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Re: On education (sorry for the delay)

Ten years ago I failed to commission a chapter on education in Foundations
of India's Political Economy.    T. W. Schultz's top student on the subject
was George Psacharapolous (of the LSE and then the World Bank), who has been
the doyen of the subject at the Bank.   At his recommendation I tried to get
Dr J. B. G. Tilak of the National Institutte of Education Planning in Delhi
but failed.  Dr Tilak is one of the top experts in the country and if we can
get some input from him it could be productive.
I did however write the following in the Introduction to Foundations of
India's Political Economy which might be of interest (NB how circumspect one
had to be before the Berlin Wall fell):

"There is a chapter missing on education, defined to include both the public
schooling of children and the imparting of knowledge and skills within the
family.  As such, education may well be the surest source of the long-term
economic growth of a nation.  It is uncontroversial that governments have a
role in eductaion, though the nature and scope of such a role may be
expected to vary with the level of eductaion and the purpose and
circumsdtances at hand.  In particular, there is an important distinction
between the public financing of education and the actual provision of
education by government schools.  There is unanimous agreement among
economists on public financing at primary and secondary levels, but less
agreement over whether the State also needs to involve itself in actually
providing schools, writing curricula, training and hiring teachers and so
on, especially at higher levels.    Although the editors failed in attempts
to commission a chapter on this crucial subject, a brief evaluation of the
facts of Indian education may be given here...
During the period of foreign rule and the nationalist movement, little if
any Government attention had been given to the literacy or schooling of the
masses of the people of India.  One of the signal achievements of
independent India has been the sheer numerical growth of primary and
secondary education, and the increased rates of literacy and numeracy as a
consequence.  At the same time, fundamental problems have remained with the
system of Indian education.  Among these are the relative neglect of
education in budgets, plans and national politics as a whole; the continued
relative neglect of primary education and a bias towards higher educatrion
in spite of social rates of return on investment being higher for the former
than the latter;l low attendance especially at rural schools and their sheer
absence within reasonable walking distance of many villages; and the
relative lack of educational incentives and opportunities for girls and
members of the scheduled castes.  As recently as 1986, two out of five
primary schools were said not to have a blackboard, two out of five had no
permanent all-weather building, and three out of five had no facility for
fresh drinking water.  Most such schools are rural.   An illustration given
by K. Subbarao of the distribution of resources within the educational
system is this.  In 1976/77, estimates of annual costs per pupil in primary
and higher educationn were Rs. 152 and Rs 1353 respectively, annual
subsidies per pupil Rs 150 and Rs. 1116 respectively.   A total of Rs. 6243
million of public money was spent on higher and professional education that
year; if 50% of this had been recovered through fees or user-costs and the
resulting savings of public revenues diverted to primary education, literacy
might have been possible for about 20 million more children that year.  Over
the period 1976-1981, such a policy might have added 100 million more
literates within the population, making the literacy rate about 51% by 1981
instead of the actual rarte of about 36%.   The transfer of resources from
elsewhere in the budget towards education could have of course added even

Our Pakistan book did have a very candid chapter on education by Sharukh
Khan (not the Bollywood actor but a professor at Vassar College as I
recall), and that found a similar if not much worse situation in Pakistan.
A "peace dividend" diverting resources from defence towards education in
Pakistan and India would be rather large, but that is of course presently
mere wishful thinking, i.e. pie-in-the-sky.

I have the greatest respect for the practical persons involved with
education on the ground, and would defer to their experience.  The above
might merely be of interest to the debate.
-----Original Message-----
Date: Wednesday, September 23, 1998 11:15
Subject: Re: educational policy

>May I place before you ideas that I have been exposed to:
>There has to be a new way of teaching : Not present Cheating
>ourselves that we are educating the masses.
>Teaching to read and write is fine !
>Purpose of Education is for improving self, improving
>society economically. This is not possible in India today as
>all avenues of growth are blocked at the Whims and fancies
>of Politicians.

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