I first became aware of the plethora of private schools serving India’s poor through James Tooley’s extraordinary book, The Beautiful Tree. Apparently India’s government schools are so corrupt and incompetent that education entrepreneurs in India’s urban slums and rural areas have created private schools for the poor that are thriving. Amazingly, parents in living in squalor and supporting their families on pennies per day are paying up to half their yearly income so their children can get educated.
According to this recent New York Times article, India’s government has decided to increase the regulations on these private schools and put more money into the government schools in an attempt to reverse the flow of poor children into private schools. Private school operators say the primary effect of these new regulations will be to give local government officials more opportunities for extracting bribes.
The sacrifices India’s low-income parents are making on behalf of their children are inspiring. The Indian government should embrace these parents’ efforts instead of trying to thwart them. Providing publicly funded education vouchers for India’s poor would increase the number of parents able to educate their children, and increase the supply and quality of private schools serving the poor. One small-scale effort shows promise, but the demand, obviously, is much greater.
India should leverage its expanding private school infrastructure to more effectively and efficiently serve more children, and not let corruption and incompetence usurp these children’s needs.