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B-schools unhappy with UGC’s move to control tech education

Autonomy, Higher Education

Business Standard

Over 300 B-schools in the country are planning to protest against the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) plan to take over technical education. Last week, the UGC, in confirmation with the Supreme Court’s ruling, drafted guidelines for approval of new courses, setting up of new technical institutions and closure of the old ones and all other regulatory steps. This has not gone down well with B-schools. “We are autonomous institutions and we don’t want to go to the university system. Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) institutions cannot be handed over to the UGC, which has no experience of dealing with technical education,” said Harivansh Chaturvedi from the Birla Institute of Management Technology, Noida and alternate president Education promotion Society of India. For management education, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) created two separate segments – masters and diploma. The masters degree is awarded by universities or institutes affiliated to universities, while an AICTE-recognised institute awards a PGDM. Thus, institutes not affiliated to universities are autonomous and need the AICTE’s permission for running and expansion. PGDM institutes do not fall under the state’s purview. According to Rahul Choudaha, director, World Education Services, New York, business education in India is already in a state of crisis. “With the UGC itself struggling in enforcing quality standards, the case of IIPM (Indian Institute of Planning and Management) has been constantly embarrassing the powers and the purview of UGC. Giving regulatory powers to the UGC and expecting universities to assure the quality of technical colleges for a highly fragmented system in terms of quality will make things worse,” adds Choudaha. B-schools said given the state of public universities which are unable to complete admissions or examinations on time, they do not want their future to be managed by the UGC. Besides, with the UGC in the picture, B-schools think there will be tremendous exploitation and unstructured growth in technical education. “Public universities are corrupt and inefficient. AICTE on the other hand, has been, over the past few years, doing well under its present chairman S S Mantha. We have seen the benefits of e-governance brought in by AICTE. We don’t want all the reform work done to go waste,” said the director of a B-school from New Delhi. Directors at B-schools said the Ministry of Human Resource Development could have avoided this situation by bringing in an ordinance or amending the AICTE Act. “But for its unwillingness, we have to go through all this now,” added Chaturvedi. This April, the Supreme Court allowed private colleges to conduct master’s in business administration or MBA and master’s in computer applications or MCA programmes without AICTE’s permission. Following the order, AICTE was only expected to play an advisory role and prescribe uniform standards of education for affiliated members of a university. On its website, UGC has made public the draft guidelines under the UGC (approval of colleges offering technical education by universities) regulation, 2013. The guidelines imply that a technical institute would need permission from the affiliating university and not the AICTE. It also lays down regulations for intake capacity of colleges, setting up of a new institution, adding integrated programmes, dual programmes etc. The UGC regulation lays down guidelines for all technical institutions offering courses in engineering and technology, management, pharmacy, architecture, hotel management and catering technology. According to the guidelines, universities are expected to maintain a list of unapproved colleges with them and also inform the UGC and the general public about the same. Violation of any rules or regulations will attract penal civil action, including withdrawal of approval. Colleges will not be allowed to start again before the completion of two years from the date of withdrawal. The UGC has sought suggestions by December 12 on the guidelines from universities/colleges and other stakeholders.

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39 Central varsities set to lose autonomy if HRD ministry panel has its way

