Education service delivery State regulations may cause more harm than good: expert

Business Recorder
Publication Date: 
Sunday, 19 January 2014

Right to Education legislation offers perverse incentives; education vouchers empowers parents instead of school inspectors The state regulations on education service delivery may cause more harm than good by denying access to millions of low income families.

This was stated by Mr Parth J. Shah, founder and President of Centre for Civic Society, a New Delhi based top Indian think tank who was the guest speaker on a roundtable 'Education Vouchers: Lessons from India and Pakistan' organised by Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME) in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Parth stressed that school recognition standards in terms of infrastructure requirements pose a serious challenge to the existing low cost, private schools, which are often unable to finance these standards and face a choice between closing down and increasing their fee, causing loss to enrolment in both cases. Around 30% students in Pakistan and 40% students in India are now enrolled in private schools, majority of them are non-elite, low cost and privately owned.

Parth Shah also explained the changed role of government and the new public management which stresses that the role of government should not be of a service provider but that of a financier. Voucher scheme is one such model whereby the government finances it but lets the private sector provide the service. "Vouchers increase the accountability and empower parents rather than inspectors", he opined.

Speaking on this occasion, Ali Salman, Executive Director of PRIME, gave an overview of education vouchers scheme in Pakistan noticing its growth, success and scalability over last few years from 10,000 students to 150,000 students. He informed the participants that parents of school children are given non-cashable and non-transferable fee vouchers on a quarterly basis. Ali said that the key benefits of these voucher schemes is that they provide choice to parents, offer a cost effective alternative to government financing and improve the learning among these children compared to their peers in government schools.