Private Education in India

by on January 3, 2006 at 7:13 am in Economics | Permalink

Sebastian Mallaby has a good column on the explosion in private schooling in India and the implications for theories of development:

More than four out of five Indian engineering students attend
private colleges, whose potential growth seems limitless. …

Something similar is happening to the Indian
school system…Since the early 1990s the percentage of 6-to-14-year-olds
attending private school has jumped from less than a tenth to roughly a
quarter of the total in that cohort, according to India’s National
Council of Applied Economic Research. And this number may be on the low
side. James Tooley of the University of Newcastle in Britain has found
that in some Indian slums about two-thirds of the children attend
private schools, many of which are not officially recognized and so may
escape the attention of nationwide surveys.

The causes of this
private-school explosion shed interesting light on debates about
development, not just in India but throughout the poor world. The
standard assumption among anti-poverty campaigners is that education
leads to development…the recent private-education boom in India shows how causality can also
flow the other way…Since India embraced the
market in the early 1990s, parents have acquired a reason to invest in
education; they have seen the salaries in the go-go private sector, and
they want their children to have a shot at earning them… Once parents understand that education buys their kids into the new
India, they demand it so avidly that public money for schoolrooms
becomes almost superfluous.

… Apparently unconnected development policies —
cuts in tariffs and oppressive business regulation, or projects to
build roads and power grids — can sometimes stimulate new educational
enrollment at least as much as direct investments in colleges or
schools.

See my earlier post for some more references.

I know that we have a number of readers in and from India so comments are open if you have further information.

1 Gyan January 3, 2006 at 7:49 am

The rise in private school attendence basically pertains to newer urban locales. In Bombay, most of the middle-class kids were already in private schools.

2 Suresh January 3, 2006 at 9:18 am

Private schools are good business. Lots of NRIs (non-resident Indians) realized that opening a school was a good way to give something back in a financially satisfying way (I’m not being cynical; merely noting the financial benefits). However, the opening of schools is still mired in all kinds of regulations, and anyone hoping to do so needs to grease a lot of palms in the government; this has no doubt made the growth of private schools slower than it need be.

The real problem (and here I know only about Delhi) is that since there is a financial incentive to run these schools (and teachers are paid much better), the student population is not drawn from the poorer sections of population but from the more well-off. Private school admissions have in the past been famously difficult; long lines of parents, “parent interviews”, the works, so even if these schools cater to the well-off, they are still tapping into unsatisfied demand, which is great.

However, because of this, it is not clear whether the growth of private schools will effect a broad-based quality shift in education across the much larger poorer section of the student population. A secondary issue is that the quality of these schools is still a big question; presumably that is a matter of time, and the inevitable shake out.

3 Abi January 3, 2006 at 9:24 am

The state of Karnataka allowed (in the eighties, before liberalization began) private colleges to offer programs in engineering and medicine, unleashing a revolution that continues even today. Many states follow this model.

See this post by Brad about a recent McKinsey report:

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/12/how_fast_can_in.html

It points to some of the poor outcomes of this model.

Given the wide publicity for the McKinsey report, I am surprised Mallaby doesn’t say a word about it.

4 Alec van Gelder January 3, 2006 at 10:44 am

An excerpt of definite interest from James Tooley in an op-ed from back in October:
http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/topstories.aspx?ID=BD4A99343

“Visit one of the public primary schools on the outskirts of Kibera and you will find classes packed with 80 or more children and a headmistress who is openly disdainful about the lowering of standards by the influx of “smelly, dirty† slum children. But venture into the slum itself, and you’ll find evidence of the educational revolution taking place.

My researchers found 76 private schools there, serving more than 12000 children. Probing deeper, we found evidence of 25 private schools that had closed since the introduction of free primary education. At best, the reported increase in enrolment in the five government schools on Kibera’s periphery was entirely accounted for by children transferring from private slum schools.

Free public education, in other words, has done absolutely nothing for overall enrolment. Even now, about 70% of children from the slums still attend private, not government, schools.

There is a misconception that it is good to transfer children from private to government schools, taking the line of the UK’s Commission for Africa, which reports that the “mushrooming† private schools are of low quality. But why would poor parents pay to send their children to schools of low quality, when government schools are free?

I spoke to parents who had transferred their children to government schools when free education was introduced, but who then, disillusioned, returned to private education. In government schools, teachers could not cope with 80 pupils, five times the number in private classes. One parent summed it up: “If you go to a market and are offered free fruit and vegetables, they will be rotten. If you want fresh fruit and vegetables, you have to pay for them.†

My researchers tested 3000 children, roughly half from the Nairobi slums and half from the government schools on the periphery, in mathematics, English and Kiswahili. Although the government schools served the middle classes as well as slum children, the private schools — serving only slum children — outperformed the government schools in maths and Kiswahili, although the richer children had a slight natural advantage in English. When we statistically controlled for background variables, the private schools outperformed government school children in all three subjects.”

