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Unclogging India’s Education Pipeline to Benefit the Economy

ndia's Education
India’s education pipeline is clogged all the way through. International care and attention needs to occur to ramp up this dismal state and increase developmental efforts. Thankfully, USAID is already on this track and created the life-changing program of Let Girls Learn.

Let Girls Learn

USAID’s recent Let Girls Learn initiative claimed that “if India enrolled one percent more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.” While this may be true, observers of U.S. development assistance note that only $3.5 million was allocated to Indian primary and secondary schools in 2015.

Researcher Jandhyala Tilak, from the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), cites government neglect of the secondary and higher education sectors as one of India’s major problems. She explains that while primary education is indeed crucial for moving citizens above the poverty line, “the danger of their falling below poverty line at any time could be high.”

Private vs Public Sector

Moreover, gains in India’s education pipeline come with a tainted reputation. As more and more private firms invest in this sector, questions arise concerning the quality and payoff of programs. Geetha Nambissan, from the Max Weber Foundation, reveals that the rise of “budget private schools” (BPS) offering scalable, pay-as-you-go learning has negatively affected teacher training.

In particular, she outlines the advent of para-skilling, which standardizes and streamlines lesson planning so that instructors are less costly to firms (earning lower wages) while still providing rudimentary support.

Nambissan believes this practice will hurt Indian education in the long term, since teaching is degraded from a profession to semi- or unskilled labor. “In some low-cost schools, teachers are so underqualified that they cannot speak English, let alone teach in English,” she says.

Nambissan’s views are echoed by those of Pramath Raj Sinha, Dean of the Indian School of Business, the very first Indian institution to earn a spot among The Financial Times’ top 20 MBA programs. He observes that too many investments have been made by business people with a product delivery approach.

“They saw themselves as providing a service,” Sinha says, “and the service was providing somebody a degree that could get them a job.” The result was “a mushrooming of many mediocre private universities” with “little incentive . . . to improve. That will have to change.”

And for that to change, the public and private sectors will have to establish mutually beneficial partnerships. In order to funnel students through to quality universities, India’s education pipeline must maintain teaching quality and support.

The Importance of Open-mindedness

In return, the Indian government might need to cede some ground: it currently imposes a $5 million guarantee from foreign educational firms, as well as a prohibition on the extraction of surplus profits.

Therefore, there is a definite possibility of a system with in-kind benefits between public entities such as USAID and private firms who would invest in the education sector.

Surplus profits could be used to invest in new infrastructure or housing projects, thereby keeping the benefits of human capital with the Indian people. Such a development would serve a dual purpose: boosting the Indian economy and bettering India’s education pipeline.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Flickr