The UPA government has repeatedly projected itself as the champion of social equity, advertising its schemes on public health, education, food security. It is therefore necessary to review the true character of the UPA-2’s education policy and the impact it has had on the country.
1. Privatisation of education.
i. In School education –
Primary – The 12th plan (2012) states that the role of the private sector in elementary education is to be increased, and that state regulations are to be relaxed to enable this.(21.73) .
Secondary- In article 21.102 facilitation of private growth is termed a “key strategy” in secondary education. The average private expenditure on secondary education in private schools is as high as Rs893 per month as compared to only Rs275 per month in Government Schools because of the high fees in private schools. For a nation that claims that it will be universalizing secondary education by 2025 this emphasis on the private sector is a great contradiction.
Increasing enrollment of students in Private Schools - At the All India level private school enrollment has been rising steadily since 2006. The percentage of 6 to 14 year olds enrolled in private schools rose from 18.7% in 2006 to 25.6% in 2011. This year this number has further increased to 28.3%. The increase is almost equal in primary (Std. I-V) and upper primary (Std. VI-VIII) classes. In 2012, among all private school children (age 6-14), 57.9% were boys. In 2012, more than 40% of children (age 6-14 years) in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya are enrolled in private schools. This percentage is 60% or more in Kerala and Manipur. Since 2009, private school enrollment in rural areas has been rising at an annual rate of about 10%. If this trend continues, by 2018 India will have 50% children in rural areas enrolled in private schools.
ii. The Public-private-partnership model in schools, with concessions in taxation and land costs has also been overtly emphasized, providing an avenue for channeling public money into private hands.
iii. Higher education – Presently, 1.4 crore students are enrolled in the private higher education institutes across the country. Out of the 659 Universities 191 are private. Of these 173 Private Universities have been established since 2003.
Out of the 33,023 colleges in India, 19,930 are private colleges.
There are 9,541 private diploma granting institutes among a total 12,748.
The Gross enrollment ratio in higher education is – 20.4 % (18-23 yr age group). The scarcity of seats in colleges and the dearth of jobs generates a high demand allowing private institutes to make huge profits from higher education. Obscenely high tuition fees and capitation charges further excludes the lower and middle classes.
Increasing numbers – In 2001 private unaided institutes made up 42.6% of all higher education institutes, in 2006 the share of private institutes went up to 61.8%, and in 2012, 63.9%.
Enrollment - In 2001, 32.89% of Indian students studied in private unaided institutes. By 2006, and their student share went up to 51.53%. By 2012 it had gone up to 58.9%.
iv. Medical education – Seat:Population ratio : 1951 govt seats 1 for 71,000 population , 1966 seats 1 for every 37000. In 2000 seat:population ratio decreased to 1 per 55000.
Increasing private medical seats : Since 2000 the UPA govt created 9,300 seats while private sector created 17,700 seats. From a tiny base in 1970, medical colleges in the private sector have grown by 900%. According to FICCI the private sector now accounts for over 50% of medical colleges in the country.
Fee structure: Govt medical colleges tuition fees for the entire course varies from Rs. 10,000 to Rs 1.5 lakhs whereas tuition fees in private colleges vary between Rs. 15 lakh – 40 lakh, not even counting the capitation fees.
v. Technical education – Private engineering colleges, which accounted for just 15% of seats in 1960, accounted for over 85% by 2009 and 91% by 2012 according to data from the All-India Council for Technical Education, the regulatory body for professional technical education.
Apart from their high fees, corruption in the central accreditation agencies has given way to abysmally low standards of teaching and infrastructure.
vi. Discussion of the proposed HER Act, where, for foreign institutes the states will have no say in who can open shop in their state, while the rights of the state to independently establish universities and appoint vice chancellors have been curtailed.
vii. The Foreign Education Institutions Bill (2010) has legitimized the entry and operation of foreign institutes in India, facilitating further commercialization in the education sector.
viii. No government control over fee structure of private colleges and universities, and no systematic actions being taken against hefty capitation fees.
Professional education –
i. Growing disparities in per student expenditure - The central government spends over Rs. 2.25 lakh per student per annum at the IITs. In stark contrast the state Universities spend around Rs 1.20 lakhs per student per annum for engineering students.
ii. Centralised accreditation authorities (MCI, UGC, AICTE), overriding any say of the state government’s. The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill of 2010 makes accreditation also enforces an uniformity on all academic institutes in the country, abolishing the cultural flexibility that the federal structure would have allowed.
iii. Funding - The State Universities 94% students. But funds to state Universities about 1/6th of funds to central Universities.
iv. With regard to elementary education the 12th plan firmly states that it wishes to push the National curriculum framework onto the states (21.38). It is quite clear that in a pluralistic society like India this can only hurt the cause of breaking down cultural barriers to education.