Autonomy, Higher Education

Times of India


In a move that will take away the autonomy of 39 Central universities, a high-level committee set up by the HRD ministry has recommended that they be brought under a legislation of Parliament. If recommendation of the panel is implemented, universities will lose the autonomy of appointing teachers, managing their finances and diversity of courses to be offered.  At present 39 central universities – including the old ones like the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and others ? are managed by 24 Acts of Parliament. In 2009, 16 new central universities were created under a single Act of Parliament. The committee, headed by A M Pathan, former vice-chancellor of Central University of Karnataka, has recommended that the existing Acts should be repealed. “Government should reject the recommendation forthwith. If implemented, it will take away the diversity of Indian higher education. Intervention like four-year undergraduate programme will be expanded to other universities,” one VC of Delhi-based central university said.  Though Pathan committee has said visions of luminaries like Madan Mohan Malaviya (BHU), Rabindranath Tagore (Shantiniketan), Jawaharlal Nehru (JNU), Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (AMU) and B R Ambedkar (Ambedkar University) will be retained, the recommendations are going to cause furore in some of these old institutions.  Pathan Committee has said the office of chancellor should be abolished and a Council of Vice-Chancellors (CVCs), a new body, be put in place. CVCs will be headed by the HRD minister as ex-officio chairperson and consist of UGC chairperson, all VCs of central universities, four members nominated by the central government representing ministries of HRD, finance, youth affairs and science and technology, not less than three but not more than five members to be nominated by the Visitor and three members of Parliament. CVCs will co-ordinate the activities of all the central universities, advise on matters of policy relating to academic matters, synchronize academic calendars and other functions.  VCs will be appointed by a search-cum-selection committee consisting of nine members. Of the nine members of the panel, three will be nominated by visitor, six by the CVC out of which one will be from the Scheduled Caste, one from socially and educationally backward classes, one woman and one from a minority community.  In a bid to curtail VCs independence and make him subservient to UGC, immediately after appointment s/he is expected to give a report to the UGC about varsity’s infrastructure, number of posts of teachers, employees, details of research, courses, collaboration with other institutions and perspective plan in respect of academics, administration and development.  If this is not enough, the committee has recommended establishment of the Central Universities (teachers, registrar and finance officer) Recruitment Board that will make centralized appointment of assistant professors. Candidates will give preference for allotment of central university but the decision will rest with the recruitment board. Performance of teachers will be done through external peer review. Universities will have the option of either admitting students through a common test or evolve its own procedure.

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Educating India: Choice, autonomy and learning outcomes

Access to education, Autonomy, Budget Private Schools, Reservation of seats, Right to Education

Oxford India Policy Series


Parth J. Shah

The Indian education system does not effectively promote the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. This column argues that the degree of freedom of not just parents, but also of school principals, teachers and education providers is a key determinant of quality and equity in education. It outlines reforms to promote the right to ‘education of choice’.

The Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948 deals with education and has three clauses the first demands free and compulsory elementary education, the second sets the goal of education to “promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups”, and the third clause states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”. This idea of parental choice has always been an important component of the Right to Education (RTE), but is hardly ever mentioned in the current debates on education reforms in India.

The education system does not effectively promote parental choice. This lack of choice or the lower degree of freedom is at the heart of our education problems.  The degree of freedom of not just parents but also of principals, teachers and education providers (‘edu-preneurs’) is the most critical determinant of quality and equity in education. All parents do not get to choose the school, principals and teachers in government get to choose the system but not the school, and ‘edu-preneurs’ cannot choose their own curricula, language of instruction, or whether to be non-profit or for-profit. In this column, I outline my suggestions for education reforms. These revolve around the idea of choice for parents, principals, teachers and ‘edu-preneurs’ (Shah and Miranda 2012).

