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ON THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF EDUCATIONAL VOUCHERS

Research, School Vouchers, Vouchers

Author: Epple, D.N and Romano, R

Abstract: Two significant challenges hamper analyses of collective choice of educational vouchers. One is the multi-dimensional choice set arising from the interdependence of the voucher, public education spending, and taxation. The other is that household preferences between public and private schooling vary with the policy chosen. Even absent a voucher, preferences over public spending are not single-peaked; a middling level of public school spending may be less attractive to a household than either high public school spending or private education coupled with low public spending. We show that Besley and Coate’s (1997) representative democracy provides a viable approach to overcome these hurdles. We provide a complete characterization of equilibrium with an endogenous voucher. Click here to read more.

NBER Working Paper 17986, April 2012

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Pratham Gala Raises $1.2 Million for Literacy in India

Access to education, Finances & Budgets, Global news, US

HOUSTON: Elegance and philanthropy were the hallmarks of the Pratham-Houston Gala 2012 when over 800 from this city’s diverse communities gathered at the Hilton Americas Hotel on April 21, to support the non-profit grass-roots organization’s literacy programs in India. The event themed We Are One World, chaired by Dr. Marie Goradia and Medha Karve, raised an unprecedented $1.2 million that will help educate over 60,000 underprivileged children and further Pratham’s vision of Every Child in School and Learning Well.

Following a cocktail reception, Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening Meena Datt welcomed guests and lauded their spirit of humanitarianism. President of Pratham-Houston Swatantra Jain told gatherees of the organization’s odyssey from humble beginnings in the slums of Mumbai in 1994, to its indomitable presence in 21 states and 42 cities in India today.

“Pratham is recognized for three important aspects of its work, said Jain. “First is the scale on which we work and second is the low costs with which we achieve this. The third aspect is our ability to innovate and grow. I am happy to share with you that Global Journal recently listed Pratham as the 22nd NGO among 100 best NGOS in the world. Today the organization continues to expand both geographically and in terms of the scope of work it undertakes,” Jain added.

He invited guests to visit Pratham programs in India to witness firsthand, how it impacts the lives of the children there. He also extolled Pratham India founders Dr. Madhav Chavan and Farida Lambhay, and Pratham USA founder Vijay Goradia as visionaries.

Keynote speaker for the event was Ajay Bhanga, President and CEO of MasterCard worldwide. He commended Pratham for making education a priority.

“It’s vital to our future and I agree with Pratham that it is a human right,” said Bhanga. He discussed India’s trajectory and the challenges, both present and future, and why education is so critical at this time in strengthening India’s global competitiveness and domestic economy.

“Everyone knows that India and Indians have made amazing strides in a relatively short period of time. Just look around the room and you’ll see a who’s who of first generation Indian success,” said Bhanga. But, he added, more than half of India’s population lives in poverty, malnutrition is rife, healthcare is poor, and 128 million Indians lack access to safe water. He pointed out that education is in dire straits, academic resources are scarce, there is child labor, a lack of teachers, and that more parental involvement is essential. The country’s infrastructure is under-developed, roads abysmal, there is a waste management problem, and the corruption and red tape impede India’s progress.

“Education has to align with vocational skills, and the workforce needs to be better prepared and critical thinking, comprehension, and social skills have to be reinforced for a strong stable India,” said Bhanga. “Pratham is breaking the cycle for the most vulnerable and uplifting prospects of millions who hold India’s future in their hands. Pratham takes a multi-dimensional, holistic approach to improving education and literacy, it recognizes that you can’t successfully teach children without addressing the root problems I just mentioned,” added Bhanga.

Dr. Rukmini Banerji, Director of Pratham Programs, gave the audience an update on the many innovative ways that Pratham has since impacted 33 million lives through Read India, the Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children, the ASER Centre that evaluates the status of elementary education in India, and the Pratham Institute that offers vocational training programs to young adults.

Dr. Subodh Bhuchar served as auctioneer for the evening and attendees bid enthusiastically for items sponsored by Easy Tours and Karat 22. During dinner guests enjoyed entertainment by the Fred Astaire Dance Studio and NAACH Houston Inc.