3. National entrance tests –
i. The common tests have been imposed on the states.
ii. consensus of the states is not being sought regarding the syllabi of common entrance tests causing state board students to face an unfair competition
iii. entrance examination fees have increased (doubled or tripled) in the last few years
iv. outsourcing of national level entrance examinations to private and foreign companies. For example, NEET-PG and CAT are conducted by Prometric.
4. Withdrawing from education in mother tongue
While the 12th plan concedes that education imparted in a language different from that learnt at home especially in first generation learners creates a barrier to learning, instead of promoting education in mother tongues it advocates that other languages be more forcefully fed at the pre-school and early-primary level. This can only serve to increase language barriers, unnecessarily burden young children, and create a dearth of qualified trained teachers at elementary level.
5. School Education
i. The mean years of schooling in India is still 5.12 years, far below the average for developing nations is 7.09. This implies that the vast majority of students never progress beyond the primary level. Inspite of this the government spends only 39% of the education budget on primary, and 12% on secondary education.
ii. Teachers – The teacher:student ratio at primary level as of 2011 is 1:35, and if all vacancies were filled it could be raised to 1:27. Of the existing teachers a large percentage (8.1 lakhs) are untrained.
iii. Though the gross enrollment ratio has increased the student attendance rate remains poor with several large states showing <60% attendance.
iv. Learning levels - The planning commission concedes to the fact that learning levels in Indian schools are dismally behind the corresponding classes in other countries, and though the statistics are improving they are not translating into effective outcomes.
Reading levels - In 2010 nationally, 46.3% of all children in Std. V could not read a Std. II level text. This proportion increased to 51.8% in 2011 and further to 53.2% in 2012. For Std. V children enrolled in government schools, the percentage of children unable to read Std. II level text has increased from 49.3% (2010) to 56.2% (2011) to 58.3% (2012). Arithmatic - In 2010, of all children enrolled in Std. V, 29.1% could not solve simple two-digit subtraction problems with borrowing. This proportion increased to 39% in 2011 and further to 46.5% in 2012. In rural India as a whole, two years ago about two thirds of all children in Std. V could not do simple division. In 2012 this number is close to three fourths.
v. Socially backward and economically marginalized classes continue to show higher drop-out rates.
6. Funding difficulties
i. Total expenditure – Education expenditure (public plus private) as percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) which was 3.3 per cent in 2004–05 could only be raised to 4 per cent in 2011–12, of which only 0.67% is the centre’s share, inspite of the UPA’s declared commitment to education.
ii. Centre-State conflict - In the 2012 5 year plan the centre:state share in funding has been cut down to 65:35 in non backward states (previously it was 80:20). The plan also promises to cut down the centre’s share to 50:50 in the 13th plan.
Currently the State’s bear 64% of developmental expenditure in the country, while only 32% of the revenue collected by the Union is transferred to State governments.
7. Right to education Act
i. Funding uncertainty – Central government’s refusal to make commitments about financing. Why isn’t a major part of the 2% Union education cess being committed to implementing the RTE act?
ii. Central government’s share in comparison to states in financing decreased to 55:45 for implementing RTE act from the 80:20 demanded by many state governments.
iii. Lack of minimum infrastructure - About 1/3rd of the schools do not have even 5 of the 9 facilities considered essential under the right to education act. 63% of rural schools do not even have toilet facilities, which causes higher drop out rates among girls.
iv. Siphoning off public money into the private sector under the ploy of reimbursements to private schools under the RTE act, instead of expanding the scope of the public education system. The government spent Rs 45 crores in January 2014 as reimbursement to private schools for admitting underpriviledged children. While the government spends Rs 4,269 per child in the public schools (data for financial year 2011-12), it is granting a reimbursement of Rs. 11,488 a year for a child admitted to class one and Rs. 5,924 a year for a child in LKG to private schools. So it is evident that counting the recurrent expenditure the government has incurred greater expenses and minimal long term gains by opting to implement this act through private enterprises.
8. The Mid-day meal scheme
i. Allocations per child revised by 7.5% while food inflation rates in India have reached 19%. Currently the expenditure per child is Rs 2.5.
ii. No integration with the school-health programmes, implying that nutrient and vitamin supplements cannot be added to the food.
iii. Lack of proper infrastructure(kitchen sheds), the dismal remuneration for the cooks to at least half days wages (currently they are paid Rs. 0.40 per child per day), and poorly functioning quality control mechanism has not been addressed.