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There are many obstacles to the successful provision of universal primary and secondary education. The failure of state schools to provide adequate schooling is a serious hindrance to achieving the international goal of Education for All. Non-State providers of education are regarded as an alternative but the variation in the quality of education provided is a growing concern. Educational partnerships between the public and private sector have been regarded as a way out of this impasse though entails considerable debates about the economic and political implications of these public private partnerships (PPPs). Disentangling the economic and political dimensions of provision would further our understanding of these models of educational provision. This paper sets out to enhance one's conceptual understanding on the PPP model in the field of education which poses to be a key sector acting as a threat and an opportunity for a country like India with a huge human and social capital. The idea of exit and entry are key to any collective action wherein the exit draws on the mainstream economic understanding of free entry and exit with the latter occuring when individuals were no longer satisfied with what was on offer in the market. Conceptualizing educational provision in relation to exit and entry permits the examination of how the role of market and community affect the access to and quality of education. Educational initiatives by state and non-state providers in India are mapped onto this typology to gain understanding of how the new models of education, such as PPPs, would affect the current provision of education. Increasing the coverage of education to ensure that all children go to school has been addressed by national governments and international agencies, both donors and financiers. The framework of PPPs has been regarded as a pluasible way to ensure this objective by bolstering demand-driven provision as well as more cost-effective supply of education. It may prove to be a mode of increasing the access and quality of education to poor communities. The considerable attention accorded to the impact of PPPs on improving the educational outcomes of the poor has made PPPs the subject of considerable policy interest.
Inclusive education is the way for the future
".......Every society that values social justice and is anxious to improve the lot of the common man and cultivate all available talent must ensure progressive equality of opportunity to all sections of the population. This is the only guarantee for building up of an egalitarian and human society in which exploitation of the weak will be minimized".
The education system of a country does not function in isolation from the society of which it is a part. Hierarchies of castes, economic status, gender relations and cultural diversities as well as uneven economic development also deeply influences issues relating to access and equity in education. Though India was widely acclaimed as the land of knowledge and wisdom during ancient times yet access to education was limited to select strata of the society. The societal distribution of repsonsibility and accountability may have been justified in those days but today's context deeply entrenched social inequalities between various social groups and castes, the centuries old social prejudices and inequalities, based on caste at birth, continue to propose challenges for national development. Extending educational opportunities to the marginalized groups has been considered an antidote to this longstanding discrimination by the framers of the constitution. Several attempts have been made by social reformers and others to make education accessible to marginal groups with varying degrees of success.
The concepts of social inclusion and exclusion have found their way into the mainstream education policy frameworks thus emphasizing an integrated approach to the reformation of the educational systems. Inclusion is to be seen as a part of the wider struggle to overcome exclusive discourse and practices. Thus the concept of universal education has emerged as a result of such philosophies which have resulted in the inactment of SSA and RTE act in the recnt times. The increasing focus on quality access of education across all sections of the society have resulted in the creation of implementation modes like PPP with the state and private entities being joint partners thus becoming a subject of policy concern.
A policy should be a charter that enunciates the principles of goal-setting, sets out the framework for achieving targeted objectives and thereby brings about socio-economic performance thus measuring its impact. PPP is often described as a private business investment where 2 parties comprising government as well as a private sector undertaking form a partnership.
Education is one of the key defining sectors for equitable human development and sustainable and inclusive economic growth in India. Given the country's strong economic growth in the last decade, increasing demand for public investment across all sectors has created investment gaps in such key sectors. In addition, India faces increasing challenges in terms of service delivery standards, performance benchmarks, and incorporation of technology in providing education services to all, especially the poorest and those located far from the urban growth centres of the country.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have shown their ability to meet some of these challenges in India. The involvement of a diverse set of stakeholders ranging from international donor agencies, banks like ADB and World Bank, policy think-tanks, private sector and public comprising of civil societies and the target segment is crucial in the entire process of intervention design, partnership formation and service delivery thus ensuring an inclusive and sustainable growth model. The collective action among the various stakeholders is crucial to the formation, institutionalization and continuation of a strategic partnership and alliances which act as the delivery nodes and service providers for the excluded sections of the society defined by spatial segregation, income disparities or social and political stratifications existing in the societal structures. The multiplicity of networks among interlinked entities are organized and directed towards a particular direction which needs to be unified as a collective action allowing integration and focussed target and delivery; leveraging individual strengths and capitalizing on the collective benefits through a win-win situation. The convergence of the ideologies, objectives and implementation strategies among the multiple network stakeholders prevents duplicity and instead augments and enhances the collective effort organized and directed at a particular target while fulfilling certain final objectives.
