New Delhi: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Pearson Foundation will set up a centre for assessment, evaluation and research, marking the first concrete move by the Indian government towards fostering public-private partnership (PPP) in the space and aimed at reforming the higher-secondary segment.
How the venture fares will help set the country’s PPP education agenda during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17). The central government has been trying to set up 2,500 model schools with private participation for the last two years.
“This is the first such PPP project and its outcome will be watched closely,” said Vineet Joshi, chairman of CBSE, which comes under the purview of the human resource development ministry. “If we achieve desired success, then it could be a model to follow for many such projects.”
The centre will develop research and assessment capabilities and resources for CBSE, its network of 13,000 schools and tens of thousands of teachers. It will focus on international best practices in school-based assessment, teaching techniques and “high-stake examinations”, Joshi said. It will also coordinate with other school education bodies such as the National Council for Education, Research and Training and the National Council for Teacher Education.
Khozem Merchant, president of Pearson India, said, “We are hopeful of this partnership and hope both the partners will complement each other.”
The government has been seeking private participation in education to improve access and quality. Currently, only 20% of India’s schools are run by private entities. The Planning Commission has also backed PPP in education as a means of stepping up the investment that’s needed to take advantage of the country’s burgeoning human capital, which the government has also publicly accepted.
In its 12th Plan approach paper, the Planning Commission said India should facilitate private sector growth in higher education and explore and develop innovative PPPs, Mint reported 29 August 2011. The government also set up two committees to devise ways to encourage PPP in the education sector.
While CBSE will provide, among other things, physical infrastructure, Pearson will take care of operational expenditure, including the salaries in the initial two-year phase, Joshi said. Neither side gave details about the amount to be invested.
After the initial phase, the centre will start to generate its own revenue through various projects and activities and will become self-supporting and financially independent within three years, according to Jim Tognolini, senior vice-president, research and assessment at Pearson.
To begin with, the centre will examine the results of important exams and how the best students have performed, Tognolini said. The feedback will be given to schools to help improve their performance. It will also examine the continuous and comprehensive evaluation method adopted by CBSE after scrapping the Class 10 school board exam three years ago.
Since CBSE is one of the key constituents of the project to carry out the much-debated common entrance exam for central government funded engineering schools, the centre can be of help in providing background research.
“Pearson has a huge experience of normalization of marks and here can be of some help,” Joshi said. To give every student of every state an equal chance, the government has decided to “normalize” the marks of all school boards before awarding any weight to them while selecting students to the leading engineering colleges of the country. India has more than 22 school boards besides CBSE.
If schools get regular feedback and research material on new teaching methods and best practices elsewhere, it will benefit students, said Sangeeta Bhatia, principal of KIIT World School in New Delhi.
“Ultimately, students’ learning will improve,” she said. “First it will happen in the bigger cities and then cascade to other cities and towns.”
The venture will help the school board in its effort to achieve global standards like the International Baccalaureate board, said G. Balasubramanian, a Chennai-based educationist and a former director of academics at CBSE.