While India has seen a rapid expansion in both elementary and secondary education, there has indisputably been a shift towards private schooling with a large number of families choosing this in preference to government schools. The recent growth in the private sector has resulted in boys and children from wealthier and more socially advantaged households being more likely than others to attend private schools. Young Lives research highlights serious equity concerns with children having very different opportunities because of their household wealth level, location or gender, with government schools often the only option available to the poorest households. We also see that, within the Young Lives sample, children in private schools seem to perform better academically, despite better-qualified and more experienced teachers working in government schools. In this context it is critical that education policies at macro and micro level serve to promote inclusion, not exclusion, for children from lower castes or poorer areas. For education to become an equaliser, systemic reform is required to safeguard against the stratification of schools. Regulatory mechanisms must be introduced at the state, district and sub-district levels, to promote school effectiveness. There is a strong case for an autonomous department of Standards and Evaluation to be set up and quality standards developed and implemented across all schools. A ’common school system’ may be the best way forward to ensure that the education system is able to promote equity and social justice.
Singh, R. Need for Systemic Reform in Education: Ensuring Poorest Children Are Not Short-changed! Young Lives India Policy Brief 1. Young Lives, Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (2013) 4 pp.