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Fwd: School education can only be served by non-market institutional structures

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    From: *karmayog - tanya* http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/vuQ6FkKO7o3HoPeI2SMF5O/Cost-of-privatized-education.html Cost of privatized education Even countries
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 18, 2013
      From: karmayog - tanya


      Cost of privatized education

      Even countries completely committed to free markets and a dominant role for
      the private sector, have a public system for schooling

      Anurag Behar

      First Published: Wed, Apr 17 2013. 04 13 PM IST

      Sometime in January this year, Mint displayed a graphics about good and bad
      things that have occurred in India in the past decade. The increase in the
      number of private schools was depicted prominently as a good development.
      This is not a valid claim. The increase in the percentage of private
      schools, i.e., the effective privatization of school education, is not a
      positive development. It will not help solve India's education problem.

      The belief that private schools perform better persists in spite of
      evidence, systemic experience and theory. Mint is just another voice echoing
      this dominant belief in India. As a relevant aside, in India, education
      cannot be a for-profit enterprise legally, but the reality is that rare is
      the private school that is not-for-profit.

      First, consistent evidence across the world, including India, shows that
      private schools do not necessarily perform better than public schools. The
      difference in student learning levels between private and public schools
      arises primarily from differences in socioeconomic background of their
      students (relatively privileged ones go to private schools), selection of
      students (private institutions select one's who are already able) and other
      additional support factors outside the school (tuition, going through
      pre-school etc). In simple terms, this means that private schools in
      themselves do not do a better job at education than public schools.

      This dominant belief and public perception about superiority of private
      schools is also influenced by superficial markers of quality that are more
      social in nature-such as wearing ties and good shoes, "good" classmates,
      "English medium" etc.,-rather than educational. This view is then validated
      by the seemingly better performance of students from private schools. What
      is hidden, and it needs a fair bit of persistent digging to get to the
      truth, is that this difference in student performance does not arise from
      the school but from extraneous factors. Serious, well-designed research
      unravels this. Let me list three readings which you can glance through. I am
      deliberately listing three which are obviously not from any kind of
      ideologically "anti-privatization" group.

      The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment has comprehensive
      cross-country view of this issue; a brief abstract is available at

      IDFC's 2012 report on private sector in education in India, has an
      interesting wide-ranging discussion in its fifth chapter titled, Every Child
      in School and Learning Well in India: Investigating the Implications of
      School Provision and Supplemental Help, that has been written by Rukmini
      Banerji and Wilima Wadhwa. Those with academic interest may look at
      Relationship between private schooling and achievement: Results from Rural
      and Urban India by Amita Chudgar and Elizabeth Quin in the journal Economics
      of Education Review.

      On the one hand, private schools don't do a better job of providing
      individual access to good quality school education, on the other hand, a
      substantially private (for-profit) schooling system works at cross purposes
      to the societal goals of education, hardening socioeconomic differences and

      That education enhances peoples' earnings in the marketplace is well-known.
      But education also has substantial non-economic aims and outcomes that
      benefit society, e.g., enhancing equity, supporting values of democratic
      citizenship, contributing to reduction of prejudice and discrimination,
      among others. Left to the private, especially for-profit sector to provide
      these, too little will be provided; of too poor a quality and often not to
      those who need it the most.

      The social, quasi-public good, nature of school education is compounded by
      the information asymmetry between the provider and consumer and the very
      long-term nature of outcomes of schooling. Because of these characteristics
      and aims, school education can only be served by non-market institutional

      Let's look at the extent of privatization of basic schooling across
      countries in terms of percentage of students attending private schools.
      These are the rounded-off numbers: the US 9%, Japan 6%, South Korea 2%,
      Scandinavia 1%, the UK 6%, France 14%, Germany 4%, China 4%, all OECD 10%.
      The world average for basic schooling (up to age 14) is about 14%. The
      number for India is 25% and growing rapidly; our contribution is what is
      pushing up the global average. We are global champions of privatization in
      schooling-by a long margin.

      Even countries completely committed to free markets and a dominant role for
      the private sector, have a public system for schooling. Shouldn't we pause
      and reflect on the monumental mistake we are making as a country?

      This problem has been created by us as a society and not by private schools.
      The solution therefore does not lie in stifling them. The only solution to
      India's problem of education is in improving our public schooling system.
      This will require hard, sustained effort for decades and substantially
      higher investment.

      But what we see with schools is merely one aspect of a deeper problem: the
      widespread abandonment of public systems in all spheres.in healthcare, in
      water and environment.

      Anurag Behar is CEO of Azim Premji Foundation and also leads sustainability
      initiatives for Wipro Ltd. He writes every fortnight on issues of ecology
      and education. Comments are welcome at othersphere@.... To read
      Anurag Behar's previous columns, go to www.livemint.com/othersphere-

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