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Budget Private Schools (BPS) and the need today

Budget Private Schools

Mehek Rastogi

Campaign Associate, NISA 

In his recent paper, Prof Karthik Muralidharan compared private and public schools to clearly showcase the impact of school choice on learning outcomes. The research evaluated budget private schools (BPS) and public schools in Andhra Pradesh using the voucher model to assess the impact for school choice. Results showed that between BPS and public schools there was no significant difference in learning outcomes. Yet, the paper also shows that the budget private schools achieve the same learning outcome as the public schools, at nearly one-third the cost. The crucial finding – that there is a marginal difference in learning outcomes between public and private schools – becomes important in the context of the larger debate of public versus private schooling. While BPS can be lauded for being cost-effective, there is a dire need for commitment from these schools to raise the average learning outcome and this endeavour would need support from every sector including many of the NGOs and foundations working in education.

Budget private schools are schools which are not aided by the government, are owned by a private entity and charge fees lower than the government per-child expenditure in public schools (Rs 100-Rs 1000 per month). BPS in India have mushroomed all over the country, as a response to the market demand for education. Here are few points that I have observed in my experience with BPS, working with National Independent Schools Alliance-

  1. Infrastructure: Many BPS are on the verge of closing down as they are unable to comply with the infrastructural norms as prescribed by the section 18 and 19 of the RTE act. These schools work on very thin margins due to which they are unable to invest on infrastructure.
  2. Quality education: The quality of education in India is currently extremely poor – both in public, as well as in private schools. The 2012 ASER report indicates that nationally, 53.2% of all children in Std. V could not read a Std. II level text. One of the reasons could be lack of trained teachers.
  3. Eagerness to improve: As per my observations, low-fee schools tend to have very little understanding on what ‘quality’ is. They are all committed to improving their schools and eager for interventions to tell them what better schooling is and how to improve quality.

What makes BPS sector different from the rest of the private schools is the challenge to keep the fees low.  These schools will need to increase their fees by a significant amount in order to comply with the above stipulations. These schools must take a two-fold approach in order to remain open – they must simultaneously advocate with the government for revision of norms that are restrictive to their functioning and have no clear impact on learning outcomes; while also demonstrating their commitment to quality improvement by taking steps in this direction.

There are a large number of organisations such as STIR, CSF, CCS, ARK and NISA that have recognised the role of BPS in the education landscape today. More organisations need to take the initiative to work with these schools so that we can be one step closer to achieving the goal of quality education for all.

 

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