Experience of Privatization of Education in India

Appealing over the last few years has clearly shown that unlike school education, privatization has not led for any major improvements in the standards of higher and professional education. Yet, on run up to the efficient reforms in 1991, the IMF, World Bank along with the countries that control them have been crying hoarse over the alleged pampering of higher education in India at the associated with school education. The reality was that school education was already privatized into the extent that government schools became an option and those who cannot afford private schools mushrooming in each street corner, even in small towns and neighborhoods. On the other hand, in higher education and professional courses, relatively better quality teaching and infrastructure has been available only in government colleges and universities, while private institutions of higher education in India capitalised on fashionable courses with minimum infrastructure.

Nevertheless, successive governments over the last two decades have only pursued a path of privatization and deregulation of higher education, regardless of which political party ran the government. At a Punnaiah committee on reforms in schooling set up through the Narasimha Rao government to the Birla-Ambani committee set up by the Vajpayee government, the only difference is their own degree of alignment to the market forces and not in the fundamentals of their reviews.

With the result, the last decade has witnessed many sweeping changes in higher and professional education: For example, thousands of private colleges and institutes offering IT courses appeared all during the country by the late 1990s and disappeared in less than the usual decade, with devastating consequences for students and teachers who depended on them for their occupations. This situation is now repeating itself in management, biotechnology, bioinformatics and other emerging areas. No one asked any concerns opening or closing such institutions, or bothered about whether there were qualified teachers at all, much less concern yourself with teacher-student ratio, floor area ratio, class rooms, labs, libraries etc. All brand new regulations that existed optimisation (though not always enforced strictly provided that as there were bribes to collect) have now been deregulated or softened under the self-financing scheme of higher and professional education adopted by the UGC in the 9th five-year plan and enthusiastically along with the central assuring governments.

This situation reached its extreme recently in the new state of Chattisgarh, where over 150 private universities and colleges came up within a couple of years, till the scam got exposed by a public interest litigation as well as the courts ordered the state government in 2004 to derecognise and close most out of all these universities or merge them with the remaining recognized ones. A whole generation of students and teachers are suffering irreparable damage to their careers with these trends, for no fault of theirs. Even government-funded colleges and universities in most states started many «self-financing» courses in IT, biotechnology etc., without qualified teachers, labs or infrastructure and charging huge fees from the students and are liberally giving them marks and degrees to disguise their inadequacies.

It is not that the other well established departments and courses in government funded colleges and universities are doing any benefit. Decades of government neglect, poor funding, frequent ban on faculty recruitment and promotions, reduction in library budgets, insufficient investments in modernization leading to obsolescence of equipment and infrastructure, and the tendency to start new universities on political grounds without consolidating the existing ones today threatens the entire college degree system.

Another corollary of those trend is that the educational institution recognized in a particular state need not limit its operations to that tell you. This meant that universities approved by the governments of Chattisgarh or Himachal Pradesh can set up campuses in Delhi or Noida, where they are rather more likely to get students from well off families who have enough money for their astronomical penalty fees. What is more, these kind of are not even accountable to the local governments, since their recognition comes ranging from a far away state. Add to this a new culture of well-branded private educational institutions allowing franchisees at far away locations to run their courses, without getting to the students or teachers any kind of other way. Famous . increasingly becoming a trend with foreign universities, especially one particular who do n’t want to set up their own shop here, but would like to benefit from the degree-purchasing power on the growing upwardly mobile economic class of India. Soon may well see private educational facilities getting themselves listed in the stock market and soliciting investments in the education business on the slogan that its demand will never see the sun.

The economics of imparting higher education are such that, barring a few courses in arts and humanities, imparting quality education in science, technology, engineering, medicine etc. requires huge investments in infrastructure, all that cannot be recovered through student fees, without making college inaccessible to a large section of students. Unlike many better-known private educational institutions in Western countries that operate in the charity mode with tuition waivers and fellowships (which is one reason why our students go there), most private universites and colleges in India are pursuing a profit motive. This is the basic reason for charging huge tuition fees, apart from forced donations, capitation fees and other charges. Despite huge public discontent, media interventions and many court cases, the governments have not been able to manage the fee structure and donations in those institutions. Even the courts have only played with the terms such as payment seats, management quotas etc., without addressing the basic issue of fee structure.

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