To Achieve The Aims Of NEP, India Needs To Open 50 New Schools And One University Every Week

And why the private sector is even more important now.

Amidst a lot of excitement, the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was implemented on the July of 29th, 2020. This 66-page revolutionary document seeks to undo the damage caused to our education system over the past century or so through disastrous policies. It looks at various ways to revive India’s ailing school system through concerted and targeted measures that improve both quality and growth. Most importantly, the document envisages a shift from an inputs-based approach to an outcomes-based approach; although the suggestions on this front are mainly directions and a lot depends on how the government chooses to implement them.

While the document does a phenomenal job at targeting some glaring deficiencies in our schooling system, it misses the opportunity to address the issues of the private sector in India, which is a significant provider of quality education in rural and urban areas at a reasonable cost.

Firstly, a substantial number of students are already enrolled in private schools; 43.18% of students attended private schools in 2016-17 in India, which translates to around 80 million students out of India’s school-going population of around 185 million.

Secondly, the increase in the number of private schools is four-five times the increase in the number of government schools for the period 2010-11 to 2014-15.

Thirdly, total enrolment in government schools decreased by 11.1 million in that period, while enrolment in private schools increased by 16 million during this period.

The out-migration of students from government schools rendered many government schools unviable to run. In just three states, i.e., Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, 24,000 government schools have been closed down.

The salaries paid to government school teachers in India are 4 to 8 times higher than their counterparts in countries like China, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Yet, China ranked second in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 of reading, science, and arithmetic, while India ranked 73rd out of 74 countries the last time we participated (in 2009).
While political pressures and unionization ensure a high salary for government school teachers, absenteeism is high, and learning outcomes are very poor.

It is found that private schools were able to deliver similar or better learning outcomes, at a very affordable cost, making them 3.25 times more cost-effective than government schools. These findings clearly and unequivocally show that the private sector has a huge role to play in India’s education sector.

According to the Central Square Foundation, the preference for private schools over government schools ‘is linked to economic aspiration, English attainment, computing skills, and low trust of government services.’

Continuing to Higher Education, NEP aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. There will a need for opening one new state-of-the-art university every week for the next 15 years. Coupling this with the aim of bringing back 20 million students into the schooling system, we need to open 50 new state-of-the start schools every week for the next 15 years as well.

This is no menial task, given the numbers of educators and support staff to be trained and recruited. This is only possible with the support of the private sector.

The internationalisation of higher education is added for the first time to the education policy of India. It aims to promote India as a knowledge hub, attracting foreign student and to promote research collaboration and student exchanges between Indian institutions and global institutions through organised efforts. Exchange of credits between foreign universities and home institutes will be permitted, to be counted for the award of a degree in appropriation as per HEI. Hence, India needs more well-equipped schools, colleges, universities and well-trained staff.

The most important challenge of the NEP is the expenditure on education. Currently, India spends 3-4.6% of its GDP (or about INR 5.6 lakh crore or roughly USD 80 billion) on education and ranks 62nd in total public expenditure on education per student. The NEP 2020 envisages an increase in education spending to 6% of GDP. Even this increase to 6% is not enough. If we want to become a “developed” nation, we must increase our allocation for education substantially.

Arranging funds is a big challenge in the COVID era. This paucity of funds can be managed with the active participation of private commercial enterprises. These enterprises offering educational content as well as suitable technology and tech-platforms, such as EdTech startups, will have a bright future under the NEP.

Hence, private institutions will play a major role in the implementation of NEP.

Private institutions in India are known for imparting good quality education and academic standards, top-class facilities, trained and competent faculty, proper attention to children, moderate fee structures as per the paying capacity of parents in the catchment area and much-required exposure and innovation in education. Private schools, especially private budget schools, are the backbone of the Indian education system, and private budget schools educated nearly half of the 185 million school-going population in India. Despite this, the regulatory framework for establishing and operating private schools in India is in-conducive to growth.

It requires an investment of roughly INR 5-10 CR (or USD 800,000 - 1.5 million), and a land size of at least an acre, to establish a K-12 school in India, with returns starting only after 3-6 years. On the other hand, it takes anywhere between INR 25 LACS to 1 CR (USD 30,000 - 140,000), and a constructed area of roughly 10,000 Sq. Ft, to establish a reputed pre-school in India.

Either way, not an easy feat. But, definitely required as the demand for private schools is increasing rapidly as there’s under-supply, making it a wise investment decision for private investors.

Such schools cannot be run for profit and are charitable organisations, which come with their own set of regulations. Only specialised financial consultants can suggest the right way forward.

Apart from esteemed government schools, most of them are in poor conditions. Due to this, even low-income families try admitting their kids in private schools for a better future.
Thus, without the involvement of the private sector, the aims of the NEP 2020 will be impossible to achieve. If we want to build India into a knowledge hub and superpower, we need to encourage private investment in education. We need to create a favourable ecosystem where they can flourish and improve educational standards.

(With inputs from Baldeesh Kapula, Academic Coordinator, Secondary, Satluj Public School, Sector 4, Panchkula) 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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New Education Policy NEP 2020 private sector

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