Education in India

This is related to our recent discussion of why Indian test scores why so low:

Estimating the precise enrollment of private schools is tricky. Government officials say more than 90 percent of all primary schools are run by or financed by the government. Yet one government survey found that 30 percent of the 187 million students in grades 1 through 8 now attend private schools. Some academic studies have suggested that more than half of all urban students now attend private academies.

In Mumbai, so many parents have pulled their children out of government schools that officials have started renting empty classrooms to charities and labor unions — and even to private schools. In recent years, Indian officials have increased spending on government education, dedicating far more money for new schools, hiring teachers and providing free lunches to students. Still, more and more parents are choosing to go private.

“What does it say about the quality of your product that you can’t even give it away for free?” Mr. Muralidharan said.

Here is much more.


Yes, since, as Duflo & Banerjee explained, 'private' health practitioners in India have no qualifications or knowledge and give all their patients useless treatments to make them feel emotionally better, predating on and perpetuating their superstitions while helping spawn antibiotic resistance, then no doubt the fraction of people attending private v public schools in India is similarly informative.

Mark - "preying on", perhaps? Sensible Indian parents move their children out of a system built to supply benefits to teachers, as do the Obamas, who send their kids to Sidwell Friend's, rather than a DC public school.

Mark, that is a very bad analogy. Comparing how effective two doctors or two medicines are, accounting for placebo effect etc. is usually a very difficult job.

Do read that NYTimes piece Tyler linked to, "But some studies suggest that teachers in government schools are absent up to 25 percent of the time." etc. - anyone in India knows this is true for an overwhelmingly large fraction of government schools. One can often find students across a few grades sharing one classroom etc. In general, things look like this - if you have difficulty following, the teacher in this video is trying to teach the words Sunday, Monday etc.

about that video: what the hell? And what was the voice over saying about her?

The voice over was a reporter commenting on how poorly educated that teacher was, as well as another male teacher, while students innocently copy everything down. He then went on to comment about how there are some teachers who even sleep during class rather than teach. Whenever the screen moved around, it was usually following a revelation of poor education, such as him asking the teacher to state a well-known fact, such as spelling a word, and the teacher would answer incorrectly.

For those of you who don't speak hindi: The female teacher thought there were 360 days in a year and she couldn't name the Indian PM while the male teacher mixed up the national and state capitals (seems like the stress of being put on the spot while being filmed made them slip up) . I feel quite bad for the teachers. It's not fair to jump them and humiliate them on TV. The female teacher looks like a kid herself and clearly she is a product of the same education system and is working well outside her comfort zone teaching english and trying to earn a living for her family. Obviously she has never been provided any books cuz otherwise she'd get the spellings right and simply teach from the book. She did get all the hindi spellings right.

It's not hard to swing by your child's public school and notice that the teachers are all asleep. Unfortunately, quack 'doctors' are more difficult to sniff out.

This is hardly a valid argument against private healthcare. The Indian government has a 'Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy', and it is complicit in encouraging these practices. If everything would be perfect with more regulation, why doesn't this department simply arm up a few public servants and go around shooting quacks? That would be a strike for good medicine.

Well thats insane! And i thought we had a bad situation i Denmark, but also in these times whit few jobs and a very few whit good pay and many pll to get those jobs, the times demand you do the best for you children to give em a good chance in life right?

The times? No, that's life, now and forever.

One of the key aspects that needs to be tested and analyzed is the ability of the teacher to teach in english when teaching in the subject matter in English. They can read and english fine, but when it comes to explaining a theorem or concept in english they fall short so a lot of them don't even attempt it instead prefer their local language. Also most government schools in India do not have curriculum in english (I'm very inclined to say no government school has teaches in English but that might not be true). So most students in India study in regional languages and are made to switch to English when they start college. Not that this is a deterrent as some of my friends have made the switch brilliantly and excelled.

Another big factor, at least in my mind, is the Quality of teachers going forward. In the previous generation a lot of highly competent people became teachers in government schools because it is one of the few jobs that provided good and stable income. With globalization and rise of private sector that is changing with the competent work force is gaining employment in private sectors. This has the potential in seriously decreasing the quality of teachers and thus the quality of education.

I sincerely hope education in India improves as it was and still remains one of the best ways of escaping poverty in India.