The PPP approach is to providing educational facilities and delivery mechanisms for inclusive socio-economic access and skill development through capacity building by developing inter-linkages between the multiple partners leading to holistic growth.
The web of linkages among these partners comprising chiefly the government, business players and civil society embodying the public interests and needs are integrated together in this collaborative network.
Figure 1: Stakeholder inter-linkages
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been assisting the Government of India since 2006 in developing PPPs across critical sectors like education through a joint venture called Mainstreaming PPPs in India. Under the initiative, a special ADB task team, together with the Government of India's Ministry of Finance and multinational consultants, undertook a rapid assessment study to develop possible PPP solutions to bridge the growing challenges in India's education sector. A number of suggested PPP models for possible pilot projects have been conceptualized through this exercise after consultations with government and private sector professionals in India. A number of these models are already being tailored for structuring some initial projects underway in the country. It will help provide a quick assessment tool to the international and national PPP cases in the sector, as well as practical ideas and suggested models to interested project sponsors, especially within government bodies responsible for sector development. Development of PPP projects based on some of the models suggested can help spur investment and efficiency gains in educational infrastructure, and service delivery mechanisms of the country.
Thus in contrast to earlier scenario where there were either purely government owned educational institutions or privately owned facilities but in the recent times, a healthy mix of both the key stakeholders have been forming strategic alliances and partnerships mutually beneficial to both the parties turning the venture into a profitable investment when mapped in a socio-economic context.
Figure 2: Procedural mapping of PPP through collective action approach
The PPP between the public and private sector draws out the required finances to fund the educational infrastructure like school buildings, ICT infrastructure in educational technology and other expenses associated with providing inclusive education as per the RTE act by following the universalization of education model.
Above all, people's groups, civil society organizations and voluntary agencies will play a crucial role in the design and implementation of educational infrastructure and delivery points. This will help build a new perspective on inclusiveness and encompassing gender and social inclusion and ensure that these become integral and crosscutting concerns informing different aspects like training, curriculum and classroom transaction and pedagogy by designing and monitoring of teaching and learning modules to ensure quality education being imparted to the children at different levels of education. A vibrant civil society movement can ensure that the parent/child from weaker and disadvantaged sections become aware of the value of exercising the right to elementary education and put in serious efforts on their part. NGOs' contribution towards knowledge creation, dissemination of ideas and provision of viable and feasible solutions to challenges suitable for the local conditions is necessary for intervention and policy making. Besides the government schools present across the country, many privately owned schools have sprouted to cater to the elite needs of the children belonging to the higher sections of the society. The government and private schools exist in parallel targeting different segments of the society based on their socio-economic position. The civil societies meanwhile are aiding in bridging gaps that have not been catered by either of the two main stakeholders to ensure inclusive provision of quality education. They undertake the localized needs assessment and design appropriate interventions by developing pragmatic initiatives which are in line with the government polices thus partnering with the public institutions.
The partnership through PPP models or joint ventures is a systematic cycle of interlinked procedures due to the web of complex linkages between the strategic partners of the educational services design and delivery model.
It includes the identification of common and overlapping interest which is mutually beneficial by conjointly also demarcating the differential needs and interest boundaries. It can either lead to a favourable outcome of formation of partnership or terminate the initiative due to the fallout of the negotiations. In case of agreement to joint partnership, it includes key decisions of finance spending ratio followed by the drafting of legal frameworks and organizational structure and design. This leads to implementation and finally an evaluation and monitoring phase coupled with continuous structural adjustment steps.
