By Guest Blogger George Thompson
As India moves forward on its No-Child-Left-Behind style agenda announced recently by Minister Manmohan Singh we can look forward to increasingly involvement on behalf of the global investment community, as suggested in a recent issue of Daily Censored.
Leading the neoliberal charge into India is the World Bank.
A March 18 World Bank news release trumpets that “World Bank Provides US$1.05 billion to Improve Education in India: Support package marks the Bank’s largest ever investment in education.”
Investments include “US$750 million in additional financing for the Second Elementary Education Project” will be targeted to “increase elementary level completion rates, and improve learning outcomes for the full elementary cycle (grades 1-8).” http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:22507409~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html?cid=EXT_TWBN_D_EXT
Another US$300 million is going to be invested in TEQIP, a project that will “support some 200 competitively selected engineering education institutions to produce higher quality and more employable engineers.” Getting government involvement out of the way seems to be a priority, for, according to World Bank Senior Education Economist and project team leader, Andreas Blom:
“A key challenge is an over-regulated, but under-governed higher education system….Less than 4 percent of institutions are academically autonomous and only 5 percent are accredited. The first phase of TEQIP initiated a reform process promoting autonomy and accountability that led to over 30 TEQIP-institutions becoming academically autonomous. The Government of India and the Bank have found that that increased autonomy allows the institutions and their faculty to teach students the skills that corporate India demands, in particular problem-solving skills, creativity and flexibility. This in turn enhances the quality of education.” http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:22507409~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html?cid=EXT_TWBN_D_EXT
According to the World Bank, the new reforms dictating universal education for all children India is not only a worthwhile humanitarian enterprise, but it is going to increases India’s competitiveness in the global economy. It seems no country wants to be left behind in this new, global race to the top, and that investments in the non-attending population of schools are going to be what will put us all on an equal footing in this great global competition which paradoxically seems to be holding the promise of ever greater “equality” for humanity:
“Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality. Education is equally key to enhance India’s competitiveness in the global economy. Therefore, ensuring access to quality education for all, in particular for the poor and rural population, is central to the economic and social development of India.”
One of the Bank’s initiatives involves “Expanding Secondary Education and Improving Quality”. Its strategy for doing this not surprisingly includes the fact that “Public-private partnerships need to be expanded to tap into the potential offered by the 60 percent of secondary schools which are privately managed in India.” Another major World Bank project will be “Reforming vocational education and training” which necessitates “Setting common standards for training and reforming institutional governance for greater private sector involvement so that training can dynamically adapt to changing labor market demand.”
Where exactly is the World Bank’s sponsorship of a no-child-left behind and no-country-left-behind agenda going to take India? If the World Bank’s policy research can be taken as a reliable indication, charter schools and other forms of public-private partnerships would seem to be the answer. The World Bank conference on “Mobilizing the Private Sector for Public Education” resulted in a study that surveys the charter movement’s successes and challenges throughout the world.
The accumulation of human capital is one of the top priorities in developing and developed countries alike. Historically, ensuring access to primary education has been seen as a predominantly public responsibility. However, governments are increasingly sharing this responsibility through a variety of subsidiary arrangements. Some governments are contracting services out to the private sector, to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and even to other public agencies. Some societies are transferring responsibility for financing, provision, and regulation to lower levels of government. Responsibility is sometimes being taken up by communities themselves. In education policy, public–private partnerships play an important role in enhancing the supply as well as the quality of human capital. In recent years public–private partnerships in different parts of the world have burgeoned. As is documented in the papers in this book, initially presented at a conference hosted by the World Bank and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, public–private initiatives are widespread. The partnerships, however, differ in form and structure, in the extent of public and private participation, and in the forms of their engagement.
Among the countries examined, it seems England is faced with the challenge of “Breaking the State Monopoly in the Provision of Schooling”. The study also looks at charters in South and Latin America. In Chile, for instance, the birthplace of neoliberal education reform under the influence of Milton Friedman in the 1970s and 80s, suffers from unequal distribution of resources, but “There is, however, a positive aspect to the Chilean model, that is, the use of private resources to make free education available to the greatest number of students possible whatever their
socioeconomic situation.” The study charter schools in the US concludes optimistically:
What does the future hold for U.S. charter schools—and for public schooling in the era of chartering? Large governmental bureaucracies may continue to define education standards and measure school results, but they will have less control over the delivery of K–12 education services, as has long been true of American tertiary education and countless other sectors of our mixed-market economy. And why not? In a time when China is plunging into market-oriented economics and private sector investment, initiative, and technology, the prospect of the American education behemoth mobilizing the private sector via “third way” solutions is not far-fetched. At a minimum, today’s new schools are a needed tonic for the old ones. It also seems likely, however, that with chartering we are beginning to witness profound shift in basic assumptions about what a public school is and the ground rules by which it operates (or expires). The institutional and accountability innovations that chartering brings may be laying the foundation for a redesigned structure of public education as a whole. In that new architecture, successful schools are incubated and brought to scale; entrepreneurs introduce fresh ideas (and resources) into the sector; overseers of schools (perhaps altogether new entities) steer them in wise policy directions but leave others to row; authorizers hold schools strictly to account for their results (not their intentions, inputs, or processes); parents carefully choose among many varieties of educational enterprises; and schools boost their performance via dynamic leadership, effective instruction and governance, organizational efficiency, and smart use of new technologies and delivery systems. The result—and what makes all the Sturm und Drang worth it—will be a better educated populace that meets the nation’s 21st century needs and helps all its residents achieve the successful and rewarding lives that are their birthright.
American Universities, already highly privatized are getting into the spirit of public-private partnership as well. According to an Economic Times article on March 28,
“American universities are excited by prospects of expanding their presence in India’s growing education market but some prestigious Ivy league institutions like Yale University don’t expect to open a campus in the country any time soon.
Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian American entrepreneur turned academic, associated with Duke, Harvard and Berkeley, all with strong interest in India, described the Indian cabinet’s approval of a bill allowing foreign varsities to set up campuses in India as a “win-win”. The legislation expected to be introduced in parliament next month for a vote would potentially open a huge market to international educational institutions.”