Education in India

Thanks to Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution blog, I came across this NY Times article on India’s education system and what a mess it is. The fact is that public schooling is in such a desperate state that even the poor are opting to send their children to private schools. Note that public schools are free of cost and private education is pretty expensive. Tyler’s excerpt covers everything essential:

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.

I will only add this additional excerpt, which is probably the saddest part of the whole story:

“Fifty percent will be closed down as per the Right to Education Act,” predicted E. Bala Kasaiah, a top education official in Hyderabad.

Mr. Anwar, the private school entrepreneur trying to organize a lobbying campaign, estimated that roughly 5,000 private schools operated in Hyderabad.

“Can the government close 5,000 schools?” he asked. “If they close, how can the government accommodate all these students?”

MR covered the education issue in India a few days ago with reference to the Pisa ranking of education systems:

A global study of learning standards in 74 countries has ranked India all but at the bottom, sounding a wake-up call for the country’s education system. China came out on top.

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