Indo American News, 26 April 2012

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Bihar education minister not in favour of community college

Community Schools

PATNA: Bihar education minister P K Shahi has said that copying US experiment of community colleges in India was not practical. “It is not possible to open community colleges in India or make that provision in existing colleges which had been experimented in America,” he said.

Shahi was one of the five state education ministers who had been sent to USA by the Central government last fortnight to study the concept of community college and explore possibility of opening such colleges in India. The delegation headed by education minister of Madhya Pradesh included ministers from Bihar, Punjab, Assam and Jammu &Kashmir.

“The concept is very good. But where is the money to open such institutions,” said Shahi. It will not be possible even for the developed states to spend huge money on community college. The community colleges require very high quality of education and for that highly educated faculty is needed. The fee would also be quite high and beyond the reach of students coming from middle class society.

The education ministers visited Montgomery, Richmond Virginia, Washington and other places and attended a meeting of the American Community College at Auckland during their fortnight long visit.

Shahi said he would send his report to the central government about his experience. “My suggestion is that we should strengthen and make better and viable our IITs and polytechnic colleges and stress on skill development, infrastructure growth and better faculty. This way we can to some extent achieve the concept of community college,” said Shahi.

the Times of India, 28 April 2012

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‘RTE extended reach of primary education; absenteeism still high’

Government run schools, Right to Education

Post- independence the need for quality education in the country struck my father. Education, which was global in its dimension, inculcated scientific temper and, yet, was founded on Indian culture and human values. This is what we sought to create. Wherein, there opportunities for every child’s personality to be actualised. In those days, particularly in northern India, there was a lack of schools. That is how the first Apeejay School came up in Jalandhar and we then took it forward with like-minded people. The idea was to keep preserving and cementing the Indian culture and the finer arts like design, painting, dance, etc., and at the same time give an opportunity to children to pursue these avenues as a profession.

How was the Apeejay University set up?

Our idea was to set up India’s first liberal arts university, in terms of teaching and learning. We wanted to adopt a holistic approach. We allow students to change their stream if after some time of starting a course they realise that their interests were somewhere else. As each degree has its own requirement, it may mean that the student needs to take some additional courses, in some cases. We have an international semester and grade system. The degree may take longer but we allow students to take a decision about their career whenever they want. This is important because knowledge is seamless. We want to make our students industry-ready.

Over the last one year— especially in Delhi— a huge debate has started with regard to the autonomy of schools and the external or governmental controls pertaining to major policy decisions of schools. What’s your take on that?

First of all, we have our own quality control systems in place. As far as Apeejay is concerned, we do not need an external control agency to do a quality control exercise. We are in the education sector not as a business model but as a way of giving back to society. We have certain processes that we have put into place — both in writing and otherwise — which are more or less common to all schools and they are not at variants with what any educational directorate or anybody else would have done. The only unfortunate part is that the government has a lot of work left to do. If you look at the aspirations of the RTE, some of which are, if I may use the word, outsourced to the private sector. This is a testimony to the fact that the government puts trust in private institutions. Figures of school dropouts are alarming even though there’s good enrolment at the entry level. It’s a great aspiration but it needs to be properly executed, and at the current rate, it may take the government many years to implement it.

Would you agree with other private educational institutions that the onus of implementing the RTE should be with the government?

The problem is don’t club people who have altruistic goals with everyone in the field with these policies by which you try to control education. We try to have a diverse classroom and we try to accommodate children from all backgrounds on our own. Things need not be imposed by force in a place where you are self- supported. There are plenty of people who can afford to pay. Fine, let’s fund the education of the economically weaker sections but we should be able to charge for it from those who are willing to pay a little more.

What sort of government support have you seen since the RTE was implemented?

A sum of Rs 544 was received for books and other stationary for every child. Recently, a letter was sent asking schools to specify their per-child expenditure. There are many questions. How are you going to meet these expenditures? By cutting teacher’s salaries? Or by lowering standards or compromising with the learning environment?

Do you think it’s fair to compare government-school expenditure to private-school expenditure per child?