1. Increase autonomy of state schools
Education departments of the government minutely control government schools. The schools have hardly any autonomy to manage their affairs. They are closest to the students and parents, and should have the necessary freedom to adjust their functioning so that they are better able to cater to the changing needs. The principals and teachers must be empowered and given the freedom that their private school counterparts enjoy; they cannot be expected to compete with both hands tied behind their back.
The principals should be education leaders, not just administrators. Government schools should hire teachers directly, not through the state education department (Pritchett and Pande 2006).  The salaries and perks for teachers should be set by the state, but hiring and performance assessment should be done at the school level.This would help make principals genuine leaders of their schools, with all the staff accountable to them.
Financial autonomy for schools/ principals is critical. However, the current method of funding government schools through lump sum grants against various heads of expenditures leaves little discretion (Accountability Initiative 2012). Moreover, it is very common that government schools with the same number of students get widely different funding from the state. This inequity in funding is inhumane and unjust. Funding based on the number of students in the school addresses these issues effectively. The per-student funding approach would provide strong incentives to schools to work hard to attract and retain students. It would also make it easier to tie funding with performance – an increment in the school grant can be tied to learning achievement of students.
All private schools aided by the government can be immediately switched to this per-student formula. For government schools, it may be easier to require that all new schools be funded on a per-student basis. The principals and teachers of existing schools could have the option to switch to the new system that would also offer them more autonomy.
To help schools assess their performance, and also help parents to make an informed choice, the government should conduct or contract an independent agency for annual learning outcome assessment (including private schools).  The entire assessment data, along with information on infrastructure, staff, and financial allocations should be placed in the public domain, preferably online.  Private schools, just like companies, should be required to provide similar data so that relevant data about all schools would be available to parents in one place.
These reforms would give more autonomy to government schools, principals, and teachers, and also increase accountability.
2. Provide access to aspirational schools
The government of Uttaranchal has been running a scheme called Pahal where street children go to higher-fee private schools. In more than four years of the programme, a majority of the enrolled children have remained in the school. This is in contrast with the high dropout rates seen in earlier annual enrollment drives that brought children to government schools. This has been seen in the Delhi Voucher Project (CMS 2009, CCS 2009) as well as in many voluntary efforts.
The aspirational schools don’t have to be private schools – many government schools would also serve the purpose. They don’t have to be high-fee private schools – budget performing schools (BPS) such as Delhi Public Schools and Deepayala schools–are equally aspirational for many poor parents. So the scope is much wider than it may appear at first.
Marginalised and specific under-served groups such as migrant children, out of school children, street children, girl children, Scheduled Caste (SC)/ Scheduled Tribe (ST)/ Other Backward Classes (OBC), minorities such as Muslim children, differently-abled children, children of the poor, refugees, migrating tribes, prisoners and orphans are most likely to be left behind by the education system. Empowering them to go to aspirational schools through vouchers, cash transfers or charter/ community schools would be more effective for their educational achievements (Shah and Braun-Munzinger 2006; Saavendra and Garcia 2012).
The RTE Act has already reserved 25% seats in private schools to socially and economically disadvantaged students, for which the government would pay private schools. The challenge is to design a transparent, fair and accountable method to implement the 25% so that right students are selected, their learning outcomes are tracked, and also ensure that private schools are paid in time (Shah 2012).

The RTE’s recognition of the power of aspirational schools should be extended to go beyond the 25% reservation for the disadvantaged, starting first with the most marginalised and under-served children.

3. Make learning outcomes the central focus of regulation
The whole focus of RTE is on schooling inputs – ‘learning outcome’ or learning achievement’ does not appear even once in the whole Act on quality education for all! For brevity, I enumerate key reforms for making learning outcomes the primary focus of education regulations.
i. Conduct annual independent learning outcome assessment.

ii. Empower School Management Committees to monitor learning outcomes and take necessary action to achieve their targets. iii. Recognition of low fee, budget schools should be based more on learning outcomes than infrastructure norms. The Gujarat RTE Rules assign 85% weightage to learning and 15% to infrastructure norms.

iv. Open Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exams to all students, not only for students who study in CBSE affiliated schools. If learning is the focus then it should not matter which school the student attended – the student should get CBSE certificate if she passes the same exam.
4. Encourage ‘edu-preneurs’ to promote quality and equity through choice and competition
The legal and moral obligation of the government is to assure, not deliver, education to every child.Any monopoly service provider is unlikely to be very concerned about the customer. The education monopoly would serve the interests of the providers (bureaucracy, teachers and staff), not of the end-users of the service (parents and students). Competition among providers is necessary (Coulson 2008).  It also offers choices to parents and students.  Parental choice is the best way to determine education quality and also to keep the pressure for continuous improvement in quality (Shah 2009).
Below are a few suggestions:
i. Make entry easier by rationalising the license raj.
ii. Declare education an ‘industry’ for easier access to credit and venture capital fund.
iii. Offer schools (and colleges) the choice to be non-profit or for-profit, and treat for-profit ones as companies for disclosure and taxation norms.
iv. Apply the same standards to private and government schools. According to the law, government schools must meet the same norms as private schools, but this may or may not happen in practice since the law does not require that a government school be closed down or penalised for failing to meet the norms. The children of the poor go to government schools. This means that the government worries about the education quality of the children of the rich by requiring private schools to meet its standards, but feels that the poor should be grateful that they at least have a school to go to. The government treats the children of the poor as second-class citizens. This inequity must end – government schools must meet the same standards of quality by going through the same process of recognition. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), as a monitor of RTE, could be put in charge of this process since the department of education itself should not be. 
Concluding thoughts
The key mindset change necessary to implement many of the reforms is the role of the state in education.  It needs to change from controller to facilitator, from producer to financier, and from inspector to informer.
The role of the government is to liberate the supply side (facilitator role), fund the demand of the poor through vouchers, cash transfers and charter/ community schools (financier role), inform about the quality of education in schools and empower parents to make their own choices that are right for their children (informer role).