5 Chuck January 4, 2006 at 12:25 am

I’ve seen increasingly more plainly bogus scientific research from “professors” and their research groups at these Indian “universities” published in reputable American science journals. (It’s apparently no problem at all getting through scientific peer review in the US; see under Hwang Woo-Suk.) It’s a disturbing trend that will affect India’s reputation in some scientific circles if it worsens.

6 Gautam January 4, 2006 at 10:34 am

Education is a heavily regulated sector in India. So even though there is a boom at both the High-end and the low-end of the price spectrum. The low-end is illegal or atleast unrecognised, so at the most the low-end schools are able to provide and education but not a reconginsed high-school diploma.

There is a huge number of people who aren’t educated or even enrolled in schools, but the way the government tried to deal with this was by introducing a law in parliament which would make low-end schools illegal, and quasi-nationalise many of the higher-end schools, forcing them to take poor students in 25% of available seats. It is really quite an abysmal prospect. Fortunately the bill has not yet been passed and hopefully it doesn’t.

Some interesting education reform ideas might be found here:
http://ccsindia.org/edu_policy.asp

I am personally associated with the Centre for Civil Society.

7 PURBACHAL ANANDA FOUNDATION March 6, 2006 at 10:03 am

PURBACHAL ANANDA FOUNDATION
2/32 Purbachal , Durgapur 713201, Dist. Burdwan, West Bengal, India
Phone- 91 343 2552230 M-91 9832239871, http://www.karmayog.org/paf

(Registered Under Societies Registration Act West Bengal XXVI of 1961 S/1L/32097)

AN OASIS OF LOVE FOR CHILDREN & AGED PERSONS

An Appeal

Purbachal Ananda Foundation ( PAF) has come into being out of an earnest commitment and desire of a group of young social workers to accomplish a mission of their own, for the cause of those children and aged persons who are not loved and cared for by the society at large. These young persons who had some experiences in working for such people either in their own individual capacities or as volunteers in some NGOs involved in similar activities. But, through such exposures and experiences came a realization that one’s own mission as also vision can be accomplished if only such activities could be undertaken independently. Thus was ‘born’ PAF.
We, in PAF, believe in the saying that ‘work is our sole identity’. In all our activities, honesty and transparency are our commitments. It is our vow to create a ‘PAF Family’ where true love would be the common bond for each and everyone of our children and elderly persons who have been marginalized in the society because of their destitution and abject poverty.
PAF is in its infancy now. It has started its activities with 10 children in the age- group 3-8 years (6 are children of sex-workers and 4 are street children) and 2 aged persons at a remote village called Purokonda in Bankura district of West Bengal. A dwelling unit has been constructed on the land donated by the local Gouria Math and a tube-well has been sunk along with arrangements for minimum toilet/sanitary facilities. Plans are afoot to construct another dwelling unit so that more inmates can be accommodated. PAF has also decided to undertake a program to provide formal education to children of nearby ‘dom’ community( who were hitherto untouchables) by making them admitted to local school and bearing the expenses for their education. Other plans under active consideration include ‘ After-school assistance program for poor and less meritorious students of the near-by villages’ and ‘Running abridged course for drop-out children of the locality’.
Till now, PAF is carrying on its activities entirely with donations from well-wishing individuals, and, as expectedly, this would have to continue for the near future as well. While we are making sincere efforts towards receiving some kind of institutional funding, we also appeal to all sympathetic individuals and/or organizations for financial help. We sincerely hope that you will be kind enough to extend a helping hand to our activities by sponsoring one or more of the following activities of PAF.

(i) Educational sponsorship for one school-going child for one year Rs. 2000 or US $ 50
(ii) Sponsoring one child for one year Rs. 12,000 or US $ 300
(iii) Sponsoring an aged person for one year Rs. 12,000 or US $ 300
(iv) Sponsoring a pre-primary educational centre Rs. 6,000 or US $ 150
(v) Sponsoring book –bank for school books Rs. 3,000 or US $ 75
(vi) Sponsoring an after-school assistance program /abridged course for drop-outs Rs. 2,000 or US $ 50
(vii) Sponsoring a vocational training program for a group of 20 women Rs. 2,000 or US $ 50

CONTRACT FORM FOR SPONSORSHIP

I would like to sponsor one or more of the PAF activities (please tick the appropriate one(s) above) viz., item no(s). (state whether full or part payment) ,and the amount thereof (Rs. and Rupees (in words) ) is being paid in cash by a/c cheque ( in favour of Purbachal Ananda Foundation) by dd by wired transfer(Bank a/c no. 319384 , UBI, Coke-Oven branch).

Name (Mr./Ms./ Dr.)
Address
Phone no.
E-mail address
Date Signature

Yours truly,
Arindam Banerjee
Secretary
Purbachal Ananda Foundation

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