students attend private institutions.

“The responsibility that the government should shoulder,” Mr. Hakeem said with both pride and contempt, “we are shouldering it.”

In India, the choice to live outside the faltering grid of government services is usually reserved for the rich or middle class, who can afford private housing compounds, private hospitals and private schools. But as India’s economy has expanded during the past two decades, an increasing number of India’s poor parents are now scraping together money to send their children to low-cost private schools in hopes of helping them escape poverty.

Nationally, a large majority of students still attend government schools, but the expansion of private institutions has created parallel educational systems — systems that are now colliding. Faced with sharp criticism of the woeful state of government schools, Indian policy makers have enacted a sweeping law intended to reverse their decline. But skeptics say the litany of new requirements could also wipe out many of the private schools now educating millions of students.

“It’s impossible to fulfill all these things,” said Mohammed Anwar, who runs a chain of private schools in Hyderabad and is trying to organize a nationwide lobbying campaign to alter the requirements. Referring to the law, he said, “If you follow the Right to Education, nobody can run a school.”

Education is one of India’s most pressing challenges. Half of India’s 1.2 billion people are 25 or younger, and literacy levels, while improving, could cripple the country’s long-term prospects. In many states, government education is in severe disarray, with teachers often failing to show up. Rote drilling still predominates. English, considered a prerequisite for most white-collar employment in India, is usually not the medium of instruction.

When it took effect in April 2010, the Right to Education Act enshrined, for the first time, a constitutional right to schooling, promising that every child from 6 to 14 would be provided with it. For a nation that had never properly financed education for the masses, the law was a major milestone.

“If we nurture our children and young people with the right education,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, commemorating the act with a televised address, “India’s future as a strong and prosperous country is secure.”

Few disagree with the law’s broad, egalitarian goals or that government schools need a fundamental overhaul. But the law also enacted new regulations on teacher-student ratios, classroom size and parental involvement in school administration that are being applied to government and private schools. The result is a clash between an ideal and the reality on the ground, with a deadline: Any school that fails to comply by 2013 could be closed.

Kapil Sibal, the government minister overseeing Indian education, has scoffed at claims that the law will cause mass closings of private schools. Yet in Hyderabad, education officials are preparing for exactly that outcome. They are constructing new buildings and expanding old ones, partly to comply with the new regulations, partly anticipating that students will be forced to return from closing private institutions.

“Fifty percent will be closed down as per the Right to Education Act,” predicted E. Bala Kasaiah, a top education official in Hyderabad. As a boy, M. A. Hakeem listened as his father bemoaned the slow progress of his fellow Muslims in India. “Son,” he recalls his father’s saying, “when you grow up, you should provide education to our community.”

A few months after Mr. Hakeem completed the 10th grade, his father died. A year later, in 1986, Mr. Hakeem opened a small preparatory school with nursery classes. He was 15 years old.

Not yet old enough to vote, Mr. Hakeem held classes in his family’s home and enlisted his two sisters to handle administrative tasks. By the mid-1990s, Mr. Hakeem had opened Holy Town. The school has since produced students who have gone into engineering, commerce and other fields.

“I’m fulfilling my father’s dream,” Mr. Hakeem said.

When Holy Town opened, Mr. Hakeem’s neighborhood at the edge of the old quarter of Hyderabad had one private school, a Catholic one. Today, there are seven private schools within a half-mile of Holy Town, each charging a few dollars a month and catering to Muslim students with a largely secular education in English.

Their emergence roughly coincided with the economic liberalization that began in 1991. For decades, government officials had blamed rural apathy for India’s high illiteracy rates, saying that families preferred sending their children into the fields, not the classroom. But as the economy started taking off, public aspirations changed, especially among low-income families.

“In India today, demand is not really a constraint for education — it’s the supply,” said Karthik Muralidharan, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied Indian education. “Parents are seeing education as the passport out of poverty.”

The rising demand created a new market for private schools, and entrepreneurs big and small have jumped at the chance to profit from it. Corporate educational chains opened schools tailored to higher-income families, especially in the expanding cities. Low-cost schools like Holy Town proliferated in poorer neighborhoods, a trend evident in most major cities and spreading into rural India.

Estimating the precise enrollment of private schools is tricky. Government officials say more than 90 percent of all primary schools are run by or financed by the government. Yet one government survey found that 30 percent of the 187 million students in grades 1 through 8 now attend private schools. Some academic studies have suggested that more than half of all urban students now attend private academies.

In Mumbai, so many parents have pulled their children out of government schools that officials have started renting empty classrooms to charities and labor unions — and even to private schools. In recent years, Indian officials have increased spending on government education, dedicating far more money for new schools, hiring teachers and providing free lunches to students. Still, more and more parents are choosing to go private.

“What does it say about the quality of your product that you can’t even give it away for free?” Mr. Muralidharan said.

Most low-cost private schools also follow rote-teaching methods because their students have to take standardized tests approved by the government. But some studies suggest that teachers in government schools are absent up to 25 percent of the time. Poor children who attended private schools scored higher on reading and math tests, according to a study by Sonalde Desai, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, and other scholars.

“There is not much teaching that happens in the government schools,” said Raju Bhosla, 32, whose children attend one of Hyderabad’s low-cost private schools. “I never even thought about putting my kids in government schools.”

Across Hyderabad, work crews in 58 locations are expanding government schools or constructing new ones. To education officials, the building spree signals a rebirth of the government system, part of an $800 million statewide program to bring government schools into compliance with the new law.

For Mr. Sibal, the national education minister, government schools had atrophied because of a lack of money. Under Right to Education, states can qualify for more than $2 billion to improve facilities, hire new teachers and improve curriculums, he said.

“All these changes are going to transform the schools system in the next five years,” Mr. Sibal predicted. As for the tens of thousands of private schools opened during the past 15 years to satisfy the public’s growing hunger for education, Mr. Sibal said, “We’ve given them three years time,” referring to the 2013 compliance deadline. “We hope that is enough.”

Skepticism abounds. Elite private schools, already struggling with requirements that they reserve slots for poor and minority students, have filed lawsuits. But the bigger question is what will happen to the tens of thousands of low-cost private schools already serving the poor.

James Tooley, a British scholar who has studied private education in India, said government statistics grossly underestimate private schooling — partly because so many private institutions are not formally registered. In a recent survey of the eastern city of Patna, Mr. Tooley found 1,224 private schools, even though government records listed only about 40.

In Hyderabad, principals at several private schools said inspectors regularly threatened them with closings unless they paid bribes. Now, the principals say, the inspectors are wielding the threat of the Right to Education requirements and seeking even bigger bribes.

Mr. Anwar, the private school entrepreneur trying to organize a lobbying campaign, estimated that roughly 5,000 private schools operated in Hyderabad.

“Can the government close 5,000 schools?” he asked. “If they close, how can the government accommodate all these students?”

The New York Times 30-12-2011

1 Comment
« Older Posts


  Disclaimer: The copyright of the contents of this blog remains with the original author / publisher.