Amir Jacques Soofi Writes a Letter to the Prime Minister


The Prime Minister of India

Subject: Request to improve quality of education in India through proper implementation of PPP model.

Respected Sir,

I would like to pull your attention towards various researches and studies carried out in India and outside about improving the quality of education. The PPP model is in fashion now-a-days. And after passing Right to Education Bill, government should seriously look forward to this option.  I recently wrote a blog titled “Public Private Partnership for quality education in India” and reproducing the same here. Though I am not any economist or in teaching profession and thus don’t rate myself qualified enough to advise you or to help you instead what I am trying to do is to give my perspective. I am myself a student and can’t take more this exacerbating condition of education in India. I myself have studied into one of the government school and I am well aware of the ineptness and inefficiency of public schools.

Public Private Partnership For Quality Education In India

He, who opens a school door, closes a prison. ~Victor Hugo

Basic framework to be used here

In 1970, Albert O. Hirschman, wrote a treatise named Exit, Voice and Loyalty in which he explained what a consumer generally do when she meets a waning quality of goods or services. The rudimentary notion is: “members of an organization, whether a business, a nation or any other form of human grouping, have essentially two possible responses when they perceive that the organization is demonstrating a decrease in quality or benefit to the member: they can exit (withdraw from the relationship); or, they can voice (attempt to repair or improve the relationship through communication of the complaint, grievance or proposal for change)”.

Theorizing educational establishment analogous to ‘Exit’ and ‘Voice’ permits the scrutiny of how the role of the market and civic influence the access to and standard of education.

Why need arose for partnership between Private and Public Sector?

“A poor surgeon hurts 1 person at a time. A poor teacher hurts 130.”  ~Ernest Leroy Boyer

It is well recognized that education is a precondition for the progression and development of a modern and evenhanded socio-economic order. It is indispensable for empowering and facilitating the poor to participate more fully in a democratic polity that identifies parity of opportunity as one of its esteemed objectives. For these reasons, education, especially school education, is regarded as the obligation of the government and the enactment of the Right to Education Act of late is a step in that direction. The challenges facing the state with regard to the universal provision of education are becoming conspicuous in a number of areas.

Firstly, failure of state schools to provide adequate and acceptable level of education has forced parents to go for alternatives, either by exiting the system or by raising voice. Secondly, there is a disparity between the quality of education provided by State and Non-state players signifying the need for regulating the sector. Thirdly, there is a mounting commercial interest in the educational sector with an upsurge in new providers who are transmogrifying the topography of the education sector.

Second query that arises in mind is why government schools are failing to provide quality education?

Findings of Muralidharan and Kremer (2006) and the Pratham ASER report (2005) states that Private-school teacher salaries in rural India are typically less than one-fifth the salary of regular public-school teachers (and are often as low as one-tenth as much).  This enables the private schools to hire more teachers, have much lower pupil-teacher ratios, and reduce multi-grade teaching. Teachers of private schools are 2-8 percentage points less absent than teachers in public schools and 6-9 percentage points more likely to be engaged in teaching activity at any given point in time. Combining the effects of a lower pupil-teacher ratio and a higher level of teaching activity leads to a child in a private school having 3-4 times more “teacher-contact time” than in a public school in the same village. Private schools also start teaching English significantly earlier, which is something that parents repeatedly say they value in interviews.  Finally, children in private schools have higher attendance rates and superior test score performance. However, despite the very low salaries, the private school teachers are less absent and more likely to be engaged in teaching activity.  One reason for this is likely to be that head teachers in private school are much more likely (and able) to take disciplinary action against shirking teachers than their counterparts in the public schools.

The indirect financial costs imposed by the state schooling system, such as uniforms and extra private tuition (“if you have to pass, then you must attend my tuition classes after school”), is another major cause of exclusion of children from poor communities. Another related cause is the expulsion of children from education due to their inability to meet the demands of accreditation imposed by the State sector. The ‘voice’ action generally isn’t used as people don’t want to get into any mess especially when lesser risky option of ‘exit’ is available. People don’t send their children to a system; the unit that matters is school. The private schools then come as a bolt hole.

Despite their superior performance, most of the private schools are not getting recognitions as state authorities demanding certain standards to be matched to get recognition in terms of greater teacher salaries, higher teacher-student ratio and the likes. The much known Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme was called off by state authorities even after its outstanding performance by quoting issue of illegitimacy of space occupied in a public territory is a concrete example of how the state regarded the NGO not as an equal but a lesser entity in the provision of education and undermines the position of the NGO.

The propensity of private institutions to regard local feat as curiosity without envisioning a greater dream of social makeover has forestalled any prolonged endeavour beyond the duration of a specific project. These are some of the reasons why private and public players cannot transform the whole education by working in seclusion.

The line of reasoning for these partnerships was to bring in the management practices of the private sector into the public sector and mend competitiveness and upturn efficacy. The understanding was that this would make public disbursement more effective and in some cases would entice financial investment from the private sector. Joint ventures in education have been obsessed by the need for more finances to run under the weather school system not counting the need to improve the quality of provision through hovering management standards in schools.