The state’s mantra should be not just the right to education but right to education of choice.


Education, Research and Innovation News from India


May 2013



Embassy of Switzerland in India


Welcome to the May 2013 edition of the Education, Research and Innovation news from India. Highlights in this issue include the development of an indigenous rotavirus vaccine and some information on the growth of multinational R&D centres in India. News on health, space, environment and energy are also covered. The range of information and topics covered in this newsletter will be gradually increased. If there are any topics you would particularly like to see covered, please let us know. You will find our contact details at the end of the newsletter.

 Happy reading!


India seeks to improve university rankings In a bid to woo more research, faculty members and foreign students to Indian universities, India is set to engage with international university ranking agencies and seek their expertise on improving the scanty presence of India’s higher education institutes in global ranking lists. In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings of 2012-13, there were only three Indian institutes in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, which was at 226-250. The other two were IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, only the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, figured in the top 500. India is working towards developing a knowledge economy and the absence of Indian institutions in the top 200 in global ranking lists is considered an embarrassment by the Indian authorities. They argue that there is no pint in being dismissive about rankings and the need of the hours is to understand why Indian institutions are not there. THE World University Rankings is one of the agencies engaging with India. It aims to increasing awareness about ranking, evaluations and global benchmarking; improving relationships with Indian universities; and helping institutes recognize their weaknesses besides assisting them in developing a strategy to overcome this. Currently a dozen Indian institutions participate in the THE rankins and it is expected that this number will increase to 30 in the coming years. In internationalizing the Indian education system, showcasing Indian institutions through high rankings could attract more students. Currently some 10,000 foreign students pursue higher education in India, of which a quarter study engineering and management and officials hope that this number could be multiplied several fold if the institutions were ranked higher.

To read more: http://www.swissinnovation.org/enews/201305/ST_NewsI_May_2013.pdf



Students pay bribe for Akhilesh laptops


Mail Today

Piyush Srivastava

26 June 2013

Corruption has no limits, at least in the  hinterland of Uttar Pradesh. The flagship scheme of Akhilesh Yadav government  meant to distribute free laptops to Class XII pass students of UP Board has  turned out to be a new means of minting money for college authorities across the  state.

There are complaints from almost every  district that college administrations are demanding bribes from students for  registering their names to avail the benefit.

Acting on most recent complaint from Amethi,  Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary constituency, a team of  district administration on Wednesday recovered Rs 1.58 lakh from the shelf of  Sri Brijraj Sahodar Degree College and arrested a clerk, Krishna Gopal, for  collecting Rs 1,000 each from newly admitted students for listing them to  receive a laptop. The chief minister is supposed to distribute it to these  students next month.

District magistrate of Amethi (Chhatrapati  Sahuji Maharaj Nagar) Jagatraj confirmed that the college authorities were  collecting Rs 1,000 from each student to register them to receive the laptop. 

“A clerk was arrested and the money has been  seized. Further inquiry has been ordered against the college authorities and  preliminary legal proceeding has been initiated,” he said.

“We were receiving complaints from students  that the college authorities were demanding bribes. So a team was constituted  under SDM Ajay Kumar and ASP Ravi Chaturvedi. The clerk was caught red-handed.  Many students have also registered their statements against the college  authorities,” he further said.

Similar cases were unearthed in almost every  district of the state, including Etawah, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar and  Lakhimpur Kheri, in the past.



