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Rajasthan Turns To For Profit Education

By Kranti Kapoor & B.C.Mehta

30 December, 2010

Rajasthan government has decided to absorb about 10,000 teachers and non-academic staff of aided educational institutions (schools and colleges) into the State-run schools and colleges in Rajasthan. They will be given an option for joining a newly created rural education service cadre. To facilitate absorption, the Rajasthan Voluntary Rural Education Service Rules , 2010, and Section-7 of the Rajasthan Non-government Educational Institutions Act, 1989 will be suitably amended. It is to be noted that the State Government proposes to stop all grants to all educational institutions after the scheme's implementation. Thereafter, the private schools and colleges will be free to recruit new teachers on their own terms. There will be, therefore, no private aided educational institutions in the state.

As reported by Hindu, the teachers and other staff of these institutions have welcomed this policy decision of the state government, some apprehensions regarding some service rules and rules about promotions not withstanding. It is to be noted that the teachers and employees absorbed into the government service would never be allowed to serve in the urban areas in future and would not be given any benefit for their previous years' service in terms of experience for promotions and increment-related payments. It is not easy to understand why the teaching staff is welcoming this decision. The teachers of the aided institutions are, at present, getting the same pay and pay scales as the teachers in government institutions. To make it sure that they get the full pay, payments are made through cheques. When they are absorbed in government institutions they will be placed in remote, mostly rural areas, will loose their seniority, and face frequent transfers. The only reason they are welcoming this decision seems to be the policy of the state government towards aided institutions in the recent past whereby the government has been reducing grants and delaying payments. The teaching community has accepted the stoppage of aids to these institutions as fait accompli. They know that after the stoppage of government aid to these institutions, it will be well nigh impossible for these institutions to continue paying them the same emoluments and facilities. These institutions may even be forced to close down or transform themselves into profit making exclusive ones. Their service conditions will change. The employees have, therefore, no choice except to accept the government scheme of absorption.

In fact, the state government is shrewd enough in accomplishing three tasks simultaneously: The policy will please the employees of these institutions who are scared of the prospects of unemployment at present or in future. They will also be assured of full pay and allowances in future. The government will simultaneously save funds, since these transferred teachers will fill-in thousands of vacancies in schools and colleges without any extra cost to the exchequer, their salary was already financed almost entirely by the state government. Moreover, the government would be free from the obligation of financially supporting any philanthropic effort coming from the public in future. However, it will kill the old and time tested real public partnership (PPP) model which will be replaced by the government corporate partnership for profit (GCPP) model. As this step of Rajasthan government amply shows, the state government has resolved to disband the real PPP model of aided institutions which aimed at encouraging philanthropy and a sense of social responsibility in public at large. Voluntary contributions to the education sector have no place of honour in the new GCPP. It is a retrograde policy. It abandons encouragement of philanthropy and community participation and involvement by supporting the effort with government funds, guidance and regulation in favour of a profit oriented system of education which would accentuate and perpetuate class differences.

This should be seen as part of the state policy of privatization and commercialization of education under the mask of PPP as propounded in the Eleventh Plan and the Right to education Act. Under this scheme, government would be encouraging establishment of model schools by corporate as well as non-profit bodies (NGOs). Corporate bodies with a stipulated minimum net worth of Rs.25 crore are required to deposit an interest bearing deposit of Rs.50 lakh for the first three schools and Rs 25 lakh thereafter with the government for the each school they propose to set up. Non-profit bodies with prior experience in education need to deposit Rs.25 lakh for each school (Report of the Sub-group of the Round Table on School Education, May 25, 2010 ). The schools will be required to have the required infrastructure. The institutions may get access to relevant funds from the Centre and the State governments under different schemes. These model schools in private NGO or corporate sector will be required to admit a stipulated minimum number of students from weaker sections for which they would be refinanced according a set formula.

Under the right to education Act too, all schools will be required to admit needy children up to extent of 25 per cent of total enrolment. Their fees will be reimbursed by government in accordance with another formula. This is sort of a voucher system. This scheme cannot be termed as a PPP policy. In reality, high degree of commercialization will be encouraged by public (government) policy and funds. The schools will enjoy unlimited freedom in respect to the fees charged from the non-quota (75% of total seats) students as also all other aspects of governance management of the school. This is privatization and commercialization of school education utilizing government funds.

