Education Vouchers: A Global Experience and India's Promise

India has a two-tier system of government and private schools with all the attendant social, political and economic problems. Those who can afford, go to private schools; those who cannot, go to government schools. The children of the poor have no option but the poorly functioning government schools. This gross inequality of schooling opportunities needs to be addressed immediately. One route is to pressurise the government to increase its resource commitments and improve its delivery of education. The other proposition is to liberate the private sector so that it can reach out to as many parents - rich and poor. We emphasise delicensing, deregulation, decentralisation, depoliticisation, giving education an industry status and, promoting independent rating, certification and accrediation agencies. We offer education vouchers as a way to transform financing of education for the poor. Instead of giving grants to schools to provide 'free' education, the government would give that money directly to poor students in the form of education vouchers. The money would follow students and not schools. We describe the experience of eleven countries with education vouchers and draw lessons from their successes and failures. Many countries have seen significant improvements in learning outcomes after the introduction of vouchers, while a few have experienced very little change. However no country has found learning outcomes deteriorating with education vouchers. India has nothing to lose and everything to gain in experimenting with vouchers in education. In the end, a list of FAQs addresses other issues related to implementation of education vouchers.

Parth J Shah and Corinna Braun-Munzinger
CCS Policy Review
February 2006
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