The Challenges for India’s Education


Marie Lall, Chatham House

April 2005


This paper, the first in an occasional series on India’s education system, places the current issues facing education in India in a historical context. Since Independence, successive Indian governments have had to address a number of key challenges with regard to education policy, which has always formed a crucial part of its development agenda. The key challenges are:

improving access and quality at all levels of education;

increasing funding, especially with regard to higher education;

improving literacy rates.

Currently, while Indian institutes of management and technology are world-class,

primary and secondary schools, particularly in rural areas, face severe challenges.

While new governments commonly pledge to increase spending on education and

bring in structural reforms, this has rarely been delivered in practice.

Most of the changes undertaken by the previous BJP-led government were aimed at

reforming the national curricula, and have been criticized for attempting to ‘Hindu-ize’

India’s traditionally secular education system.

Improving the standards of education in India will be a critical test for the current

Congress-led government. It will need to resolve concerns over the content of the

curriculum, as well as tackling the underlying challenges to education.


India’s education system turns out millions of graduates each year, many skilled in IT and engineering. This manpower advantage underpins India’s recent economic advances, but masks deepseated problems within India’s education system. While India’s demographics are generally perceived to give it an edge over other countries’ economies (India will have a youthful population when other countries have ageing populations), if this advantage is restricted to a small, highly educated elite, the domestic political ramifications could be severe.

With 35 per cent of the population under the age of 15, India’s education system faces numerous challenges. Successive governments have pledged to increase spending on education to 6 per cent of GDP, but actual spending has hovered around 4 per cent for the last few years. While, at the top end, India’s business schools, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and universities produce globally competitive graduates, primary and secondary schools, particularly in rural areas, struggle to find staff. Indian governments have seen education as a crucial development tool. The first part of this paper provides a historical perspective on the development of the education system in India, highlighting the changing emphases within government policy. Since Independence, the education policies of successive governments have built on the substantial legacies of the Nehruvian period, targeting the core themes of plurality and secularism, with a focus on excellence in higher education, and inclusiveness at all levels. In reaching these goals, the issue of funding has become problematic; governments have promised to increase state spending while realizing the economic potential of bringing in private-sector financial support. The second part of this paper examines how recent governments have responded to these challenges, which have remained largely unchanged since Nehru’s era, despite the efforts of past governments and commissions to reform the Indian education system. Attention will be paid to more recent policy initiatives, both those of the previous BJP-led administration and the proposals of the current Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. It will become clear that the same difficulties that existed nearly sixty years ago remain largely unsolved today – for example, the need to safeguard access to education for the poorest and most disenfranchised communities of India.

To read more: http://www.streetchildren.org.uk/_uploads/Publications/3_challenges_for_indias_education.pdf


Major gains for SCs, STs in education sector: Govt


Times of India



NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday said there has been major gains in the education sector for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and people with disabilities since the implementation of Right to Education Act.

There has been a significant drop in the number of out-of-school SC children from 8.2 per cent in 2005 to 5.9 per cent in 2009.

Similarly there has been a reduction in the percentage of out-of-school ST children from 9.5 per cent in 2005 to 5.2 per cent in 2009, HRD minister MM Pallam Raju said.

Addressing the national monitoring committee for education of SCs, STs and persons with disabilities, he said his ministry has earmarked over Rs 12,000 crore under SC sub plan and over Rs 6,000 crore under tribal sub plan for 2013-14.

Over 93 per cent of the identified children with special needs have been covered through various strategies under RTE, he said.


Wealthy parents grab seats meant for RTE students


Times of India

17 june 2013


BANGALORE: Name: Farhan Pasha. Father’s name:  Tajamulla Pasha. Annual income: Rs 30,000. These are entries from an admission form submitted under  RTE at a private school in Bangalore. Flipping through some of these documents, one is led to the income certificate of Tajamulla Pasha. According to the official certificate, the annual income of Pasha’s family is Rs 21,000, and not Rs 30,000 as declared by the head of the family during the admission. In another instance, a family living in a rented accommodation has its child studying under general quota in a school, while the landlord’s ward is studying under RTE quota in the same institution.