It’s a strange way of doing things. The government is saying that they are including operational expense per student, but land, building and renewal costs are not included in this. Secondly, what are you basing your per-child expenditure on? They should be calculating real per-student expenditure. The issue is not the students. There will be some students who may not be able to cope with the curriculum, irrespective of the social strata. The issue is processes being forced upon us and our autonomy.

How would you assess the performance of Right to Education Act in the last two years?

Since the implementation of Right to Education Act, 2009, on the one hand, there has been improvement in the extension of primary education, both in regard to enrolment and in reduction of dropout rates, but on the other hand, there is a significant gap between the Gross Enrolment Ratio and actual attendance of children in schools.

The absolute numbers of children who are out of school remains large. Union human resource development (HRD) minister, admits that still 8.1 million children in the age group 6 to 14 are out of school.

Despite some improvements in access and retention, there is a greater challenge of improving the quality of school education. The learning outcome for a majority of children continues to be an area of serious concern. Several studies suggest that nearly half the children in Grade 5 are unable to read a Grade 2 text and 64 per cent of them can’t manage simple division sums.

There’s a shortage of 508,000 teachers country-wide, other figure say it is 1.4 million.

the Indian Express, 30 April 2012

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Indian parents protest ‘B is for Bomb’ books

Curriculum Development

LUCKNOW, India – Angry parents are demanding to know why their kids are being taught about bombs and knives at nursery schools in a northern Indian state.
They complain that a book on Hindi language alphabets for children aged 4 to 5 says that “B” stands for bomb and “Ch” for “Chaku,” or knife. Pictures accompany the words.
Ram Authar Dixit, president of the Parents-Student Welfare Association of Gurukul Academy in Uttar Pradesh state, said Sunday that the national education board was investigating how such a book was cleared for private nursery schools.
More than 100 schools in the state have been using the book.
Javed Alam, a board official, blamed the book publisher for the lapse.
The Federal Board of Secondary Education issues broad guidelines to state and private schools relating to books, but leaves the content to publishers. It steps in in case of complaints, Alam said.
“It is the responsibility of the education board to provide clean books to the students,” said Dixit, a parent.
The publisher could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Children have an impressionable mind. If students are taught about bombs and knives at this stage this would develop a negative mindset for them,’ Ananya Tiwari, a child psychologist, told The Associated Press in Lucknow, the state capital.

Fox News, 29 April 2012

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‘Formula for calculating fee is unscientific’

Minority Education, Per Child Funding (PCF)

The district administration held a meeting with the representatives of aided and unaided schools with regard to implementation of Right to Education Act and to ensure adherence of admission rules laid down by the Department of Public Instruction, on Monday.

Presiding over the meeting Deputy Commissioner Dr N S Channappa Gowda said that the schools have been given circular with regard to schedule of admission, fees collection etc, on December 8, 2011, which should be followed strictly without fail.

However, opposing the circular the participants at the meet said that the formula provided by the Department based on which the admission fee can be collected is unscientific.

“We run schools facing several problems. We have to provide good infrastructure facilities to students, pay salary to teachers, maintain the school building and the premises. All this incurs huge expenses. The fees prescribed by the department is totally unscientific because with this calculation we will not even be able to meet the salary expenses of the teaching staff,” said Dakshina Kannada and Udupi English Medium Schools’ Association representative Mohommad Beary adding that running a school anyways is more of a social service because the proprietors do not get any returns.

He further said that though RTE has excluded minority institution from its purview, in the district there are many minority run institutions, which have not been recognised as minority institutions. He said that there is a need to give recognition to these institutions. The Deputy Commissioner said that a recommendation will be made to the Government in this regard.

Deccan Herald, 01 May 2012

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‘Over 50,000 kids from south Tamil Nadu deployed as child labour’

Child Labour

MADURAI: Over 50,000 children from Madurai, Theni and Dindigul continue to be sent to the northern states to work in factories run by local merchants in violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act and need to be identified and brought back, members of the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), Tamil Nadu and Puducherry said at the state-level conference on child labour held in Madurai on Monday.

