“I ask my maid every day, why do you send your child to a private school, although it costs you nearly 20% of your salary?” said one of the noted industry leaders and philanthropist at an event in Delhi with a caveat that himself and his children have attended a reputed private school in Mumbai. At another meeting in Uttar Pradesh where the Education Minister and a number of senior education department officers were present, criticising private schools was the main agenda. The tirade against private schools went on, until slowly, everyone in the room realised that their children studied in private schools. Do these stories represent what the education landscape of India is? Yes! The recently launched 10th ASER report says that 30% of our enrolments in rural India are in private schools. The number has shown steady increase over the last few years, while the enrolments in government schools are on decline. Across all the states in India private school enrolments are nearing 50% of total enrolments. Total 96.7 % children in India are enrolled in schools. What should a policy response to this situation be? Focus on more enrolments? Invest more on infrastructure in government schools, create regulations and rules to curb enrolments in private schools or, even better, close down private schools?
We at CCS answer this question simply by saying: focus more on where the children are, and focus more on outcomes in education than inputs. This also captures the essence of all our work under School Choice Campaign over the last three months.
We engaged with several parliamentarians and senior bureaucrats in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra Rajasthan, Goa and Haryana, through one-on-one meetings and programs such as the MP Engagement on Education Policy to share our ideas on better regulation of private schools. We also shared key amendments that must be made to RTE to shift its focus towards outcomes in education. This alone will help us significantly to solve the challenge of declining learning outcomes as seen in ASER 2014, and along the way, will also save thousands of Budget Private Schools that are facing the threat of closure. Some of the MPs that we engaged with have shown keen interest in our ideas and have promised to take up the issues in next session of Parliament in March 2015.
School Choice National Conference, a flagship event of School Choice Campaign focused this year on Freedom in Education. We had nine eminent speakers who shared their expertise on a variety of topics, ranging from home schooling to technology in education. We also had an opportunity to explore how an ideal policy and regulatory framework would look, which would enhance independence for parents and children in education.
One of the key highlights of this quarter was our participation as partners and panellists in education policy events hosted by organisations like NUEPA, Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation, Teach for India, and iBusiness. We engaged with audiences through these conferences on RTE, 25% reservations and Regulation of BPS.
The quarter ended with an assurance that our work through National Independence Schools Alliance is slowly yet steadily inching towards sustainability. Our network in Goa paid their membership fees, a small token amount of INR 100 per school, to NISA. Our network in Haryana decided to take the teacher quality improvement program in 20 schools in Ambala. Remarkably the school owners are paying for the cost of this quality improvement program. NISA chapter is now established in Pakistan and School Principals Association of Canada has shown keen interest in engaging with us going forward.
Our Patang project continues to operate in three leading private schools in Delhi. We identified academic support needed in schools and found that over baseline studies, midline studies demonstrated good academic progress. We will soon publish the complete report.
We welcome your feedback and ideas on how we can strengthen our work further. Visit our websites, www.schoolchoice.in, www.nisaindia.org and www.righttoeducation.in for more information. We look forward to your continued support in ensuring that every child in India receives the right to education of choice!
This quarter began with successful deployment of the skill voucher pilot at Pune, along with the commencement of classes for 110 students. The monitoring framework at both the operational locations i.e. Mumbai and Pune was also implemented.
While the execution was underway at the two locations, the third party impact evaluation partner (India Development Foundation) completed their analysis of field surveys and implementing their research framework.
The program got its first statistical evidence of success through the following key findings:
The impact evaluation report (based on a sample size of 345 including both the treatment and control groups) not only helped us understand how Vikalp fared when compared to the non-Vikalp programs, but also provided credibility to the program in order to reach out to prospective donors. Moreover, expanding our base to Pune further strengthened the donor's credence. We got our first corporate donor on board and shall now be executing another pilot of 200 vouchers at Pune.
CCS is also keen to develop the skill voucher idea into a sustainable enterprise model and as a first step towards this, a viable financial and business model with sustainable revenue streams was developed. We are excited to test the sustainable enterprise model in the next quarter and are looking forward to work with two different types of voucher sponsors—Government and Corporate.
We hosted the 11th edition of the annual Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival on 13 and 14 December to celebrate livelihood freedom in Asia. The festival brings to light incredible stories of hope, courage, ingenuity and resilience of ordinary people leading extraordinary lives while earning an honest livelihood of their choice—tales best told through the creative lenses of film-makers and the powerful medium of documentaries. Sixteen select documentaries, representing a fair blend of the interactive, observational and the expository genres of non-fiction film making were screened over these two days at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi.
Against the backdrop of the festival, CCS also hosted a panel discussion on ’23 Years of Indian Economic Reforms’ with Amir Ullah Khan, Director Research, Aequitas and Advisor to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Barun Mitra, Director of Liberty Institute. Amir Ullah Khan stressed the need for a second generation of reforms in health and education to tackle India’s inequality. Barun Mitra, emphasised the need to trust that every individual has a rational choice—to recognise and respect the other person as much as we want ourselves if we want markets and liberalisation to work.
After conducting seminars on a liberal approach to public policy for over 17 years, we are finally able to do what was unimaginable when we started out—get into the formal curriculum of two leading Law and Economics program of premier universities in the country. In 2015 we will conduct a 30 hour, two credits elective for select students of National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata on Law and Public Policy and the Economics Honors departments of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai on Economics and Public Policy.
To translate our ideas to action, we are now engaging with government officials and nodal agencies on specific policy reforms or their implementation—this quarter we conducted two important policy trainings on the implementation of Street Vending Act, 2014 on 29 November 2014 for government officials from urban local bodies in Patna, and on enabling Bamboo Policy in India on 6 December 2014, which saw the participation of ten state level officers in Cochin. We have now been invited to help the Madhya Pradesh government review and design their state policy on bamboo.
We welcomed 2015 with a bang, bringing the best of liberal thinking to the beautiful Himalayan country of Nepal for our third annual Asia Liberty Forum (ALF). ALF was a grand, public celebration of liberty from 8-10 January 2015. Organised in partnership with Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation, Atlas Network, Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Heritage Foundation, over three days, 250 delegates from 30 countries exchanged ideas on more than 20 sessions on topics ranging from practical tools for successful think tanks to inspirational explorations of the ideas of liberty.
Prior to the forum, we brought together 22 start up organisations from 11 countries to what we call Think Tank Start Up Training, two and half days of rigorous training to strengthen strategic plans, communication and fundraising efforts of these organisations from 5-8 January 2015. Think tank leaders, Linda Whetstone, Bridget Wagner, Manali Shah, Rainer Heufers, Tom Palmer, Baladevan Rangaraju and Wan Saiful shared best practices and mentored these individuals on the basics of running a successful organisation.
We have been criticised time and again for promoting what many consider a western philosophy; that these ideas will not work for a country as diverse as India. And while we will continue to march forward in advancing these ideas, I’d like to take you back to look deeper into our history to what makes these ideas truly Asian.