The challenge for policy was, therefore, to mull over ways by which the superior efficiency, suppleness, and culpability of the private sector can be leveraged for improved educational upshot for all children.

“I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers.”        ~Woody Allen

How to weave the fabric?

The founding fathers… provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called education. School is where you go between when your parents can’t take you and industry can’t take you. ~John Updike, The Centaur

PPP is already being espoused in several infrastructure development sectors, such as the development of airports, railways, roads, and so on. But, going by media reports, these have variegated aftereffects.

So what should be the basic framework of such a partnership in case of education?

The state and non-state players should know their roles individually. They should come together, stitch things together in such a way that magnifies the impact. There is no need to reinvent something new except a will to provide a quality education to all. Feasible and ambitious goals should be set, accountability should be ensured and steps should be taken slowly, smartly and steadily.

In Eleventh Five Year Plan, PPP has been proposed as an important strategy in the case of education. The concept of PPP as explained by Ministry of HRD is:

PPP  in  school  education  is  essentially  an  arrangement  where  the  private sector  partner  participates  in  the  provision  of services  traditionally  provided by  the  government.  It  is  usually  characterized  by  an  agreement  between  the government  and  the  private  sector,  with  the  latter  undertaking  to  deliver  an agreed  service  on  the  payment  of  a  unitary  charge  by  the  government.

The Plan has proposed the setting up of 6,000 new model schools in secondary education, affiliated to the CBSE. Of these, 2,500 are to be covered under the PPP model. The plan is to set up these schools in the rearward regions and far-flung areas where decent schooling facilities do not exist, so that quality education is accessible in the backward regions as well.

According to the model finalised by the Planning Commission in consultation with the private sector, these schools will be set up by 2014 and will have the capacity to educate 65 lakh students, of whom 25 lakh will be from the deprived sections. Each school will have about 2,500 students, 1,000 of whom will be from shabby sections and charged a nominal fee. Fifty per cent of the 1,000 students will be from the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes. They will be required to pay a monthly fee of Rs.25 each. The rest of the children, who will be from other deprived sections — non-income tax paying families — will be required to pay a fee of Rs.50 a month. The remaining costs of these students, estimated to be 1,000 to 1,200 rupees a head per month, will be reimbursed by the Union government to the schools. It is estimated that the government will have to pay 10,500 crore rupees until 2017. The amount is likely to go up with escalating prices, in general, and increasing costs of education, in particular.

Over and above this, the schools may get access to relevant funds from the Centre and the State governments under different schemes. The schools will be free to admit anyone to the remaining 1,500 seats and charge any amount of fee.

Corporate companies with a minimum net worth of 25 lakh rupees are eligible to set up schools under this model. Each entity should deposit 50 lakh with the government for the first school it proposes to set up, and 25 lakh rupees per additional school. Each can set up as many as 25 schools. Non-profit companies with prior experience in education need to deposit 25 lakh rupees for each school. The schools will need to have the sort of infrastructure available in the best private schools.

-The Hindu

Problems to be played against?

“Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.”  ~Aristotle

The development of this new form of establishment has heralded counsel that developing countries might embark on these ventures to improve educational access and quality in their school sector (Patrinos, 2005). However there are concerns that the all set offering of this new model of education provision might be expeditious at best and off beam at wickedest.

Firstly, because there has been an insufficient evaluation of the public-private partnerships that have been established. What appraisal has been undertaken indicates that the conjectural framework for PPPs is weak, for case in point, the drawing together of public and private providers without due regard about whether their objectives had considerable intersection or even an element of scuffle raises doubts about the viability of such arrangements.

Also, it appears that political ideology and social policy played a momentous role in carving partnerships and the clout of economic and educational arguments in these models might be questionable (Common, 2000). A meticulous and vigilant consideration of the economics and politics that lie beneath this form of provision of education should be given for any prescription which is meant for advancing the case of public-private partnership. Nevertheless, the model has been put forward as a “panacea to ills of the Indian state school system” by World Bank but this exercise must be  undertaken within the context of the shifting terrain of Indian education instead of a ‘one-size fits all’ approach.

Secondly, the non-state programmes that work with the government have had varied experiences of the effectiveness and/or sustainability of such rendezvous and often regard such nexus as a necessary but obnoxious requisite of their work. The unwillingness of the state to relinquish its control over education provision and to give way to non-state providers is regarded as a major stumbling block. The engagements between state and non-state providers have been circumscribed due to the low regard in which non-state providers are held.

The objective of PPP should be to bring together the respective potency of the public and private sectors to complement each other in pursuit of the shared goal of good education for all. In particular, adoption of the PPP mode would lead to rapid expansion of access to world-class education by low-income families. To ensure inclusive growth and an equitable socio-economic order, affirmative action is necessary to accelerate the provision of quality education to those who have hitherto lacked access.

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.” ~ You Said a Mouthful, Ronald D. Fuchs

Yours faithfully,

Amir Jacques Soofi

Image Courtesy: [The Viewspaper]

Disclaimer: The above article is the personal opinion of the author and not of the publication.