In India, while education is the constitutional responsibility of the state and is primarily being delivered by the State, the role of the private sector has been growing in prominence and scope over the past few years. Education in India as per law cannot be run for profit. India has had private schools, run by both religious and secular institutions and profit and not-for-profit institutions, for several decades. The most common example of public private partnership in this field is the government aided schools system in the country. Recently there has been an increasing push by the Government towards engaging the private sector as partners for achieving the goal of universalization of elementary education. Different models of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in education are being proposed by the Government. How well thought through are the proposals? What are the main reasons for the government promoting this concept? How equipped will the private partners be? These are important questions. Meanwhile, there is also a visible body of opposition to this move which has registered several objections against such partnerships ranging from wariness of attaching a profit motive to education to the perceived lack of competency of the private sector in meeting the pedagogical challenges of an Indian classroom. There are others who see essential merit in at least discussing or considering the proposal and articulating the proposal more meaningfully. We share a repository of the divergent voices in the debate:
The Eleventh Five year plan of the Government of India (GoI) speaks repeatedly of the benefits of PPP in education and proposes some measures to be executed in the PPP mode.
In September 2009, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of the GoI released a note on PPP in education, seeking comments from stakeholders, interested parties and the public on its content.
In response to this note, a consultation of civil society organisations was held at NCERT, Delhi in November 2009. The comprehensive report and short summary of this meeting were submitted to the MHRD,
Venu Narayan wrote an article in the Economic and Political Weekly in February 2010 entitled 'The Private and the Public in School Education' "Excerpt: The poor quality of the state-run school education system has led to demands that the State should withdraw from schooling, and that the government should only fund private initiatives or let the private sector take over schooling with public-private partnership initiatives. However, proper regulation of private schools and quality-driven reforms in public schools is a better alternative to PPP.
S. Giridhar of the Azim Premji Foundation wrote an article about the PPP debate entitled 'We need statesmanship for Public-Private Education to work' in the Wall Street Journal in November 2009.
Pankaj S. Jain of Gyan Shala and Ravindra H. Dholakia of IIM-A wrote an article in the Economic and Political Weekly in June 2009 entitled 'Feasibility of Implementation of Right to Education Act'. (Accessing the whole article requires paid subscription) Excerpt: This article argues that even an allocation of 6% of the gross domestic product to the education budget would not be sufficient to fund universal school education until the very distant future if the government school system is used as the only instrument. The only way to meet the Right to Education obligation is to rely on low cost private schools as a significant instrument of the government education policy. On the contrary, the proposed RtE bill introduces provisions that would oppose low cost private schools. Therefore, the legislation for RtE needs to be modified and framed with specific provisions for private-public partnerships.
In response to the above mentioned article, Vimala Ramachandran of the Educational Resource Unit wrote 'Right to Education Act: A Comment' in July 2009. (Accessing the whole article requires paid subscription) Excerpt: To argue that alternative schools or private schooling can take care of the needs of primary school-going children (“Feasibility of Implementation of Right to Education Act”, EPW, 20 June 2009) is to effectively condemn the poor and the marginalised to a second-rate education since they can never afford private and expensive schooling. The need of the hour is higher public investment in school education.
In another response to the above-mentioned article, Padma M. Sarangapani of TISS wrote 'Quality,Feasibility and Desirability of Low Cost Private Schooling' in October 2009. (Accessing the whole article requires paid subscription) Excerpt: The article “Feasibility of Implementation of Right to Education Act” (EPW, 20 June 2009) makes the argument that some budget private schools have demonstrated their ability to provide quality education at considerably low salaries for teachers. This comment disagrees: there is no credible evidence to prove that the education offered by budget private schools is comparable, leave alone viable or desirable.
Krishna Kumar, Director of the NCERT, wrote a well-circulated article in the Economic and Political Weekly in January 2008, entitled 'Partners in Education'. (Accessing the whole article requires paid subscription) Excerpt: Public-Private Partnership in school education is projected as a strategy to distribute the ownership of institutions, rather than tasks within institutions, between private entrepreneurs and NGOS on the one hand, and the government or state on the other. While the rationale for PPP is inefficiency of the government, the means offered to overcome it actually promise no relief or improvement. PPP is not an idea, but rather an ideology which promotes privatisation as a means of reducing the government’s responsibility to increase the number of schools.
Karthik Muralidharan from the Department of Economics, University of California-San Diego wrote an article entitled 'Public Private partnerships for Universal quality education' for the Seminar magazine in 2006.
Public-Private Partnerships in Basic Education: An International Review, compiled by CfBT Education Trust in 2008
The Quality and Efficiency of Private and Public Education: A Case-Study of Urban India, compiled by Geeta Kingdon in 1996