“Despite renting out three such houses and owning a cloth business, the landlord’s family produced an income certificate of Rs 15,000 per annum. They came to us for admission through the Block Education Officer. It was only after a few months of admitting the child that we were informed about the family’s actual financial status by neighbours and parents of one of the students who stay as tenants in that building,” said the principal of a private school on the condition of anonymity.

Some well-to-do families are producing fake income certificates and walking away with RTE seats. This, private schools say, has marred the RTE’s core objective.

‘These parents come in posh cars’

A spokesman for the private school managements said businessmen, doctors, bankers, landlords and shop owners have admitted their children under the RTE quota for free-of-cost education by faking income details. These parents come in swanky cars and flaunt gold jewellery, he said.

“Where are the underprivileged kids,” asked the chief of another school in the city. The school with four children under the RTE quota says these kids are anything but underprivileged. “Their parents come in cars and two-wheelers to drop and pick them up from the school. The income limit in the state under RTE is Rs 3.5 lakh, but even a family falling in that bracket cannot afford to have a luxurious life like them,” said the school principal. According to the schools, kids of fathers driving posh cars and mothers loaded with gold jewellery are the ones who have got through RTE. “These are the people who can easily afford to send their kids to the private school in general quota. I’m a teacher by profession. Although my child does not fall under the RTE quota, I cannot afford to lead a life like that. The act is being misused.These parents are from anywhere but a deprived part of the society,” said a teacher at one of the private schools.

Apart from faking income, faking age and passing on wrong information have diluted the RTE cause. “We have a child in class I under RTE who has walked in here after studying till class II in some other school,” said another school principal

Fake certificates

According to LR Shivarame Gowda, president o f the Karnataka Private Schools Joint Action Committee (KAPJAC), more than 40% of the applications that they have received across various schools in Karnataka have fake income certificates attached. “I have cases where doctors have come up with an income certificate of Rs 30,000 per annum to grab a seat under the RTE. Out of 1,00,500 applications that we received, only 80,000 got confirmed. The rest were so obviously fake that the education department put them on hold. According to me, RTE quota should be only for BPL card holders and not for those who are earning Rs 3.5 lakh per annum. It defeats the purpose of the act,” said Gowda.

Genuine takers

The Right to Education Act 2009 is still brining about paradigmatic changes in the education sector, notwithstanding its abuse by some and foot-dragging by stakeholders like the government and private schools. TOI profiles two students in whose lives the RTE has made all the difference.

Mohina , Oasis International School While playing on the velvet slide installed in her classroom, Mohina (name changed) easily gets along with other kids. The three-year-old has started going to school recently and is already her teacher’s favourite. “She is very smart and catches her lessons very fast,” said Naveeda Akhtar, head of Oasis International School, Cox Town.

“I am very happy for my daughter. All thanks to RTE, she has got in a good school. I can see a bright future awaiting Mohina,” says Adbdul Rahim, Mohina’s father. A carpenter by profession, Rahim says if not for RTE, Mohina would have either not gone to a school or would have joined a government school.

“I am almost jobless for a year now. I was operated for appendicitis and I had to shut down my furniture shop later. But I want Mohina to get a good life,” says Rahim.

Mohina has a set routine now. “Earlier she used to loiter around, but now she goes to school every day at 12.30 pm and comes back at 2,” says Rahim.

“My mother goes to houses in the morning to work,” says Shabana M, a five-year-old studying in New Citizen School, Kushalnagar, East Bangalore.

Shabana’s mother is the only breadwinner in the family of four. “I am very happy. My daughter is going to a good school and is studying through English medium. I am sure her life will change after this,” says Shabana’s mother, thanking RTE. “If not for this rule, my daughter would have either gone to a Kannada-medium school or would have accompanied me on work,” she says.


Keep Off Education


Economic & Political Weekly

Vol – XLVIII  No. 23,   June 08, 2013

Today it is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to privatise its schools, tomorrow it may be the resolution of all the other municipalities of the country.

I am grateful to Simantini Dhuru and Prachi Salve for sharing data which they obtained under the Right to Information Act, as also the Mumbai Shikshan Kampanikaran Virodhi Abhiyan, which is fi ghting against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to privatise its schools.

