LOLWATCH 4 : Public Edu in Idea of India response to PB Mehta
PB Mehta has a new article in the Indian Express “Upside Down State” that talks about the Indian state and public goods. He rightly notes the trend for the Indian state to vacate space that any state ought to dominate (education and health) and to occupy space that has little public utility (airlines and hotels being the stock examples).
Yet proportionately, so little political effort has been expended to improve public education. It is a pipe dream to think that we can build a good, equitable education system without a major revival of public universities and government schools. And a strong public system will automatically “regulate” the private system by reducing demand. But it is a sign of how warped our thinking on the public and private has become that we are happy to hollow out the public where we should not, and regulate the private in ways that are counterproductive. –
Instead of a tweet series, I thought I’d just put up a short post on it.
The increasing trend with any analysis of Indian issues is the unwillingness of policymakers, think tanks, and public at large to confront the most glaring underlying framework that gives rise to the anomalies on the surface. This is the strange legal doctrine called “Idea of India” and the apparatus that is built around it. If you ignore this – you get everything wrong. Instead of a proper analysis you get only hand wringing. Take the public education system.
- The division in Indian edu law is not private vs public at all. But Minority vs Non-Minority. Call me a bigot but hear me out first. In Indian edu, law private minority aided schools which ought to be identical to public schools operate as defacto private schools . Post the Right to Education Act : Public Minority operates as Private. Private Hindu operates as Public. When I say ‘operates as public’ I mean the loss of two things – 1) nomination power (which students to select) 2) quotas which represent state confiscation.
- The high barriers to participation of majority community in education is the reason why politicians enter the education sector. They control the NOC (a No Objection Certificate) process – hence are able to self deal. Is this undesirable? The group here typically is largely not interested in education per se but for the profits in the sector. They maybe brawny netas but are in reality unsettled due to transient nature of their power and lack of legal guarantees – so do not invest in long term initiatives. It is also pertinent to note that they usually only enter higher ed and not schooling which is a tougher problem.
- What about Govt Schools ? PB Mehta asks “so little political effort has been expended to improve public education”. What would a political effort in this space look like ? First of all it is very important to recognize the herd of elephants in the room. In “Idea of India” land the day to day realities are completely disconnected from these high level questions. Post the 77th Amendment and even before that – communal quotas in Teacher Recruitment and Promotion far from delivering social justice has changed the nature of the product itself. To explain : “More representation in Sector X (meritocratic teaching order) is not the same as Pro-Rata representation in a (communal group quota teacher order)”. In High court after High court – the cases of violation of recruitment in Teacher Recruitment Board, communal roster point anomalies, sub quotas are the routine cases. Keep in mind – govt teachers are extremely well paid, so there is no point in pouring more money into this. They also almost no accountability because the roster point system ensures their intra-se status relative to their peers. I suppose at this point I need to mention how the 200 point communal roster in teacher promotion works but that would blow up this post.
- Why is there no political effort to do XYZ..” is only a question if the political effort to do XYZ will result in the blokes getting re-elected. This is true in Rule of Law countries as it is in Idea of India. A political effort to improve govt schools would require you to open up the following issues 1) Minority Aided school issue where different service and recruitment rules apply 2) Opening up the entire issue of quotas in recruitment and promotion 3) Subjecting teachers to measurement not based on qualifications but on performance 4) giving the principal who may belong to an outside-group full power over teacher cadre from inside-groups 5) reopening the 77th amendment .. and on and on. see ? hardly a pleasant task.
- What is hardly a pleasant task for intellectuals is like kryptonite for politicians who have to work the Idea of India landscape. Any one who opens up the issue of quotas in teacher cadre risks not only drowning himself but taking his party along with him. The boat sinks.
So due to the unpleasantness of looking under the kimono of contemporary issues and always finding “Idea of India” type unapproachable issues it is better to just focus on the superficial. Therefore groups that occupy a higher status like minorities just want out the the whole situation and carve islands of exemption for themselves. This is not just the case in education but also in overall governance. Minorities who say “f_ this , just give us our share and we are gold” are encouraged by the UPA govt. This is how the sectarian scholarships, the MSDP public works in 25% minority districts and other schemes are headed. This is countered by others on the Sanghi side who want the kind-of-same-but-not-the-same thing but are not able to articulate that. This is a dangerous situation.
The whole system is neither private nor public, neither regulated nor laissez faire, neither here no there.
And it is not even 10AM in Idea of India Stan.