EDUPOLIS: KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY HUB FOR NEXT EDUCATION
Prof. (Dr.) K.V. Nagaraj
Pro Vice Chancellor
Governments have an obligation to ensure that their citizens receive quality education. For the citizens, whatever source it is provided is not a concern. If the source is public sector schools, government should ensure that teaching staff, facilities, equipment, and materials are of the best quality that can be provided with available funds. But governments are trying to withdraw from the scene by handing over the sector to the private agencies. For the shift a nick name is given: Private Public Participation (PPP). The World Economic Forum defines the Public Private Partnership as a voluntary alliance between various actors from different sectors where both agree to work together to reach a common goal or to fulfill a specific need that involves shared responsibilities, means, competencies and risks (MHRD, page1)
Since constitution of India specifically states free and compulsory education for all children in India, quality education is a right of every Indian child. The Right to Education Act 2009 underlines the constitutional right. But the reality is far away from the constitutional concern. Ministry of Human Resource Department states: There is a huge gap between the requirement and the availability of school infrastructure in the country. For example, in the secondary stage alone, the gross enrolment ratio from class IX-XII is 40.6%, whereas the vision of the country is to universalize the secondary education. To raise the enrolment ratio to 65%, the Working Group on Secondary Education constituted by the Planning Commission to assess the requirement during the 11th Plan has estimated the requirement to be Rs.1.45 lakh crore (MHRD, Page 6).
How to mitigate this gap? It is a wonderful question which every government has to face while discussing about universalisation of education. As far as a developing nation is concerned the crisis will lead for a short cut. Government of India declared it: It is not possible to provide such a large amount from the government alone in a short period of time. If the private sector is involved, it could augment the financial resources by providing school infrastructure for which it would be paid an annuity. Thus, without investing a very huge sum of money upfront, government would be able to cater to a much larger student population (MHRD, Page 6)
To underline this argument, governments will raise quality issues also. Studies point out private educational institutions can provide better opportunities than public system. World Bank points out the importance of private institutions: Contracting as a means of increasing the private sector’s role in education can have several benefits over the traditional public delivery of education. These benefits include greater efficiency, increased choice, and wider access to government services, particularly for people who are poorly served by traditional methods. Increased private involvement in education, through contracting or vouchers, has the additional advantages of bringing specialized skills to bear in the operation and management of public schools and of circumventing the inflexible salary scales and work rules that tend to prevail in public sector employment (Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2009, page 32).
The India experience is summarized by Karthik Muralidharan as Private-school teacher salaries in rural India are typically less than one-fifth the salary of regular public-school teachers (and are often as low as one-tenth as much). This enables the private schools to hire more teachers, have much lower pupil-teacher ratios, and reduce multi-grade teaching. Private school teachers are significantly younger and more likely to be from the local area as compared to their counterparts in the public schools. They are 2-8 percentage points less absent than teachers in public schools and 6-9 percentage points more likely to be engaged in teaching activity at any given point in time. Combining the effects of a lower pupil-teacher ratio and a higher level of teaching activity leads to a child in a private school having 3-4 times more “teacher-contact time” than in a public school in the same village. Private schools also start teaching English significantly earlier, which is something that parents repeatedly say they value in interviews. Finally, children in private schools have higher attendance rates and superior test score performance, with the latter being true even after controlling for family and school characteristics (Karthik Muralidharan,Page3).
The neo liberalized economy encourages Private Public Participation liberally. It is a global phenomenon. Developed nations, Developing nations and Under Developed nations have packages to support this style. World Bank observes: The private education sector has grown virtually across the board in developed and developing countries. A big reason for this expansion is the inability of public finances to keep pace with the growing demand for higher education. Other factors include dissatisfaction with the quality of public education (i.e., large class sizes, teacher absences, and lack of books and teaching supplies), the existence of more modern and job relevant curricula and programs in the private sector, the politicization of public education, and favorable policy changes. (Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2009, page 32).
