Tuesday, January 16, 2007

India's market for primary education

Kuffir has a must-read post about the complex issues surrounding primary education, poverty, and parents' inability -- or unwillingness -- to send their children to school. He asks, rightly, how many of our poor will be able to 'buy education' for their kids in the 'market' if the government chooses to exit the 'business' of running schools.

... [the proponents of 'liberation/liberalization' of education] know the bottomline: the education market in india can neither survive nor expand without the support of the government. isn't that the reason why the idea of vouchers, essentially government handouts, is being promoted? in my view, the campaign for parental choice, being spearheaded by ccs india, is a tacit admission that education is a 'public good' in india because it seeks continuation of state support, albeit in a different form.

I just want to add something to what Kuffir has written. Parents' desire for English medium education is one of the more important reasons behind their sending their kids to private schools. Not only do public schools don't offer English medium education, in many states, English is not even taught until kids enter the third or the fifth standard (at age 8 or 10). In Karnataka, for example, there has been a strong demand that English be taught right from the beginning (i.e., the first standard) in all the public schools. While the newspapers report -- actually, make a big deal of -- the opposition from Kannada intellectuals, I became aware of a second angle: the private schools have been lobbying against the teaching of English from Class I.

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Update: The National Knowledge Commission has recommended that English be taught right from Class I, "regardless of mother tongue". Here's the Financial Express editorial on this recommendation.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    Thanks for highlighting this issue. I do not understand this attitude of 'markets for every thing' including primary education.
    On your other points, many reports suggest that multilingual education is benefitial including in delaying dementia.

  2. kuffir said...

    thanks for the kind words abi. actually, the post is only half-finished. it was getting to be too long and i thought some things were best discussed in another post. the things you have brought into focus..are also other issues i hope to discuss in later posts.

  3. Anonymous said...

    You say:
    I became aware of a second angle: the private schools have been lobbying against the teaching of English from Class I
    Could you give some reference for this info.? Thanks

  4. Abi said...

    Swarup: I am not against market solutions for education; but I don't understand this demand that the government should restrict itself to just giving the money.

    Kuffir: I'm looking forward to your next post(s) on this topic.

    Anon: I'm sorry I am not able to provide an online link. That information came to me through a private conversation I had with (a credible) someone who has personal knowledge of behind-the-scenes lobbying by the private schools.