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Fixing the Public Education System with Partnership Schools

While access to elementary education is improving, India needs to shift its focus in order to enhance the quality of education being provided. Can 'Partnership Schools' be the solution?

In recent years, India has made great progress towards its goal of universal elementary education. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, enrolment stands at 96.7% for children between the ages of 6 and 14. A study by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in 2014 showed that the number of primary schools is 858,916, with 98% habitations having a primary school within a 1 kilometer radius. These statistics suggest that most children have access to primary education. However, quality and learning outcomes remain a big problem, with only 48.1% of Grade 5 students being able to read a Grade 2 level text, as per ASER 2014.

In addition to this, children struggle to learn without the right guidance. The methods of teaching that are commonly used are ineffective, and the curriculum is outdated. Without good quality management and school leadership, schools do not run efficiently. To improve the public education system, innovative methods of dealing with these issues must be devised.

One solution is partnership schools. While the onus of providing education is on the government, the involvement of the private sector has been growing. Public Private Partnership (PPP) schools are run through a partnership between the government and a private partner like a nonprofit. A well-designed PPP school model can be beneficial to both private and public partners, as well as the children. Non-profits leverage the technical expertise, efficient operational style and result oriented methodology to revitalize government schools. With more autonomy, these schools take an approach that is different from the norm and makes performance management and continuous professional development of teachers more integrated. With regular tracking of data on school performance and student outcomes, there is continuous process evaluation and improvement in school practices.

Globally, many countries have used PPPs as a method to provide better educational opportunities to the disadvantaged sections of society. In several cases, this model has improved learning outcomes, and raised the standard of education in schools. A four-year Stanford CREDO study showed that charter schools in America brought about an increase in learning outcome for their students, more so than standard public schools.

In India, Ark, a UK-based non-profit, became the first nonprofit school operator in Delhi, to partner with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to turn around a failing government school, which was dilapidated, under enrolled. Within the first month itself, the enrolment grew from 9 to 120, and currently the school serves 230 students. The teachers at this school are highly motivated and well trained in the most effective methods of teaching. Students have shown great progress in terms of academics, and their behaviour. By developing and strengthening this model, it can be replicated and used by the government to formulate strategies.

The problems faced by the education system have an impact on the future of our economy. These issues need to be addressed and resolved, appropriately. With the partnership school model growing in popularity worldwide, a new innovative solution exists. There is an urgent need for reform, to stop the downward slide and improve the quality of public education, and the cost of not investing in it now will be felt in years to come.

Kruti Bharucha

Kruti Bharucha is Country Director of Ark’s India operations. She has been working with Ark since June 2014 and brings 16 years’ experience from the management consulting and advisory sector as well as with multilateral institutions. Prior to Ark, she was a Senior Director and led Corporate Executive Board’s (CEB) Finance Practice in India. Her previous work experience includes stints at McKinsey & Co., The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Kruti has an MSc (Development Studies) from the London School of Economics, an MA (Economics) from the University of Maryland and a BA (Economics) from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi.