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 Education for Life
 
We need all the schools we can get
Business Standard, India Sunday, September 26, 2010


Our current education regulatory structures don’t recognise the diversity of human motivations. What matters is not private vs government or profit vs non-profit schools but good vs bad schools. Let biodiversity prevail. A case can be made for make allowing profit in education as we are in an education emergency, reports Business Standard.

I wish all government teachers came to school every day. I wish district collectors would stop requisitioning government teachers for other work. I wish we could create a fear of falling and hope of rising among government teachers. I wish state governments would release money to schools in tune with the academic calendar. I wish we could stop the multi-grade teaching that batters the majority of our children and teachers. I wish there was a non-profit that ran 500 schools. I guess, deep inside, I also wish that socialism worked because it is a fairer way to organise society.

But I’d like to make the case for allowing profit in education as we are in an education emergency. Not because the private sector provides better quality—at times it does not—but because we need all the schools we can get. And, before the antibiotic reaction, an argument for profit in education is not an argument against the expansion of state or non-profit initiatives. We are not trying to be right but successful in the war against illiteracy and unemployability. Yet today public policy wishes that accredited school and higher education is only deliverable through a non-profit trust. But 95% of new school and higher education capacity created in the last two decades has been for-profit masquerading as non-profit. This transmission loss between how the law is written, interpreted and enforced has two fallouts: fewer schools and an adverse selection amongst education entrepreneurs.

...

Our education trust and accreditation structure also creates a need for massive regulatory arbitrage capabilities and consequently most education entrepreneurs (edupreneurs) today are criminals or politicians Regulatory cholesterol means showing up is good enough and these edupreneurs do not need to make investments in teachers, curriculum, infrastructure and other components of a vibrant education system. This creates a self-referential argument that prohibiting profits in education will keep fees low. But effective control on fees does not lie in issuing regulatory fatwas but in competition.

...


Our current education regulatory structures don’t recognise the diversity of human motivations—fame, fortune, family, friends, curiosity, recognition, inspiration and much else. Reviewing the ‘scratches on our mind’ to allow for-profit education will ensure a level playing field for creating quantity and quality in the profit, state, religious, ethnic, or not-for-profit sectors because “it does not matter if a cat is black or white if it catches mice”. My grandmother runs nine schools with more than 8,000 students as a non-profit enterprise. My wife runs an education not-for-loss enterprise. I recently met a residential for-profit school that starts IIT coaching in Class 6. The Bharti Foundation wants to set up bottom-of-the-pyramid schools. The Azim Premji foundation is setting up a school for teachers. Gyan Shala is a non-profit trying to “develop and implement institutional solutions to provide low cost but assured high quality basic education to children from poor urban and rural families, which do not deteriorate on large scale replication”. The government of Gujarat is thinking deeply about performance management for their teachers using technology (RFID or GPRS), carrots (incentives for learning outcomes) and sticks (accountability for absence). All these represent the statistically independent tries that India’s kids need. What matters is not private vs government or profit vs non-profit schools but good vs bad schools. Let biodiversity prevail.

This article was published in the Business Standard on Sunday, September 26, 2010. Please read the original article here.
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