C Visakan of Kottapatti in Theni district narrated how he was sold by his father for Rs 1,500 to a broker Solairaj from the same village in the year 2004, during his school holidays. He was taken to Chhattisgarh where he worked in a ‘muruku’ factory with other 13 year olds, for 20 hours a day in front of a fire. But he was returned to his parents when he couldn’t work after his employer injured him by pouring hot oil on his body. Rajkumar of Usilampatti and S Prabu from Polipatti had similar stories.

Later talking to media persons, P Joseph Victoraj, state organiser CACL, M Jeeva and B S Vanarajan southern districts organiser of CACL said that child labour continued to flourish as children were being trafficked with or without their parents’ consent to work in industries in the northern states. Many came from the three southern districts, predominantly the Usilampatti area, where studies had revealed that 60 to 70% of the trafficked children were from dalit communities.

Although they had identified about 24 families who had sent their children for labour up north, there were many more. In most cases, the government had no follow-up programme for child labourers rescued from their employees, like Balamurugan from Usilampatti who was among the 42 bonded labourers rescued recently and brought to Madurai. Balamurugan had been tortured and traumatized to such an extent that he had lost his ability to speak in public. Vanarajan said that the government should ensure physical, psychological and emotional settlement for these children as about 15% of these former child labourers end up returning to their work places. Child labour is punishable under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act, where an affected child is entitled to a compensation of Rs three lakhs.

The Times of India, 01 May 2012

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Schools pitching for review plea

Courts and PILs, Private schools, Right to Education

BANGALORE: The Karnataka Unaided Schools’ Managements Association (KUSMA), which has 1,800 members, will file a review petition in the Supreme Court over the next few weeks, challenging 25% reservation in private unaided schools under the Right to Education Act.

The main grouse is the government’s decision to transfer the responsibility of educating poor children to private schools. The other contention is that the law has exempted private unaided minority (religious and linguistic) schools from reserving 25% seats for underprivileged children.

“Giving education is the government’s constitutional obligation . For this, it needs to develop the infrastructure instead of passing the buck. With the 25% RTE quota, we’ll be penalizing 75 children to help 25. Moreover, we’re one nation and therefore there should be one law. It’s unfair for some institutions to be exempted,” said VRN Reddy, vicepresident , KUSMA. The decision was taken at the last association meeting on Saturday.

KV Dhananjay will represent KUSMA in court. “KUSMA had stayed away from the Supreme Court proceedings primarily because the RTE Act could not be meaningfully challenged in a court unless it was seen in actual operation. Now that the judgment has been delivered and the consequences are being felt, KUSMA will filing a review petition to protect the interests of its members. No reasonable person should debate on whether every child should be educated. Every child deserves to be freely and compulsorily educated. Rather, the means by which such a goal is sought to be achieved should be debated,” he said.

KUSMA’s argument would be that it’s not that the government of the day is somehow more concerned about education for the poor. Our founding fathers who gave us our Constitution did indeed debate in 1949 on making education free and compulsory. But once they realised the government itself did not have the resources to do so, they put free and compulsory education as a recommendation and not as a fundamental right. However, in 2009, the Parliament removed that recommendation and made it a fundamental right.

As such, schools cannot succeed in challenging the Act unless they contest the 2009 Amendment to the Constitution. Surprisingly , no institution that fought the RTE Act in the Supreme Court did that. The RTE Act nationalizes private education and also distorts the ‘fundamental right’ concept of our Constitution . Every other fundamental right talks of the government’s conduct like treating everybody equally, not discriminating and so on. Only this right talks of a facility, a facility to provide which the government itself does not have resources.

the Times of India, 01 May 2012

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Will RTE Act fall flat for half of Andhra Pradesh children?

Right to Education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

HYDERABAD: The implementation of Right to Education Act may have got a shot in the arm with the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the 25% reservation in unaided private schools for children from lower income group families but in Andhra Pradesh (and possibly other states in the country), the Act might soon figure among the many well-intentioned government schemes that do not impact, leave alone benefit, its target group. At best, the Act might give a humble building watchman’s child admission in a private school, but its impact could just be limited to that — the urban poor — that too with a modest success rate.

