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Home > Media Room > SCC in News

Try out school vouchers

Hema Ramakrishnan, Economic Times, 31 July 2010

School vouchers should be an integral part of the Centre’s plans to implement the Right to Education (RTE). For the state to spend gargantuan amounts on school education is fine, but to insist that the delivery too would be by the state is meaningless.

Surveys have shown that government teachers are absent from their schools and children cannot do simple arithmetic or write small paragraphs after years of schooling. Reforms in governance are, therefore, a must. Designing a market in which schools would compete to attract students carrying school vouchers would complement administrative steps to improve governance and quality in the school system.

Once students have choice, they would vote with their feet, and schools without children should be closed down. Awareness of such a terminal destiny should help concentrate the minds of teachers who play hookey.

A voucher can surely be a tool to change the way governments fund education of the poor. However, no one size fits all as global experiments on school vouchers have shown mixed results. Countries such as the US, Sweden, Denmark and Italy saw an improvement in the quality of education and more competition among public and private schools. In the Netherlands, however, vouchers led to ethnic segregation and had no significant impact on the achievement levels of students. And, in England, it did not trigger competition among schools.

The success (or failure) will largely depend on the design of the scheme. Now, state governments led by Delhi, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are experimenting with school vouchers, taking a page from School Choice, launched by the Centre for Civil Society in Delhi.

An assessment of the Delhi project on vouchers, covering 408 students, showed that a majority of the beneficiaries switched over from government to private schools. Parents were happy the learning progress of their children, the teachers and the standard of discipline. The RTE provides a huge opportunity for other states to foster public private partnership in education, along with fundamental reforms in governance.

 

Read the story in Economic Times

 

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