UP follows Gujarat - Regressive laws in education

In an earlier post, I had discussed Gujarat's regressive law to cap private school fees. Now, UP is moving in a similar direction.

Just to recap, cap on private school fee is regressive for the following reasons.

1. Schools are already supposed to be not for profit in India. It means that the excess revenue must be reinvested in schools. 

It therefore follows that current fee of schools should reflect their costs. If schools fudge records, government can audit them.

Imposing fee cap over this rule is self contradictory. If school fee is reflective of costs, what's the need to cap them?

2. There is confusion between tuition fee and fee charged for other aspects like books, bus etc.

As response to not for profit clause, schools instead charge abnormally on bus fee, uniforms etc. Parents complain about this.

In response to parents' complaints government caps tuition fee. In other words, capping tuition fee doesn't solve high fee in other aspects.

In fact, schools might start charging even more to make up for losses.

3. Fee cap regulations hurt schools' innovation and inturn limit the number of choices for people.

To begin with, we pushed people to private schools by not providing quality public education. Now, we are stifling quality in private schools too by strangulating them.

Given that the not for profit clause is a controversial issue and isn't easy to do away with (it needs both state and central governments to change laws and also correct some SC judgments), we need to follow a least destructive path.

Government should instead audit schools to check their claims instead of capping the fee. Needless to mention, this needs political will to break down political economy around it and school-politician nexus. Inability to do this shouldn't be an excuse to cap fee.

Mandating strict completion of syllabus - Yet another regressive step

In addition to all these, UP is thinking of framing strict rules to complete syllabus within time. This rule is equally regressive.

In a world, where people are moving away from syllabus completion to focus on outcomes, from time bound completion to learning as per one's own pace, this is a regressive step. Lant Pritchett has called this over ambitious curriculum, and argued that much of the difference between OECD and other countries can be explained by the negative consequences of over ambitious curriculum. I had earlier argued that the first and foremost step in education reform has to be a shift away from syllabus completion.

UP is key to improve India' s macro situation

UP is the most populous state in India. One can't make any significant dent on India's overall education, without improvements in UP.

UP's learning levels are 13% (percentage of grade 5 students who can read grade 2 text), while the national average is around 50%. It's the one of the lowest in the country. Worse, it has been declining.

In such a serious context, it's just saddening that UP is moving on a regressive path, instead of being on a path of improvement.

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