Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A tale of two numbers March 11, 2007

Our ruling Congress Party led coalition genuinely wanted to use this year’s budget to shrink the rich-poor divide. But it failed, of course. Hidden in the budget were two items that almost escaped notice. One was the provision to hire 200,000 teachers and the other was to give 100,000 scholarships to schoolchildren. In the differing stories of these two numbers lies the answer to the question why every Indian government keeps failing to help the poor.

Although India’s booming economy is doing its bit in raising the poor, the poor also need good schools and health clinics to enjoy the benefits of high growth. It is not the lack of money that prevents them from having the most basic public goods. India spends a respectable 4 percent of GDP on education and even in this 2007 budget, spending on education (and health and rural employment schemes) has increased 35%. The failure is the result of deeper disease. Surveys show that one out of four school teachers is absent in state primary schools, and of those present one out of two is not teaching. Similarly, two out of five doctors and one in three nurses is absent from government primary health centers. There are over a million primary school teachers in India’s state system, and going by surveys, it means that 670,000 teachers may not be doing their job. So, when Mr Chidambaram proposes an additional 200,000 teachers, how can one feel cheerful?

What do parents do when teachers don’t show up? As with so much about India's success story, they find their own solutions. They enroll their kids in cheap private schools which charge only Rs 70-100 a month in fees and which are spreading rapidly in slums and villages. Even though private schools pay one third the salary of the unionized government teachers, they deliver better results. Hence, 53% of urban Indian children (and 18% of rural children) are now in private schools. This is very high by world standards. Even Chile, which privatized education in 1981, has achieved only 46.5% share of private enrollment after 25 years.

For this reason, the second number—the promised 100,000 scholarships--in this year’s budget is excellent news. It will empower parents to choose schools based on merit and give state schools an incentive to improve. Merit testing will also help to assess the quality of government schools. It might even improve the “anti-merit” image of this UPA government. I wish we could give a crore instead of a lakh scholarships!
How does one explain the discrepancy between the government’s desire to spend more on elementary education and health with the reality that more and more Indians are embracing private solutions? Let’s face the fact that our politicians have captured the bureaucracy and use the system to create jobs and revenue for friends and supporters. In many states politicians sell teaching jobs for a handsome price. Teachers, who are thus appointed for life, believe they don’t need to teach. As a result, the state is so riddled with perverse incentives that accountability is gone.

But none of the solutions being debated will bring accountability unless we recognize that the government’s job is to govern rather than run everything. The state may have to finance primary services such as health and education, but the providers could be NGOs, teachers, ‘edu-preneurs’, and they would be accountable to parents and not to a bureaucratic hierarchy. This tale of two numbers teaches that the hope for decent services for the poor may lie in such public-private partnerships.

----

8 comments:

Pramod Biligiri said...

If the State finances without implementation, then you'd have something like the Voucher system being talked about recently right? where the Govt. gives coupons to children/parents to utilise at schools. Alternatively, it can fund privately run schools, which is unlikely.

In the Voucher case, one way of leakage is unscrupulous businessmen setting up low quality schools in return of giving a "cut" of the voucher-encashed money back to the parents. I mean, how do you ensure that parents indeed spend this coupon money only on education?

If you are doling vouchers, why not just give the cash to poor parents and let them use it for whatever they feel best? Interested parents will use it for education, the rest can do whatever they want.

Alternatively, don't even take the money from parents in the first place - remove the Education Cess.

Kerda said...

Well written article.

srjwebsolutions said...

We are leading responsive website designing and development company in Noida.
We are offering mobile friendly responsive website designing, website development, e-commerce website, seo service and sem services in Noida.

Responsive Website Designing Company in Noida
Website Designing Company in Noida
SEO Services in Noida
SMO Services in Noida

srjwebsolutions said...

We are leading responsive website designing and development company in Noida.
We are offering mobile friendly responsive website designing, website development, e-commerce website, seo service and sem services in Noida.

Responsive Website Designing Company in Noida
Website Designing Company in Noida
SEO Services in Noida
SMO Services in Noida

EG MEDI said...

Egmedi.com is online medical store pharmacy in laxmi nagar Delhi. You can Order prescription/OTC medicines online.
Cash on Delivery available. Free Home Delivery


Online Pharmacy in Delhi
Buy Online medicine in Delhi
Online Pharmacy in laxmi nagar
Buy Online medicine in laxmi nagar
Onine Medical Store in Delhi
Online Medical store in laxmi nagar
Online medicine store in delhi
online medicine store in laxmi nagar
Purchase Medicine Online
Online Pharmacy India
Online Medical Store

indian models91 said...

We are uhe solid first platform for modeling newcomers to achieve there new dreams. The first to train and promote out models at our expense to avoid burden on them. Join the most popular agency if you modelling jobs in Delhi for female freshers, models, students, housewives aiming to start there modeling career. We are top modelling agency in Delhi offering modelling jobs in Delhi for upcoming female freshers or experienced models who want to join lingerie modeling agencies.


modeling agencies in Delhi
modeling agencies
modeling jobs
modeling auditions
model coordinators
modeling jobs in Delhi

ANIL GUPTA said...

We are specialized in Mechanised cleaning of Underground and Overhead Water Tanks of all sizes. Door Step services across Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad.


Water tank cleaning services in Noida
Water tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Water tank cleaning services in Delhi

Drain cleaning services in Noida

Drain cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Drain cleaning services in Delhi
Pipeline Cleaning Service in Noida


Pipeline cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Pipeline cleaning services in Delhi


Tank cleaning services in Noida

Tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Tank cleaning services in Delhi

Exide Battery said...

Battery Mantra Buy Car and Inverter battery online in India. BatteryMantra is Noida based India's No. 1 online battery store offering you genuine batteries of all the well-known battery brands at best prices.

Online Inverter Battery Store
Online Car Battery Store
Buy Inverter battery Dealer Noida
Buy battery online Noida
Online Inverter Battery Store
Buy car battery Noida