And here’s why. As per government records, there are 1.07 crore children in the 6-14 age category in Andhra Pradesh. As per the government’s own estimate, over 67% of the state’s 8.7 crore population lives in rural areas and the remaining 33% in urban. So, of the 1.07 crore children, at least over 60 lakh live in rural parts, where government schools are famously poorly equipped and there are no private schools. Despite the introduction of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, it has been indicated in many studies and surveys conducted by non-government bodies that precious little has changed in the condition of schools.

While a freshly published, voluminous tome on the implementation of RTE sits on the desk of the school education department and focuses largely on schools in rural areas, including steps to beef up infrastructure, adding transportation facilities etc, the worrisome part is that the entire planning is based on what activists point out are questionable figures. As per government statistics, just about 3 lakh children in AP are out of school. The NGO statistics are at the other end of the spectrum pegging this figure at a disturbing 18 lakh. The truth possibly lies somewhere in between. As per the state’s Human Development Report 2007, about 12 lakh children in the 6-14 age group in AP were out of school, which shows the government estimate of 3 lakh out of school children rather too miraculous.

And over-reporting of enrolled schoolchildren is the first roadblock that RTE’s implementation will face. “All the implementation exercises are for the 3 lakh children,” says M Venkat Reddy, national convener, MV Foundation.

Clearly, children numbering between 9 and 15 lakh are not on the government radar, leave alone that of RTE. Funds from the Centre for initiatives to enrol out of school children are calculated based on the 3 lakh figure. Add to that the number of children in government schools in rural areas, where it’s not only the infrastructure but also the quality of education that is poor. If RTE makes them legally entitled to better quality education not only in government but in the best quality private schools, they have no access to either. Take for instance the schools in Kowdipally mandal in Hyderabad’s neighbouring Medak district. The mandal has about 100 schools but caste-wise enrolment figures here indicate poor OC (other castes) numbers and high SC/ST numbers. “There are private schools about 20 kms from here and those who can afford it, send their children there,” says M Subhash Chandra, Centre for Action Research and People’s Development.

But P M Bhargawa, former vice-chairman of the Knowledge Commission and staunch critic of RTE says one needn’t go even that far. “In the heart of Hyderabad are government schools where students from Class I to X have just two teachers,” he says. “All government schools should be high quality but that will never be done. Where is the impetus to do that,” Bhargawa says, adding that what the Act envisages works for cities.

The Act’s limited scope is a big dampener particularly for the state’s SC/ST population. B Dhenuka Naik, who has been working on tribal rights issues, wonders how the act would help the state’s 13 lakh ST population in the 6-14 age group and believes not even 1% would benefit. Officials overseeing education in the state’s tribal parts note that there are many habitations that are 4-5 km away from schools. “Transportation is not possible in all the cases because the regions are hilly and there are no roads,” says Ashish Chandra, state coordinator for tribal education and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya.

Officials, however, maintain that all efforts are being made to implement RTE effectively. “We want to implement the Act in right earnest. Basic amenities remain a source of concern and we are trying to address it. We will require involvement of all stakeholders,” says V Madhusudan, state coordinator for RTE implementation. The funds too, he says, are in place as the Rs 4,800 crore allocated for SSA will be used for RTE implementation.

The Times of India, 01 May 2012

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DEMOGRAPHIC STRUCTURE AND THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Finances & Budgets, Global news, research

Author: Poterba, J.M
This paper examines the relationship between demographic structure and the level of govemment spendingon K-12education. Panel data for the U.S. states over the 1960-1990 period suggests that an increasein the fraction of elderly residents in ajurisdictionis associated with a significant reduction inperchild educational spending. This reduction isparticularly large when the elderly residents and the school-age population are from different racial groups. Variation in the size of the school-age population does not result in proportionate changes in education spending, so students in states with larger school-age populations receive lower per-student spending than those in states with smaller numbers of potential students. These results provide support for models of generational competition in the allocation of public sector resources. They also suggest that the effect of cohort size on government-mediated transfers must be considered in analyzing how cohort size affects economic well-being. Click here to read more.

NBER Working Paper 5677, July 1996

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