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Discussion Map

In this feature, we map the discussion around Pankaj S Jain and Ravindra H Dholakia’s article “Feasibility of Implementation of Right to Education Act,” about the practicality of using Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) like low cost private schools as significant instruments in the implementation of the RTE.

 

PANKAJ S JAIN AND RAVINDRA H DHOLAKIA, 2009

IMPLEMENTING THE RTE

 

The authors analyse the proposed implementation of the RTE act and suggest improvements.

 

Meeting the goal of universal schooling of all of India’s children under an education budget of 6% of GDP is not possible if all school education is through government schools and all the teachers are to be paid salary as recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission.

There are only three ways in which the government can pay to all teachers a salary recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission. First, the education budget can be raised much beyond 6% of GDP, to above 15% of GDP on a sustained basis. This is neither feasible nor practicable …  Second, the government can keep the budget allocation at 6% of GDP, but then cover much less than the universal coverage of children under primary and secondary schools. The provisions of RTE will rule out this option … The only remaining alternative, therefore, is to pursue the goal of universal school coverage through public-private partnership (PPP) in which low cost private providers of school education, who pay much lower teacher salary, cover a significant part of school education.

As it happens, many studies have brought out that private/non-government schools can supply a reasonable quality of school education at almost 25% to 35% of the cost of government education.

The Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) of Madhya Pradesh, Shiksha Karmi programme of Rajasthan and Alternative School (AS)/Centres under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) have all been funded by the government to provide education to disadvantaged communities … Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE)/SSA can be strengthened to ensure higher quality educational outcomes, at least comparable to or exceeding the educational outcomes in regular government schools.

 
VIMALA RAMACHANDRAN, 2009

COST VERSUS QUALITY

 

The author takes issue with the suggestion that low cost private schools or other alternative schools can replace mainstream government funded primary schools.

 

The early years of schooling from pre-primary right up to the end of the primary cycle are the most important phase of a child’s development, where the foundations for life-long learning is built. It is at this stage that we need highly competent and sensitive teachers, who can stimulate creativity and nurture and build innate intellectual abilities.

The economic and social background of the children determines what kind of schools they go to and with lower investment in government primary schools, the poorest would be the hardest hit and within them children from disadvantaged social groupsespecially, Dalit, tribal and new migrants in rural and urban areas.

Substituting government primary schools with AS/AIE will affect the poor. The middle class and the rich will continue to access regular schools with qualified teachers for their children—thereby further reducing the chance of the poor ever competing with them in any sphere.

As of now we do not have a clear picture of the nature and spread of private schools in rural and remote areas and even in urban/peri-urban slums. The little work done in this sphere shows that private schools in these areas are little more than poorly resourced teaching shops, where children learn little and the schools themselves are ramshackle, and in many areas, unsafe.

Recent surveys have shown that the percentage of students opting to go to private schools has been steadily increasing and it is the most marginalised, and among them girls, who continue to enrol and attend government schools. If the people who can pay opt out of government schools for a variety of reasons, then the case for increasing per child investment in government primary schools (and further, middle school and high school) becomes all the more compelling.

The right to education is not about optimal allocation of funds between different sectors of educationit is about ensuring that every single child has access to education of comparable quality at all levels.

 
PADMA M SARANGAPANI, 2009

DISCREPANCIES IN METHODOLOGY

 

The author raises concerns with the methodology used by Jain and Dholakia to ascertain the quality of education in their suggested alternative schools.


 

They draw upon some recent studies to claim that budget private schools have demonstrated their ability to provide quality education at considerably low teacher salary levels. The argument is provocative because it is not Milton Friedman’s “in principle” argument that contests the need for the State to monopolise education provisioning, which is better served by the market.

This realisation could lead one to conclude that, therefore, a larger proportion of the GDP must be allocated for education, and in particular, for elementary education, which is the fundamental right … However, Jain and Dholakia follow an international trend of targeting the teacher’s salary, by first calculating the “feasible” pay for teachers.

It must be noted that an institutional provision of effective instruction to support the acquisition of literacy and numeracy through three hours of daily engagement adjusted around child labour schedules, does not amount to being a school … Schools need to provide for holistic all-round development of children; this requires adequate space and facilities, time to be spent at school, a sound curriculum, and qualified teachers who can ensure that children have worthwhile learning and development experiences and opportunities.

Jain and Dholakia follow another international trend of recognising only “government and private” as the two categories of “ownership”, blurring significant distinctions that were contained in the terminology prevalent till the mid-1990s of “voluntary” and “charitable” organisations in this country.

The desirability of the education on offer in private schools should also be a matter of concern, when we realise that in Tooley’s model, the commodity that is on offer in the market is “educational opportunity” and not education per se. This means that the onus on the private provider is only the provision of education, and not the responsibility or task of ensuring that children become educated.

Read the article.

PANKAJ S JAIN AND RAVINDRA H DHOLAKIA, 2010

JAIN AND DHOLAKIA RESPOND

 

The original authors respond to the critiques, highlighting that none have given the 6% limit in GDP expenditure its due consideration.
 

None of the critiques have questioned the basic validity of our conclusion that not even an allocation of 6% of the GDP as education budget would be able to provide universal school education coverage through government schools.

Sarangapani supports reliance on the government school system with teachers being paid high regular scale salaries, as the only instrumentality of universal school education. According to her, if this entails allocating more than 6% of the GDP towards education, so be it.

Of the three illustrative examples in support of our suggestion, the first, Gyan Shala, invites Sarangapani’s rejection on grounds of being non-formal. But this programme’s curriculum follows the state/national norms, and, in fact, is more advanced.

Sarangapani is very harsh on the conclusion of Tooley et al (2007) cited by us … Research in social sciences rarely provides “uncontestable universal proof” of the type feasible in pure sciences, so Sarangapani can point to some of its limitations, but the methodology and evidence used by Tooley et al, no doubt, stand the test of quality social science research.

It is interesting to note that Sarangapani provides absolutely no evidence to show that government schools are capable of providing or are providing the required quality of education that would justify the claim that they can be the only instrument of policy to meet national educational goals.

Sarangapani and Ramachandran disregard the fact that the officially recommended level of school teacher salary in India is almost 400% higher than in most countries that have succeeded in achieving universal schooling, including most western countries and China.

We are not making a case for the voucher scheme wherein government funds education in private schools. We are arguing for the involvement of privately managed schools in the PPP mode, where they are held accountable for the results as per socially approved criterion.

Read the article.

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