Neo-liberal policies have not delivered on any of their promises. Indeed, they have aggravated India’s age-old problems of inequality, unemployment, caste and communalism, to name a few. Yet, the ruling classes hold them up as a proven panacea. A key neo-liberal policy thrust is the release of services, traditionally provided by the state, to private capital. The state, in turn, uses its might against those who feel the heat of this transformation. The public utilities and infrastructure are now largely in private hands, and the state has turned its attention to education, the most critical instrument in the social transformation of any society. The process has been underway in higher education and now the rulers have begun to deva­state school education, particularly for the downtrodden strata. A decision taken at the beginning of this year by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to hand over its schools to private parties, this within the framework of the much-flaunted public-private partnership (PPP) model, is a case in point.

Auctioning the BMC Schools

BMC, the richest municipal corporation in India, provides free education to nearly 4,00,000 children enrolled in around 1,174 schools with 11,500 teachers imparting education in eight mediums. Besides, BMC runs 18 schools for the mentally challenged and 55 Mumbai Public Schools offering education in English medium. The BMC spends around 8% to 9% of its income on education; its planned spend this year is Rs 2,342 crore, 65% more than the previous year. Its expense per student at Rs 36,750 for its schools is among the highest in the country. The number of students attending BMC schools has been falling over the years. It fell from 4,20,440 in 2007-08 to 3,85,657 in 2011-12. It is the poorest of the very poor who send their children to BMC schools. Even the so-called class IV employees, for example, sweepers and helpers working in BMC schools, do not send their children to these schools. Mumbai, the so-called “Urbs Prima of India”, the first city of India, accounting for more than 33% of the nation’s tax collection and the highest per capita income of Rs 65,361 in the country, more than twice the country’s average of Rs 29,382, has more than four million people earning less than Rs 20 a day. It is these people mainly belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs/STs), Other Backward Classes, Muslims and Christians who send their children to BMC schools.

On 23 January this year, the BMC, without consulting the parents of these children or the teachers in these schools, the major stakeholders, decided to auction its schools to private bidders under the euphemism of PPP, admittedly based on studies by the World Bank and Depart­ment for International Development (DFID). This is the first time in the country that a constitutional entity has decided to renounce its constitutional obligation and hand over its schools to private parties. Nonetheless, it had a nice sounding objective of giving an opportunity to poor children to get higher quality education with the support of organisations that had a record of “excellent work” in the educational field, charitable trusts and private companies.

The schools are to be auctioned to well-established corporate houses that would enter into memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with entities that have been recognised for their work in the “technical or educational field”. The process would be managed under the existing MoU bet­ween the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and BMC for conducting the “School Enhancement Programme” (initiated by UNICEF and McKinsey & Company since 2009, and having non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Akanksha, Aseema and Nandi Foundation on board). Neither the BMC provided any reasons for its failure to impart quality education nor did it provide any justification for its assumption that the private partner, with dubious credentials, will accomplish what it could not despite being experienced for more than 125 years. It has not even taken contrary evidence available through its own experience of the running of one of its schools by an NGO into account. For instance, a school run by Akanksha, important enough to be on the Board of the School Enhancement Programme, in the Cotton Green area of Mumbai, was found to have only one qualified teacher to teach the classes from one to eight. It basically drew its teachers from its Teach India Project, under which employees of companies took a sabbatical of a kind to teach in schools.

Private Profits at Public Cost

The PPP as a concept is not new but as a model serving the object of privatisation without public resistance it is to be attri­buted to the genius of neo-liberals. It only requires the state to rehearse its concern for the development of the down­trodden and plead lack of resources and failure to attain productive efficiency. The main selling proposition beyond the paucity of resources is that the private sector is intrinsically efficient. PPP has been pop­ular with rulers all over the world as it facilitates the transfer of huge public resources to private hands with contractual sieves that leak significant benefits to them. PPP has become a default vehicle for most infrastructural projects in recent years. In India, the PPP first appeared in the election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)/National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999. The NDA government had formed a committee in the office of Prime Minister Atal Bihari ­Vajpayee to apply the PPP model in various fields. Later, this committee was transfer­red to the Planning Commission. In 2004, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, the same committee continued to function and submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In September 2007, Manmohan Singh, while presiding over a meeting of the Planning Com­mission, declared that initiatives at all levels of education shall be through PPP. Since then, in the Eleventh and Twelfth Five-Year Plans, there has been a rush of corporate houses, NGOs and religious organisations to grab public assets in the educational system.