Figure 3: Systematic partnership model
The Right to Education act of 2009 has been a landmark event in the educational landscape providing for universal and inclusive education approach thus emphasizing the need for joint partnerships among the diverse set of stakeholders acting as catalysts across the entire education delivery process. It includes the central and state government as facilitators, private investors, special purpose public bodies like the National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and others to ensure smooth and quality implementation and monitoring of the RTE act across different parts of the nation, civil societies and voluntary organizations ensuring the effectiveness and grassroots access and provision of such policy interventions. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) is a major policy initiative undertaken by the government followed by other congruent policies and interventions directed at different levels of education ranging from elementary to secondary and higher secondary. The technical education still lags behind in terms of access and quality delivery as it requires higher investments with longer gestation periods thus posing a major challenge in the Indian educational model. The government provides for subsidized or free land tracts for development of premier educational institutions followed by private investment in delivering and monitoring the facility with a joint equity partnership. The joint alliance helps to ease the negative externalities of high capital investment expenditure with long gestation periods and low profits attained in the initial phases of implementation. This makes it lucrative for both the organizations to enter into profitable contracts with mutual and societal benefits.
Recent Developments in the field
The introduction of RTE act for compulsory elementary education spanning eight years in congruence with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) are watershed or major landmarks in the field of education in India. The country being a democratic nation blended with a mixed economy works towards the larger public good by participating in the public sphere and ensuring equitable access and opportunities to its people.
The emphasis has been laid on the formation of partnerships with voluntary organizations and civil societies for developing capacity of school management committees (SMCs). These are aiming to formulate school development plans, realigning teacher education and training systems to build learning on children's experiences and pre-knowledge. Additionally the interaction with the multiple stakeholders in the delivery chain includes providing valuable inputs on issue relating to the nature of central assistance, implementation structure of SSA and RTE and their respective fund transfer mechanisms. The NCPCR has invited its multiple stakeholders ranging from civil society groups, students, teachers, administrators, policy makers, think tank or donor agencies, business or private firms, creative personnel, curriculum designers, judicial and legislative members and other stakeholders to join hands and work together to build a movement to ensure that every child of this country is in school and enabled to receive at least 8 years of quality education.
The policy interventions and strategic partnerships have helped attract $300-350 million of private equity investment in 2010 compared to almost negligible allocation till some years ago. The field of education is becoming lucrative for the diverse set of partners with each fitting into the network through the contribution of their unique set of core competencies.
The trend of increased usage of ICT tools and platforms have led to the development of technology enabled educational delivery modules with ICT acting as an enabler for effective reach and delivery. The Common Service Centres (CSCs) provisioned to deliver solutions pertaining to educational facilities and delivery modes and mechanisms. The CSCs have the potential to offer Web-enabled e-governance services in rural areas as well as to provide high-quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services. The network as the platform allows for innovative delivery models with strong communication and collaboration capabilities. A holistic transformation of the educational system can be enabled by collaborative technologies that allow individuals to create, adapt and share content and best practices. By providing extraordinary access to high-quality educational services through the CSCs that will help in creating knowledge economy by imparting vocational training to rural youth and preparing students in India to become members of the global workforce
The current providers of education in India indicate that there has been a shift in the manner in which education is conceptualised. The market based approach has led to the commoditization of education wherein new models of education provision seem to regard strengthening of existing patterns of supply and demand as a sufficient basis for education. The ability to access an education system is limited by hierarchical social structures. The growing use of PPPs by the policy makers as a way forward to move towards universal access has added to the number of non-state providers of schools in the last two decades. The schools that have been established under the umbrella of PPPs have resulted in improving both the demand and supply of education for those who can afford to pay for private education but not for the poorest sections. While educational access can be extended by increasing the number of non-state schools, there is no guarantee that it will not be a low-quality alternative to the non-functional government school. Thus PPP approach has been gaining recognition among the policy makers as to involve the various stakeholders in the provision and delivery of educational services by ensuring access and quality. The participative model helps in the integrated approach to education to leverage the strengths of both the partners and eliminating the negatives of the individual models.