We don’t expect anything better from Anurag Behar than to blame ‘private investment’ for the colossal failure of the Indian state in the education sector. But even by his standards, the contradictions and manipulations in his latest column are preposterous and need to be called out.
Firstly, it is incorrect to say “Public investment was under pressure and given the winds blowing then it was quickly assumed that private investment would provide the solution.” If indeed policymakers thought of ‘private investment’ as a solution, then educational institutions would not be forced to function as ‘non-profit’ organizations, and they would not be subject to mindless rules and regulations which make it practically impossible for the honest educationalist to function within the system. It is a fact that the little space private players were given in education sector was because of the failure of the state and soaring aspirations of the poor who were willing to pay for an education – their ticket out of poverty.
As Mr Behar has ably demonstrated through his column, the higher education market is controlled by corruption-breeding regulations of state agencies, and powerful politicians like the ones Behar gets his insights from.
Secondly, what organizations such as India Institute propose when we encourage ‘private investments’ is private players in a free market: the operative phrase being ‘free market’. As Mr Behar has ably demonstrated through his column, the higher education market is controlled by corruption-breeding regulations of state agencies, and powerful politicians like the ones Behar gets his insights from. This is Cronyism 101. And the primary tool of cronies is not ‘private investment’, but the state machinery. The government’s involvement in the education is so deep, and their rules so restrictive, that there is hardly any fair competition among players. And without competition, no market succeeds, as powerful cronies crush the smaller, genuine social entrepreneurs.
Further – why were students willing to pay more for a B.Ed degree on paper without having learned anything? That’s because there was one huge job market which functioned based on political patronage and ignored quality teaching skills: the state education system. Anyone with a degree on paper would be hired as far as they were close to the power brokers and their communities. The resulting labor capacity was so huge that even private players had to hire teachers from the same pool, reason why teachers in private institutions are paid less.
In spite of this, Mr Behar still thinks public investment in education is the solution. State’s control of the education sector is the reason our teachers are poor and private investments have not produced desired results.
This column by Behar is probably in response to ASER 2014 findings, which have yet again shown the falling learning levels in India and the state’s failure in teaching. If our intellectuals continue to apologize on behalf of the state-led system, then it would be ignorance on our part to call them ignorant. This is sinister manipulation.
India Institute is involved with some interesting projects to expose these inherent problems in our higher education system. Watch this space for more.
Manager – Projects and Advocacy, India Institute