The charity of the state in favour of private players includes grant of lands either free or at hugely subsidised rates, grants for building infrastructure, subsidised provision of electricity, water and bus service, exemption in income tax, payments of fees of students belonging to the SC/ST category, huge opportunities for outsourcing, etc. There is no evidence yet of any expertise being marshalled by the private players to whom huge public assets are devolved. The value of the BMC’s 11,500 schools, for instance, could easily run into thousands of crores of rupees.

Private education has been around in the country for years but whatever islands of quality education that exist have all been in the public sector. The overwhelming presence of private institutions could not produce a single institution to match the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Jawaharlal Nehru University or the University of Delhi. In the neo-liberal din, it is not even admitted that until the early 1970s, quality education was associated with only government institutions. It is only with the advent of increasing competition in politics that the academic autonomy of the schools was breached and they became subservient to the political bosses. These very BMC schools were famed for quality education and have produced scores of illustrious people. J B G Tilak of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, after analysing the plan for setting up 2,500 model schools in the PPP mode under the Eleventh Plan, has rightly concluded that notwithstanding the claim that PPP is not privatisation and the promotion of the profit motive, the plan will surely promote the opposite – privatisation and a high degree of commercialisation, albeit with a difference, namely, with the utilisation of public funds (The Hindu, 24 May 2010).

No Tradable Service

The neo-liberal juggernaut has reduced what were once public services into trad­able commodities. It sees education as a tradable service to transform raw youth into wage labour as a feedstock for its ­capitalist machine. But pedagogy is too hallowed to be treated as such. Universally, education is regarded as an instrument of social change. Our founding fathers saw education as an equaliser and sought to include it among the fundamental rights in the Constitution. Unfortunately they could not do so and education remained confined to the area of Directive Principles (not legally binding on the state). Nonetheless, they had stipulated a time limit of 10 years to accomplish education for all children up to the age of 14. Our rulers however disregarded it until they were shaken up by the Supreme Court judgment in the Unnikrishnan case in 1993 treating education as a part of the fundamental right to life vide Article 21. But the so-called right to education they passed in 2009 is only trickery; it violates the spirit of the Constitution by excluding the most vulnerable children between 0 and 6 years and legitimises the multi­layered educational system. Rather, in view of the alarming degree of malnutrition of pregnant women, the state should be obligated to provide healthcare so that no child is born with an inborn handicap.

The first Education Commission (1964-66), the Kothari Commission, had obser­ved that realisation of the country’s aspirations involves changes in the knowledge, skills, interests and values of the people as a whole. This is basic to every programme of social and economic betterment of which India stands in need. It made a profound observation: “If this change on a grand scale is to be achieved without violent revolution (and even then it would still be necessary), there is one instrument, and one instrument only that can be used, Education.” It envisaged free and compulsory education through a common neighbourhood school system for all children following in the spirit of the Constitution. Even if this simple dictum had been heeded by the rulers, many of India’s evils would have been overcome. I will argue that if the state had ensured that no child is born with the handicap of malnutrition and every child received the same education, there would not have been the need for reservation and thereby the constitutional castes.

Today it is BMC; tomorrow it will be the entire country. We must say a firm no to the privatisation of education.


Suspended Lucknow University courses may be revived


Times of India

May 16, 2013

LUCKNOW: Lucknow University may revive courses suspended last year on account of less number of students opting for them. In a meeting held under the chairmanship of A K Sengupta with deans of all faculties as its members, the university will review the 67 courses suspended last year.

Sengupta said the committee will see the academic and financial viability of these courses. “We will also take measures to improve the quality of programmes to make them more employable,” he said. The committee will submit its report to the vice-chancellor on May 18.

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