In fact, the scheme also sidelines small scale private initiative in education. It is in everybody's knowledge that in several urban, semi-urban areas and even villages, there are small scale educational entrepreneurs, operating schools in rented rooms and apartments and imparting education to the wards of lower middle and labour class families charging relatively low fees. Of course, they also, pay low salaries to the teachers. Mostly, educated married or unmarried girls living in the neighbourhood of the school and not willing to migrate to outstation places offer their services to these schools at rather low salary. As a World Bank study ( Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das and Asim Ijaz Khwaja (2008); A Dime a Day, The Possibilities and Limits of Private Schooling in Pakistan, WPS4066) testifies, these schools have traditionally played significant role in spreading literacy and education in the unserved areas and to the uncovered sections of population at low cost. And their education level is better than most of the state government schools. In contrast to the so called public (exclusive) schools, the students also feel at home in these schools. The small-scale entrepreneurs also do not aim at super profits, they in fact, earn modest income, sort of a salary, for managing the show. In contrast, the wards of educationally, socially and economically backward families who will be forced upon the corporate schools (to call them public schools is a great joke) will neither be assimilated by these schools nor will they feel at home in the alien atmosphere (See B.C. Mehta ,   Kranti Kapoor , Implementing Right To Education Act , Mainstream, Vol xlviii, No 10, February 27, 2010). The huge funds transferred to these corporate schools will not help in any way spreading education to the uncovered sections.

The policy is bound to fail in achieving the goal of universal elementary and ultimately secondary education. Already, the corporate school groups are opposing the imposition of the 25 per cent compulsion. If they are compelled to implement the RTI Act, how will they proceed to do it? Will they open separate sections for these students with separate staff and Hindi or regional language as medium of instruction? Will this imply segregation within the school. Will this be good for education and society as a whole? These and other questions are bound to arise.

In the interest of universal education the state government should reconsider its decision of stopping aid to the presently aided institutions and help the real PPP model in education. While several of these institutions are community (caste or religious groups) based and controlled and managed by them, others are secular bodies. Several of these institutions are very old ones, started in pre-independence days, serving not only the communities which took initiative in starting them but also public in general. They have done yeoman's service to the society. They have earned name in serving unserved areas and sections, specially, girls. They have huge buildings and other infrastructure and assets built with government funds and contributions from the public at large. It would be indeed very sad day when due to stoppage of government aid these institutions either close down, or become sick units retrenching staff and reducing their salary or transforming themselves into exclusive self-financing businesses. Incidentally, if the institutions close down or transform into profit-oriented units, why should the assets built with public money (through government and or community or philanthropic contributions) be left with them?

Several scenarios can emerge after grants-in-aid is stopped. The most likely scenario is that they will raise fees, start more self-financing (carrier-oriented courses), offer minimum permissible salary to teachers, employ them on temporary or guest faculty basis for seven to eight months in a year, rotate their employment so as to avoid paying PF, dearness and other allowances. Present government rules permit paying only minimum of the grade during first two years of appointment; PF contribution and dearness allowance are required to be paid only after two years of probation. In this scenario, non-professional courses are to suffer and teachers will face exploitation. In such a situation excellence in teaching and research cannot be expected. Sooner than later these institutions will be either transformed into pure corporate profit oriented ones or will close down.

It is nobody's case that these aided institutions are models of management, efficiency and excellence. Far from it, several of them are suffering from groupism, cronyism, family domination, and mismanagement. They also lack academic excellence and research atmosphere. However, the situation can be tackled and improved upon. Serious attempts should be made to improve the situation rather than throwing the baby with the basket. In any case, it is better system than the system of profit oriented corporate model of education. In this context, the non-corporate small entrepreneur model of neighbourhood schooling also needs to be encouraged.

Kranti Kapoor Teaches at National Law University , Jodhpur She can be at contacted at dr.krantikapoor@gmail.com .

B.C.Mehta is Emeritus Professor of Economics. He can be contacted at mehatbc@gmail.com .