Even before Covid-19, the world was not on track to meet its SDG targets. In 2019, only 59 per cent of children in grade three were proficient in reading. The pandemic is estimated to cause an additional 101 million children to fall below the minimum reading proficiency threshold, increasing the total number of students falling behind to 584 million in 2020. This refutes the progress achieved in education over the past 20 years.
The set SDG targets for education that includes full access to high-quality schooling from early childhood through secondary, equitable access to affordable technical, vocational, and tertiary education, and more investment in education facilities to improve learning environments, seems very far-fetched if the governments were to meet them all by themselves. Meeting these challenges will require continued and expanded public commitment of resources, efforts to encourage innovation and technology, and a deliberation on the role of the private sector in achieving public education goals.
Globally, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) associations in education have been used to provide the framing structure through which to bring the public and private sectors together to complement each other’s strengths in the financing and provision of education services. PPPs have been widely applied to the delivery of education facilities in the last few years to strengthen equity in access through demand-side financing schemes and can help extend the reach and effectiveness of government funds, encourage innovation in education, increase efficiency and capacity of infrastructure.
Given the current interest in PPPs in India, the report examines the whole school management and adoption models of PPP, which are the two models with the most potential to create impact. Beginning with government-aided schools, the states in India have experimented with various forms of PPPs to improve access and quality in education. These include the Punjab Adarsh Model School Scheme, the Rajasthan Education Initiative, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s PPP policy, the Gujarat PPP policy, and the central government’s Model School scheme.
The Department of School Education & Literacy under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India started the Model School Scheme in 2012-13, targeted to provide quality education to talented rural children through setting up of 6,000 schools at the rate of one school per block as benchmark of excellence. It also aims to try out innovative curriculum and pedagogy, and be a model in infrastructure, curriculum, evaluation, and school governance. The scheme envisages the setting up of 3,500 schools in as many educationally backward blocks (EBBs) through state/UT governments and the remaining 2,500 schools under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode in blocks that are not educationally backward.
Under the school adoption model, state governments are looking at collaborating with private operators and NGOs to work with existing government teachers to improve the quality of education and learning outcomes of students. The government’s decision to strengthen school education with the implementation of the National Education Policy across 15,000 schools despite the hurdles owing to the Covid-19 pandemic shows clear intent.
Through the government’s privatisation plan for bettering the infrastructure and quality of school outcomes, PPPs has also been extended into early childhood education and technical and vocational education and training (TVET), as opportunities in these areas are seen as viable and necessary by governments to achieve education for all throughout the education life cycle.
However, the rollout and implementation across all states should be done at the earliest to bring parity for students to access education across the country. The participation of the private sector and NGOs in managing and operating schools will be an enabler in providing a modern and high-quality framework for education and boost the sector to engage with many more projects under the public-private partnership model. This, more so to bridge the widened gap in education due to lack of infrastructure in the adoption of online learning in many parts of India in the last two years of the pandemic lockdown where education has seen the most beating.
There lies a vast potential for PPPs in education in India, and governments have identified them. However, the success of the collaborative effort lies with their implementation, results of which are yet to be seen.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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