New Delhi: Centre for Civil Society, an independent think-tank launched an innovative School Choice Campaign in the capital today questioning the kind of choices the poor have in terms of the schools they want to send their offspring to.
While addressing the press, Dr. Parth Shah, President of the Society said “the poor are getting left behind due to lack of access to quality education. They have no place to go but the government school. We may have given them a Right to Education but unless we go a step further by giving them a Right to an Education of “Choice”, these promises are only rhetoric.
The Centre has devised a concept of ‘school vouchers’ which will give the poor the choice that the rich enjoy today and have sent a message to the government that they will award 400 school vouchers in Delhi.
School choice means that parents’ should be able to choose the school they think is right for their child. School vouchers, cash stipends and tuition reimbursements are instruments which the government can use to increase schooling options for parents.
According to their study, school choices today exist only for upper class and well heeled parents. Given the poor quality of government schools, many low income parents spend large proportion of their meagre income on their children’s education in tuitions, coaching classes and private schools.
In several Indian states, more than 50% children are already in private schools. Private schools cater not just to the elite but to children of bus drivers and street hawkers. However there are still poorer parents who, in spite of their aspirations, cannot afford to choose good education for their children. For them the government school is the only option.
Parental choice helps make government schools more accountable and efficient, by allowing them to decide which school their child will go to. This will help achieve the twin goals of delivering the child’s right to education (now enshrined in the Constitution) and the parents’ right to choose what is best for him/her.
Perhaps it is also time to question the efficacy of setting up more government schools. They suggested the diversion of funds towards more productive options rather than the setting up of schools which are not relevant in terms of preparing students for global challenges.
A school voucher is an instrument, which allows eligible parents to put their child in any school of their choice. Parents pay for the school fees in the form of the voucher. The school deposits the voucher in a bank account and government credits the school’s account with equivalent money. No cash changes hand and children get their rightful due.