Since the dawn of independence when under the leadership of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the country ill-advisedly adopted the Soviet-inspired socialist model of economic development, private enterprise and initiatives have not been officially or socially appreciated in business, and particularly in education. Yet the plain truth is that unlike in most democracies, India’s 300 million-strong middle class, which keeps the engines of industry and the economy running — albeit sub-optimally — has almost entirely been enabled by privately provided K-12 education. In sharp contrast to the situation in developed OECD countries, over 40 percent of the nation’s 250 million school-going children are enrolled in private schools, and if one adds the number of children from low-income households enrolled in India’s sui generis private budget schools (many of them ‘unrecognised’ officially), the majority of children are in private education.
This is because of the undeniable reality that the overwhelming majority of the country’s 1.20 million government, especially state government schools, are in a shambles. Defined by crumbling buildings, multigrade teaching, poor sanitation, chronic teacher absenteeism and corporal punishment, government schools are experiencing a steady and continuous exodus across the country with even the poorest households voting with their feet and savings for private budget schools. Typically, instead of making serious efforts to improve teaching-learning standards of government schools, the country’s powerful neta-babu brotherhood, which controls and commands Indian industry, business, agriculture, education and healthcare, has clamped down on private schools.
Against this backdrop of sustained harassment of private edupreneurs by ungrateful government and parent communities across the country, we present a cover story appreciative of the valuable service rendered to the nation by brave and determined private school promoters who despite official discouragement and carping parents, have stuck to their calling and transformed their initial standalone schools into branded chains. With their common curriculums, shared overheads and resources, chain schools are providing standardised, good quality (usually) English-medium K-12 education which has enabled India’s middle class.
I have to sign off this letter to readers with a heavy heart. Our London correspondent Dr. Peter Greenhalgh who has been writing for the international news section passed away on July 31. A distinguished classics scholar at Cambridge, former investment banker and member of our Board of Advisors, Peter was a pillar of support. Nobody in India has given us as much praise and encouragement as Peter did when EducationWorld was struggling and facing closure. As he states in his valedictory letter (p.92), writing his monthly column for EW was one of the greatest joys of his life of the past two years. Moreover, he gave us the full rights to publish his three-volume video-enabled English Speech & Pronunciation which is a runaway bestseller in China. A true friend of EW and India. We will miss him dearly.