There’s a lot to learn from the Shiv Nadar Foundation’s experiments in education which runs both schools and a university catering for some 7,000 students. While several of India’s top business houses are in the education space, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. While even urban India is short of schools, the lack of educational institutions in semi-urban and rural India is probably more acute. Interestingly, SNF has set up two of its schools in rural areas—Bulandshahar and Sitapur—catering to the underprivileged which is creditable because the government is struggling to achieve what it has set out to do; against the targetted 11,188 schools—under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan or secondary education scheme—only 9,600 came up during the 11th plan. Moreover, just 59,000 new teachers were hired when 1.8 lakh were needed.
The 12th Plan envisages 2,500 new schools via the public-private partnership mode and this could be an opportunity for corporates to work in this space; more than anything, the presence of the private sector should see schools being run more efficiently. The government plans to spend an additional R25,000-30,000 crore a year under the Right to Education, recruiting teachers, so as to reduce the pupil to teacher ratio from 40:1 to 30:1. While that’s needed, the better way to do it would be to follow the contract model.