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I think education can in no way be called
a"public good", and therefore there is no
reasonto believe that there is "market failure"
in the field of education. Consequently, there is
no ground for the govt. to be involved
ineducation whether through funding, or
management, providing seed money to local bodies
or NGOs, or even subsidies in the form of mid-day
Utkarsh: Dear Barun, I am not an economist.
I apologize for not able to understand a public
good relation here in its technical definition.
But as an ordinary citizen, I am unable to
understand the role of governement in an ordinary
For a civilization that survived on the basis
ofits "gurukul" system, and where today we can
see the incredible proliferation
of private tutorials, coaching classes,
andvocational institute, I donot understand why
private bodies - for profit
and non-profit - would not be able to meet
the demand, set their own standards, and compete
with each other.
Utkarsh: We did have some discussion on
this before. I am not sure that if an avaerage
citizen earning below minimum wage can
afford a for profit school to send his or her
kid to school for primary education. If he/she
even tried to do anything, they wil
do what you did suggest of hiring someone
to tuition these millions of kids for primary
education at a small cost. And I
can gaurentee that all these kids will never
have a chance to go to a primary and then
secondary (no one is going to tuition at
that price) education in their life time.
Allowing the state in this area will only help
legitise the role of govt. in similar situations.
And it will in due course give rise to interest
group warfare and falling quality. In the US
there are organizations that are opposing
the school voucher system as a means of ensuring
greater competition among schools, and they have
called for separation of school and state.
Utkarsh: As I said earlier that I am confused
with your thoughts on the role of government in
a society. I am also unable to understand your
premise of interest group warfare and falling
quality. In the US, voucher system is proposed
for students to get a limited amount of money
to go to a private school if a student does not
want to go to government run public schools.
And there is opposition to such a thought.
There has been talk of seperation of federal
governement with the school system. In
my understanding, local governement is knee
deep in the funding and selecting the management
of all the public schools in the US.
As for the poorest of the poor, I think it
would be very arrogant of us to think that
because they may be illiterate, they are also
ignorant. The two words are not synonymous. I
think the primary reason why many parents
don't think of investing much in education
is because of the general economic environment
in the country. For instance, employment in
the organised sector - both govt. and private -
has remained almost flat for over a decade. And
for the informal/unorganised sector formal
educational qualification has never been
Utkarsh: You are right, they are not ignorant.
At some time back I had posted a study by world
bank in India, which concluded that high dropout
in primary education was due to poor quality
of education, lack of classrooms, teachers
and supplies. There were findings of child labor.
But it was not the primary finding
for higher dropout rate.
Indeed, I can cite instances,
where illiterate/semi-literate parents in remote
villages organised themselves to hire a
teacher (for a salary which consisted of
part cash, part farm produce) to teach their
children the basic three R's. Because
that is what they could afford, and
thought adequate in their conditions. Therefore
the only area of interest in the field of
education ought to be on ways of
removing restrictive barriers to entry and
running of educational establishments, mandatory
standards, minimum qualification for
teachers, etc. Then trust the market to achieve a
balance between supply and demand. And
allow competion to ensure quality.
Utkarsh: Again I am assuming that we are
expecting only middle and upper middle class to
gain an education. If I earn less than
minimum wage (remeber this does make millions of
real people) than my kids can never afford an
education as no one in right mind is going to run
a school to teach me at below cost.
Finally, education and literacy should not
be looked in isolation from the general
intellectual and economic climate. Consider that
countries like North Korea, Cuba, former Soviet
Union had all achieved almost 100% literacy,
but that did not help these countries much.
Likewise in Kerala, 100% literacy and
better health care system have transformed it
into a heaven on earth. It is one of the most
socially and politically fragmented
society, has very high suicide rates,
relatively high incidence of crimes against
women, very few employment opportunities,
has failed to attract the attention of the
investors, and even the remittances from
Keralites living out side has been used not
been put to any regenerative use, but in
real estate, housing, and gold (three age old
avenues of investment in troubled
Utkarsh : Agreed
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