Like the NREGA, the RTE helps destroy whatever is left

The NREGA, as feared, has caused tremendous harm and will continue to play havoc on the Indian economy. The Right to Education (RTE) is another act that will surely help destroy whatever little there is left of the Indian education system. It is as if the UPA led by the Congress has sworn to destroy India. Go read what Manish Sabharwal has to say about the RTE in the Economic Times of Jan 12th. An extract below the fold, for the record:

Lower capacity: RTE timetables the extinction of 25% of India’s 15 lakh schools that are ‘unrecognised’. These mostly low-cost schools have been an entrepreneurial response to parental choice – the antibiotic reaction to dysfunctional government schools chronicled in The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley.

Our demographic dividend – 10 lakh people will join the labour force every month for the next 20 years – would have been a bigger nightmare if these private schools had not substituted for the missing state in the last 20 years. And while it is a lie that all these schools deliver quality, it is true that a bad school is better than no school. To paraphrase a beheaded French queen, this provision of RTE effectively says “if you can’t have cake, don’t eat bread”.

Higher cost: RTE essentially mandates a huge rise in school fees. It micro-specifies salaries, qualifications and infrastructure. Delhi schools that don’t pay a minimum of 23,000 per month to teachers will not receive recognition and specifies that primary teachers must have a two-year education diploma; this means that 33% of teachers have to be fired. RTE specifies that every school must have a playground; Delhi specifies 900 sq yards but I know a state that is considering 1,500 sq yards.

The 25% children from disadvantaged groups will require massive cross-subsidisation because state governments propose to reimburse way below cost, e.g. Karnataka caps it at 7,000 per student per year. All this micromanaging of schools – to the delight of teachers and the real estate mafia – hits middle class parents with higher prices for essentially the same quality product.

Lower competition: A big driver of higher quality and lower costs in higher education has been competition. The 50% vacant seats of 1 lakh capacity UP Technical University are forcing engineering colleges to offer free hostels, English training, only MTech faculty, and much else. About 15,000 of the 45,000 Karnataka MBA seats are vacant; these colleges are reducing fees, guaranteeing internships and embedding soft skills in their curriculum.

RTE makes it impossible for education entrepreneurs to compete on price since many states propose to regulate fees and uncertainty has paused the Cambrian explosion of energy in school entrepreneurship. This means lower capacity and lower competition. And that means schools don’t have clients, but hostages.

Higher corruption: RTE mandates schools to take 25% students from ‘poor’ backgrounds. Some states are going overboard – Karnataka requires schools to conduct household surveys to create and maintain records of all children in a 1-3 km area from birth till 14 years of age to identify the poor. But who is poor? If the Indian government can’t decide whether 24% or 42% of India is poor, how will a BEO (block education officer)?

In reality, he or she won’t; they will auction their certification of poor to the highest bidder. What constitutes appropriate efforts to bring back dropouts? How will teacher student-ratios be calculated? The BEO, long a thorn in the flesh, now has powers to be a dagger in the heart. RTE provides the BEO’s the ability to convert every school into a personal ATM. Not all, but most will.

More confusion: Does changed evaluation mean no exams? What does immunity for government bureaucrats mean? Is incompetence good faith? How will mid-day meals be handled for the 25% in private schools? Where will these 25% go after Grade VIII? Will the 75% parent-populated government school management committees have the power to hire and fire teachers?

12 thoughts on “Like the NREGA, the RTE helps destroy whatever is left

  1. The quoted article does not convince me about inherent badness of RTE.
    It surely has recognized problem areas which need to be addressed. For example government getting into micromanagement and identifying poors. The last para (More confusion part) looks worrying indeed and it must be addressed.
    However, a law which mandates minimum qualification and a minimum salary for teachers, does not look bad to me. Otherwise, we will have cargo cult primary education. Meaning, our kids will pretend to go to school but there shall be no actual education. 1500sq.yd means 1.75-cricket-pitch X 1.75-cricket-pitch. Looks reasonable to me. Schools can still compete with each other financially, provided they take care of the RTE mandated basics first. I like school-voucher-system. To me, cross subsidization of 25% is one kind of voucher-system.
    About NREGA, I will love to see a blog about it which explains it pros and cons. Atanu, treat this as a reader’s request. If you have already written a blog exclusively about NREGA, please point it out.

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  2. The RTE is nice and all, but this is like announcing we’ve solved national hunger when we’ve just possibly started thinking a little about it.

    “Any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the State which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring attendance and completion of 8 years of schooling.”

    Hmm.. let’s see how this goes 5 years from now.

    “No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; no child shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test.”

    I see a huge opportunity for lots of money to be made by the “officials” in this racket.

    “Children with disabilities will also be educated in the mainstream schools.”

    And who is going to enforce this? When low income disabled kids are rejected, are the parents going to fight through the legal system for the next 20 years for justice, by which time the child would be an adult?

    “All private schools shall be required to enroll children from weaker sections and disadvantaged communities in their incoming class to the extent of 25% of their enrolment, by simple random selection. No seats in this quota can be left vacant.”

    A fantastic opportunity for the officials to suck up more money.

    I could go on. The RTE is a well meaning gesture, but with the rest of the legal, political, official, bureaucratic and other systems in shambles, it’s not much more than yet another way for the slimy babus to get richer. It’s also quite possible that the RTE will be repealed or significantly changed in a few years.

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  3. What the article does signify is the intent of the Govt to pronounce policy changes when implementation is faulty,to cut back when going whole hog is required and complicating when simplifying is needed?

    Maybe they dont understand root causes or maybe their intent is suspect.The RTE shows that,policymaking inherently ensures vested interests are taken care of…

    Finally,most developed world has cent percent literacy.Re-inventing the wheel is what all these guys do…even when copy paste will suffice.When they need to innovate,they copy paste…its a singular lack of understanding the problem and therefore the approach to the solution.

    Corrupted to the soul.

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  4. Both NREGA and RTE are government excuses to further stifle the entrepreneurial streak a few might be possessing by hijacking the market.

    All this socialism is turning out to be a nightmare. Looks like, there is no let up from here on.

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  5. If government was so competent in managing schools, they would have turned all municipal schools into centers of excellence!

    Alas! The same government that cannot redeem schools already under its full control is now appropriating greater role in the running of private schools also.

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  6. Its obvious that Congress wants to destroy whatever is left of India. This RTE will burden the middle class people while at the same time the Babus and The netas will make gold.
    Everything which Congress starts looks promising at the initial but fails and creates such a whirlpool that everything gets drowned in it. most of the Congress policies are actually self-helping, in the name of social welfare Congress gives subsidised kerosene and ration, but a large part of it (nearly 40% according to WHO) is stolen thus creating a artificial deficit in the market hence increasing the costs.
    RTE is same , when children of middle class people will not find sufficient schools to get enrolled the cost of education will rise for sure.
    This SOCIALISM will eat up India. China left behind this disease years ago but the Congress is still sticking up to it.

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  7. I think NREGA could be causing food inflation in multiple ways.
    – I have heard from many accounts about rising farm labor costs. This is stemming from the fact that government is giving out free money, so to compete with that real employers (like farm owners) have to increase pay to attract people to work on real job.
    – Government handing out free money causes some shortage of workers available to do real required jobs, and the shortage in worker supply pushes up the price.
    – People with free money handed out by the government are spending that money causing increase in demands and resulting in higher prices.

    Result:-
    – Giving out free money doesnt make every one rich, but makes EVERY one poor by devaluation of the currency and inflation.
    – Mis allocation of capital causes disruption in markets and results in undesirable effects such as inflation.

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