Public Private Partnership in Education: Much Needed

Posted on May 26, 2011 in Education

By Akanksha Mittal:

Looking at the present trend of Public Private Partnership in Education, it is clear that while there is a lot of scope of such collaboration, it is not being fully harnessed. Education in India can be broadly classified into two levels: University Education and School level Education. Collaboration at each of these levels needs to be handled individually with perhaps little similarities in the collaboration structure. Presently, the most common form of Public Private Collaboration is that the government provides funds to Private Educational Institutions so that they can reduce their fees. This is a crucial step in trying to achieve the goal of Education for All as subsidized education is accessible to more students as compared to non subsidized education.

This scheme works well for College Level Education, given the wide variety of students that these colleges cater to. The problem here is not that the scheme is not working properly. The scheme is working just about fine, given the slow steady growth in the education levels of the various cities in India. However, the scheme that has presently been adopted is so to say, redundant, especially at the School Level. Subsidized education is still far from the reach of most students who have to suffice with being educated at a government school that fails to cater to the growing need of a wholesome education. The problem is of choice. The students/parents do not have the means to choose the institutions that they wish to enroll their child into, given their income constraints and the lack of good Private schools in most parts of the country.

Here, it is important to mention a solution as proposed by Mr. Karthik Muralidharan, an academic, in his essay titled “Public Private Partnerships for Quality Education in India”, which I will be further discussing during the course of this essay. Mr. Karthik talks about a Voucher/Scholarships system for the students enrolling themselves in school. The essence of this approach is that the government’s money follows the students instead of the school. Instead of providing a set amount of funds to each school, the government can allocate a set amount of funds per student, which will follow the student to whichever school he/she enrolls in.

Such an approach will have two fold benefits: it will be helpful in providing almost equal choice of schools to lesser privileged students as their privileged counterparts. And, competition between private and public schools will force the public schools to improve their standards and make them viable. The idea here is not to increase enrollment in private schools, given the past records which indicate that private schools have done better than public schools in many spheres. It is a very economic concept in the sense that it caters to not only those who have purchasing power but provides incentives to the ones lacking it. It gives purchasing power to the consumers, also moving towards consumer sovereignty.

Another advantage of such an idea is that it is flexible in the sense that the government can allot a voucher rate depending upon the average private school’s fees in a particular area. It can be adjusted so that students from backward societies or with greater difficulties get larger vouchers. The government will be required to maintain a database of each student’s educational whereabouts, which is not very difficult, given the fact that public schools are already required to maintain a similar database.

Like all solutions, this one has its own concerns, given the idealism that it seems to be based upon. However, a pilot project can be started to test the effectiveness of the solution, which can then be taken up at a larger level.