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PPP MODEL SCHOOLS ? WORRIES OVER COMMERCIALISATION

MHRD, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

29-Jul-2013 :

Business Times

 The Human Resource Development Ministry’s move towards introducing model schools under public-private partnership (PPP), as announced recently, may change the face of Indian school education.

While Government-private partnership in school education is not new in the country (Government-aided private schools exist), what would set these schools apart is the larger control that private players would have over governance. Further, the scheme allows private players to use the school premises for vocational education, skills training or any other approved educational activity to enhance its revenue.

On July 20, HRD Minister M.M. Pallam Raju unveiled plans for the first 50 of the proposed 2,500 PPP model schools on a pilot basis, which will be operational from the 2015-16 academic session.

Incidentally, the plan to set up such model schools in educationally backward regions has been in the offing for over five years.

“The objective of this scheme is to set up 2,500 schools through PPP for providing quality education to about 40 lakh children, of which 25 lakh would be from socially and economically disadvantaged categories,” a HRD Ministry paper said.

Already a few model schools exist, such as Adarsh schools in Punjab, run by Bharti Foundation, the philanthropy arm of Bharti Enterprises.

Vijay Chadda, CEO, Bharti Foundation, sees PPP schools as the future of the country.

“We do seem to have a problem with the Government education system.,” he said, adding that the need for letting private parties come into school system was felt primarily because of the inefficient systems in Government-run schools.

He said more than funds, accountability was lacking in Government schools, which is where private parties could play a role if they were given operational control.

However, Chadda agreed that despite the Planning Commission chalking out stringent and elaborate agreements for private parties, there is always danger of commercialisation.

And this is what worries a number of educationists, too, despite the clause that at least 40 per cent of the students in these schools would be from the under-privileged sections.

An HRD Ministry official said the Government will spend the same amount incurred by it for each Kendriya Vidyalaya student, where its spending per child is about Rs 21,000-22,000 annually.

However, the private party running the school will have the authority to determine the fees for the rest of the 60 per cent students.

An educationist, who wished to remain anonymous, questioned the need for giving operational freedom to private parties. He said the country needed a uniform education system, not just a uniform syllabus. Ossie Fernandes, Director, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, said the move to allow private parties will only encourage more commercialisation.

“Instead of the State taking on a pivotal role, permitting private parties is only going to turn education, which should be meant to foster social change, into a business.”

Meanwhile, CPM politburo member Brinda Karat criticised the move saying the Government was essentially funding the private institutions from the public exchequer.

“They are going to allow private parties to run the schools without any control, even on fees,” she said, adding that the Government should, instead, look at increasing the budgetary allocation towards education from the current 3.7 per cent to the proposed six per cent of GDP.

Under the scheme, the private party is required to build the infrastructure, and acquire land from State Governments. Experts fear the land would be provided at subsidised cost. Further, management would be in the hands of the private party.

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