In the April 17, 1997 Budget Address to the House of Assembly, the Minister of Finance stated “Every new school in Nova Scotia will be built through public-private partnerships. This means more schools will be built more quickly with leading-edge technology. Seven of these schools are now in various stages of planning and construction. Over the coming year, government will outline details of the next round of new school construction.” (Budget Address to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for the fiscal year 1997-98, page 15)
As it is in India, the new perspective represents a fundamental shift in the way in which schools are designed, constructed, financed, owned and operated in Nova Scotia. The Department of Education’s objectives for P3 schools are described in the Department of Finance Discussion Paper Transferring Risk in Public/Private Partnerships November 1997 as follows: “Schools delivered via a Public Private Partnership will be flexible, high tech learning environments to support programs and services for students during the useful life of the school. All technology will be integrated and provide valuable support tools for students and professional staff. These schools will be connected electronically to neighboring schools so that equitable access to technology is accomplished. The Private Sector will refresh the technology, and refreshed technology will be provided to other schools in the region. One of the objectives of Public/Private Partnerships is to ensure participatory planning for the facility to accommodate programs and services both now and in the future. Students, staff, School Board, the Province, the community at large and the Private Sector are involved in the design and construction of the facility.” (Budget Address to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for the fiscal year 1997-98, page 4)
Market is the key component of the celebrity ideal of Private Public Participation. World Bank’s notion on market and profit oriented plans for investors in education sector compel governments to provide and assure such facilities and social securities. In addition to providing general investment incentives, governments can encourage private investment in education by offering monetary or in-kind subsidies to private schools. These subsidies can be given at the outset in the form of, for example, free or discounted land, establishment grants, and education infrastructure. Land can be especially important in urban areas where land is expensive. Another way in which governments can encourage private investment would be to facilitate work visas for foreign teachers, management, and technical staff. (Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2009 page49)
The move toward PPPs in education also requires public officials to adopt a new administrative culture. As Harding (2002) noted (in relation to the health sector but it is equally applicable to education), public officials need to stop thinking of themselves as administrators and managers of public employees and other inputs, and start thinking of themselves as contract managers with the ultimate responsibility for delivering services (Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2009 page 55)
Efforts to involve the private sector in education often face concerted opposition from rival political parties, labor unions, the media, the public at large, and specific interest groups. Therefore, a crucial component of any PPP in education is an effective strategic (as opposed to piecemeal or ad hoc) communication plan as this can substantially reduce political risk and be an effective way of promoting a PPP initiative. A strategic communication plan needs to be built on ongoing opinion research that assesses how various stakeholders are affected by the initiative. The results of this research will help the government determine what steps to take to build support for, promote participation in, and mitigate social opposition to, the private participation initiative. (Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2009, page 57)
In the name of Poor
Many corporate houses and software firms encourage their employees to spend one day in a week, fortnight or month to teach in a Government school. This is a mutually satisfying arrangement as the schools are sometimes understaffed in critical subjects like: Mathematics, English, Science or Computers and this shortage is overcome. Secondly, these adjunct teachers from outside the formal school system bring freshness and innovativeness to the teaching learning process and their passion can be infectious. On 20 the other hand, the process improves camaraderie, empathy and fellow feeling between the haves and have-nots (MHRD). When governments make pledge over poor peoples’ development through privatization, the officials and ruling tycoons are hiding the real issue in connection with privatization. Due to the ongoing policy of privatization and commercialization of the entire educational system the educational institutions, instead of being seats of learning, are being transformed into business centers, fees are skyrocketing, cost of education is fast going out of reach of 95% of the population.( All India save Education Committee,2000, Page 3)
Students and Teachers hold hands against the dark eve of privatizing education sector. All India Primary Teachers Federation has pleaded with the Government of India to scrap the scheme of PPP because “it is not in the interest of the society particularly economically weaker sections. The scheme is only helping the rich to become richer. The scheme would further widen the gap between the haves and haves not. Government schools ailing from abysmally poor infrastructure facilities and teaching workforce will be schools of the poor and all private schools for the rich” (S. Eswaran Page 3)
Techno polis is a popular term among technocrats. Technopolises mark the network of economic growth. “A technopolis is a geographically concentrated high-technology complex characterized by a large number of entrepreneurial spin-off companies. A technopolis is not only a center of technological innovation; it is also acts like a mint for producing great wealth. A technopolis is somewhat like a gigantic money machine” (Arvind Singhal and Everett M Rogers, 2008). Naturally, when technology and money join hands, power and economic growth will be stored in. Marshall McLuhan’s ‘Medium is Message’ observes such a relationship. Primitive commodity money, like the magical words of non-literate society, can be a storehouse of power, and has often become the occasion of feverish economic activity. (Marshall McLuhan page 14)
The tenants of a technopolis are reflected in new version of education hubs. It is a store house of power, money and sophisticated technologies. Kerala is proposing such an educational transition by establishing huge edu-centeres in cities. Setting up of global cities of education and health care will be used as the building blocks to transform the economy into a knowledge-based economy. It is proposed to create five global hubs within the state over a period of 20 years. (The Kerala Perspective Plan 2030, Page 14)
To generate a “knowledge economy” is proposed in Kerala in tune of globalization and market oriented educational perspectives. A knowledge economy is an economy where knowledge is acquired, created, disseminated and used effectively to enhance economic development (The Kerala Perspective Plan 2030, Page 12).
The new development strategy will integrate the principles of social justice and environmental protection such that the social and environment capital complement physical capital to push the economy to the various circle of knowledge –driven sustainable development process. There are four pillars of the new development strategy propose for Kerala:
Building human capacity to meet the demands of a knowledge society through knowledge creation and dissemination in the context of a developing country region;
Creating conducive business environment for utilizing knowledge;
Integrating social development dimensions; Enhancing natural capital (The Kerala Perspective Plan 2030, p12)
Kerala is proposing a structure which will be termed as edupolis. Because the Kerala Perspective Plan 2030 clearly proclaims its association with market, technology, entrepreneurial link and money making initiatives in sweet quoted words:
The rapid advancements in ICT, which will underpin the growth of the knowledge-based economy, will itself spawn new activities and areas of investment in all the sectors due to demand created within the state.
Encouraging private investment in economic activity. Withdrawal of state from providing private goods (direct production). The state will assume the role of facilitator and effective regulator. It will create the necessary infrastructure and institutions to facilitate investment. The ‘investor friendly’ image of Kerala will have to be replaced by an investor friendly state.
Replacing “livelihood approach” by “entrepreneurial approach” in the primary and traditional manufacturing sectors. There will also be a move to corporatize cooperative societies. Semi-skilled jobs will be brought within the folds of “producer companies” a form of corporatized cooperatives. Corporatization (The Kerala Perspective Plan 2030, Page 15).
Edupolis has its own merits to display. All merits cop up with the needs of middle class audience and its upper sections that are thirsty for a “global tie up in educational standards.” The edupolis concept of knowledge economy hub for next education will be a satanic dream for the downtrodden who are the really needy ones because of the following reasons:
v it involves a massive transfer of resources from the exchequer to private schools.
v the schools have unlimited freedom in all aspects of governance, including specifically the fees to be charged
v The model allows the non-profit institutions to work for, and actually make, profits.
v The government has little control over these schools.
v The model does not feel the need to view education as being distinct from the production of commercial goods and building of infrastructure.
v It provides for unlimited power to the private sector.
As a result, the model, which claims that it is not for privatization, and that it will not allow the profit motive to enter the field of education, will promote the opposite: privatization and, in practice, a high degree of commercialization. It is privatization and commercialization with a difference — utilizing public funds. Most important, the present model conceived in the neo-liberal times provides for no government or any type of social control on education.
The Role and Impact of Public-Private Partnerships in Education, Harry Anthony Patrinos,2009, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank
1818 H Street NW, Washington DC 20433
Public Private Partnership in School Education, Director(School-1), Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, C-Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi.
Public-Private Partnerships for Quality Education in India, Karthik Muralidharan, Seminar, Issue #565, September 2006
Public Private Partnership in School Education- Present Status, S. Eswaran ,Secretary General, All India Primary Teachers Federation, Shikshak Bhawan, 41-Institutional Area, D-Block, Janakpuri, New Delhi-110058
Budget Address to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for the fiscal year 1997-98.
Principles of Mass Communication, Ratheesh Kaliyadan, 2012, Media Analysis and Research Center, Koyilandy, Kerala.