Private Education for Poor in India

21 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2006

See all articles by Parth J. Shah

Parth J. Shah

Centre for Civil Society; Indian School of Public Policy

Vipin P. Veetil

Indian Institute of Managment Kozhikode

Date Written: December 2006


The paper tries to capture the research and understanding along with innovations and policy reforms in assuring quality school education to all, with a particular focus on the poor.

It begins with quantitative and qualitative narration of the two most fundamental problems in the education of the poor: Access and the quality. The problem of access is of 'can't afford;' and the problem of quality is 'not worth the time, particularly of the poor.' The access problem is further compounded along the gender, caste, and physical and mental disability lines. The quality of state schools is particularly low.

Recent research documents the flight of the poor from state schools to 'budget' private schools. On the one hand, governments are incapable of improving state schools, largely due to the power of teacher unions, and on the other hand, their regulatory systems are stifling private initiatives, condemning most private schools to illegal/informal status where they are unable to access formal capital to expand. The continuing decline of the quality of the state education system has led, by default, to one of the highest levels of privatization of education in the developing world. The proportion of students in private schools in urban areas of many states in India is higher than that in any developed country.

Private 'edupreneurs' are serving as safety valve to the failing state education systems. In any efforts to assure quality education to the poor, their role must be understood and appreciated. The first four sections then deal with the problems of access and quality and the duality of private edupreneurs. The last section suggests possible solutions through the use of technology and recent local experiments in innovations and policy reforms.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the role of the government in education is to liberate the supply side, fund the demand of the poor, and monitor the access and quality of education. Let the private initiative and entrepreneurship - for profit and non-profit - govern our schools. Scholarships, education vouchers, and loans would offer the same freedom of choice to the poor as the rich enjoy today. An unshackled and competitive market for education would prepare students to lead a productive and meaningful life.

Suggested Citation

Shah, Parth J. and Shah, Parth J. and Veetil, Vipin P., Private Education for Poor in India (December 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Parth J. Shah

Centre for Civil Society ( email )

A-69, Hauz Khas
New Delhi, 110016

Indian School of Public Policy ( email )

B35 Qutub Institutional Area
Hauz Khas
New Delhi, 110016


Vipin P. Veetil (Contact Author)

Indian Institute of Managment Kozhikode ( email )

Kozhikode, KS Kerala 673570

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