I don't know enough about the situation to understand this very well.

If a young person in India is very competent in English, does it make more sense for them to work at a call center or to go to school to become a teacher? What is the difference compensation between salaries at a government school and private school? Do public school teachers have much more job security than people employed in the private sector?

I realize that my comment was not very coherent. I apologize. The first and second part were not really related. By competency I was referring not just in english but intelligence and knowledge as well.

Right now in India the career choices for someone who is intelligent and capable is plentiful which was not the case 20-30 years earlier. A job in IT or other knowledge based sector will pay lot more than being a teacher in the government school system will. To provide some context, the starting salary for someone who has just graduated from college and got a job in knowledge based private sector is considerably higher than that of a teacher with 25+ years of experience.

This might make it really difficult for the government. However having said that given the population and demographics of India not everyone who is capable is likely to get a highly paid private sector job so this might not be as much of an issue as I think it will be. But I suspect there will be an impact.

It's interesting to plot the PISA (2009) scores versus GDP per capita. The cluster of ex communist eastern European nations catches the eye: they do quite well on scores despite a relatively low GDP per capita.

Guess that's one saving grace of communism: although economies foundered human capital didn't do too badly?

You are mistaking correlation with causation. The former Commblock countries would still have high human capital had the Soviet Union never existed, they would on the other hand likely be significantly wealthier than they are today.

Soviet Union had near universal literacy and produced some pretty darn good scientists and engineers (many of which work in the West now). Most of the former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries have retained that system and, culturally, education is highly valued. Some countries, like the Baltic republics have made improvements. Kazakhstan is also impressive, they have a very large scholarship program that lets qualified students study abroad, all expenses paid. They awarded about 1400 of them last year, not bad for a country with a small population.

Bulgaria and Romania do relatively badly though (as compared to other East Europeans). Israel does surprisingly badly (for its GDP level).

A few things going on in Israel: 1) huge influx of immigration from dozens of countries in the past five decades has made integration and expansion of facilities a challenge. 2) a lot of kids go to state religious schools, where they spend a huge amount of time, umm, let's just say studying things that are important to their families, but not the international testing community. 3) separate schools and curriculum for Arabs, which many say are underfunded and of low quality

Well what is the purpose of schooling. It should be the help people live a better life so if the communists produce good PISA scores and bad lives what good are the PISA scores. Also it could be an indication that under performs in GDP.

You have only scratched the surface of the education system in India which is a joke.
Here's an example from last week:

It's amusing that the PISA protocols have 5 sub-categories of the reading score and none for the match and science testing. Is that indicative of relative emphasis or are reading skills harder to aggregate?

Of course, Tyler extrapolates that almost all children everywhere would be better off going to private schools, perhaps subsidized by government.
Whatever the statistical models, whatever the idealisms in one's head,
the empirical is the ultimate arbiter (the gist of Tyler's subcontinental Indian data).
I gather private schools work better in India, at least in its cities.
However, consumers don't always choose what's best for their children.

Consider Tyler Cowen's place of residence, Fairfax County,
which spends about $14,000 per child per year.
I know a family of devout Christians that sends their children to a private
Christian school. Those children can no longer compete with many Fairfax County public school students, except quoting bible verses
-- indeed that's the opportunity cost of religious schools.

Most of the push for private schools comes from the religious,
who want to avoid secular values; you know, those values that update ethics by a few thousand years.
In places like Ireland, "education" amounts to partitioning society into sectarian religious schools, then fighting each other as adults.

I'm willing to follow an ideal, being a Montana libertarian myself,
but I finally follow empirical evidence, which doesn't (as an impartial observer) choose private schools with probability p=0 or with probability p=1. Optimization in the extreme is almost certainly wrong.

Or more important what is wrong in education that exclusivity is more valued than outcome.

oh yes, and why are private schools being chosen? yes they provide education but what type?

perhaps they teach to the test, not the (irrelevant) PISA test, but the one that gets the kids a job.

hopefully education will mean more in the future, but at the moment, for these kids, this is good enough.

i don't like the idea of privatizing education, but if the public sector isn't up to it, there's no better alternative.

getting a decent job is not the point of school, or maybe it is and we need to abandon our ideals a bit.

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