Education International
Education International

India: government called out for its failure to ensure the right to education

published 25 July 2016 updated 26 July 2016

A new Education International report on edu-businesses operating in Hyderabad and Delhi, India has unveiled education inequities in the system while uniting politicians, unions, as well as parents and teachers around a common cause.

Politicians joined national and state leaders of Education International (EI)’s Indian member organisations, the AIPTF, AIFTO, and AISTF along with hundreds of concerned educators and families for the launch of EI’s latest research, Profiting from the Poor: the Emergence of Multinational Edu-businesses in Hyderabad, India. The study, co-authored by Sangeeta Kamat, Carol Anne Spreen and Indivar Jonnalagadda, raises serious concerns about the growing commercialisation and privatisation of education in India.

Findings show the government is creating exemptions for private providers with respect to national standards as they relate to teachers, curriculum and school facilities in India’s Right to Education (RTE) Act. It also reveals that disinvestment in public education has led to deterioration and closure of government schools. India’s education budget is a mere 3.8 percent of the gross national product, or GDP, which falls short of the minimum 6 percent recommended by the UNESCO Education 2030 framework.

As a result, fee charging for-profit schools targeting poor communities have become an expanding market in India, attracting the interest of global corporations and foreign investors. Families spend at least one-fifth of their monthly income per child to access primary education in these schools, with the costs increasing at higher grades.

Enrolment in private schools is now over 50 percent in the regions of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana and over 80 percent in Hyderabad alone.

The AP government has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to outsource its government schools to Bridge International Academies, an international chain of fee-charging for profit schools that has come under heavy criticism in Uganda, Kenya, and Liberia. Bridge has declared its intention to operate 4,000 schools in AP.

Free quality education, a core State obligation

“Education provided by private proprietors or edu-businesses is neither free nor equitable”, stated UN special rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, at the launch event in Delhi. “This is in gross contradiction with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 set by the international community in 2015 and endorsed by the government of India”.

Singh urged the government to protect education from its commercialisation and make it a legal requirement for edu-businesses to meet essential conditions to ensure the right of all students to quality education.

“No private schools should be allowed to employ under-qualified teachers and to de-professionalise teaching”, said Singh . “In the Indian culture, teachers were highly regarded and respected. Valorising the teaching profession is of key importance today. Teachers are the custodians of quality education.”

Education International’s Angelo Gavrielatos emphasised the need for building community alliances with parents, students and civil society to halt the growing commercialisation of education. “The danger of governments outsourcing education activities to profit-making corporations is that it poses at risk not only public education systems themselves, but also their ability to promote democracy, social cohesion and equity.”

The India report is part of EI’s global effort to expose and reverse the trend of commercialisation and privatisation of public education.