Skip to main content

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education. 
The project’s total worth is 3.346 billion USD, or just over a quarter of a trillion INR, of which 500 million USD is financed by a loan from the World Bank. About 85% of the project amount would be funded by the Government of India and the six state governments, where is it proposed to be implemented. Apart from emphasis on ICT, the project project seeks to promote partnership with private sector as a tool to reform education, including the expansion of government funding for private provision of schooling.
While recognising that the use of technology “offers scope for strengthening system capacity”, an Oxfam India policy brief quotes Government of India data to says that 35.6% of the country’s elementary schools lacked electricity connection, only 36.8% secondary schools had a functional computer, 85% of rural households lacked access to internet, and 45% of rural India lacked TV penetration.
Noting that the emphasis on online and distance education has come about amidst Covid-19 crisis, the report says, any use of ICT at this juncture would be “unrealistic”, “insignificant” and “ineffective”, especially for “lesson transaction”, adding, instead, there is a need to prioritize “offline modes (such as print materials) without compromising on physical distancing requirements.”
Oxfam India is a member of an international confederation of 20 organizations, all of them named cafter Oxfam. It claims to be a rights-based organizations, “which fights poverty and injustice by linking grassroots interventions to local, national, and global policy developments.” The report has been written by Anjela Taneja of Oxfam India with the support of several experts, including Prachi Srivastava (University of Western Ontario, Canada), Martin Haus (Education Policy Institute of Bihar), Katie Malouf Bous (Oxfam International), Geetha B Nambissan (Jawaharlal Nehu University), and Archana Mehendale (Tata Institute of Social Sciences).
Claiming that the emphasis on privatising education would exacerbate inequalities, the report cites the World Bank’s “Living Standards Measurement Study in Uttar Pradesh” to show that the gender gap in enrolment in private schools has increased, even when the government schools are closing down.
Insisting that “girls are less likely than boys to be enrolled in private schools”, the study says, “Private schools, by definition, enrol children from families that can afford to pay. Sending a child to a private school in India is approximately nine times as much as the cost of a government school, including all indirect costs associated with schooling, such as buying books, and transport.”
Warning that involving private players would mean STARS project risking “significant diversion of Indian taxpayers’ funds to an array of private actors”, with its impact across India, thus changing “the framing for the private sector’s engagement with education”, the report regrets, this is proposed to be done under the pretext of “private schools’ ‘better’ performance.”
The report believes, reliance on the private sector for delivering education would fundamentally alter “the character of an education system – from a universal good to which everyone has free access by right to a private good which parents must buy.” It adds, “The project appears to be grounded in the assumption that declining enrolment in government schools is principally due to migration to schools run by non-state providers and that government aided schools’ decline is the result of regulatory issues.”
Girls are less likely than boys to be enrolled in private schools, which by definition enrol children from families that can afford to pay
According to the report, similar large scale experiments in other countries, such as the Partnership School for Liberia (PSL) and the Public Private Partnership administered by the Punjab Education Foundation in Pakistan, found that the private schools “enrolled students largely pulled from existing schools.”
 It adds, “Only 1.3% of enrolled students had actually been out of school prior to the commencement of the programme... The Liberia School Pilot was found to have failed to significantly improve learning outcomes, increased dropouts and failed to reduce sexual abuse of students.”
Similarly, in India, the Rajasthan Education Initiative’s review admits that such an approach “failed against many of the stated objectives”, while in Mumbai, the School Excellence Programme implemented by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation “was shut down as learning outcomes failed to improve, indicating the volatility of such approaches and the need for evaluation of such partnerships which involve spending public money on private providers.”
The report further says that the project fails to spell out any clear pro-equity measures” to address “intergenerational, social and economic barriers to the education of Dalits, Adivasis, religious minorities; the specific challenges faced by girls in the Indian context... It does not address discrimination or correct educational inequalities between the rich and the poor in these states.”
It underlines, the fails to prioritize on universal, free secondary completion; address dropout and child labour (particularly of girls); staff and adequately resource schools and teacher training institutes; mainstream mother tongue based multi-lingual education; strengthen social accountability and grievance redress mechanisms thus strengthening citizen voice; and address the needs of migrant families.
The states chosen for the project
Also taking exception to the choice of states, divided them into “high and low achievers” (it calls them Lighthouse and Learning states), the report says, all the six are “largely” middle of the road performing states. “Irrespective of whether one examines the extent of Right to Education (RTE) compliance of schools in a given state or their Performance Grading Index (PGI) performance, the states selected are not the ones most in need of financial and technical support.”
It further says, while the project flags five of six states have designated Schedule V areas, “It is not clear how the project’s governance would take into consideration and protect the existing legal rights of the indigenous populations in these locations. No specific provisions for engagement with the Gram Sabha or differentiation in the processes of planning in Schedule areas which would have been expected according to the provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Schedule Areas) Act, 1996.”
The report takes exception to the project supporting the administration of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in India, the report suggests, it lacks “addressing concomitant factors responsible for poor learning such as reliance on non-mother tongue based instruction, addressing the discriminatory hidden classroom curriculum (including caste-based discrimination and teachers holding low expectations from children from marginalized communities), absence of home support from neo-literate parents, classroom hunger and other factors.”

Comments

vaghelabd said…
Supreme Court of India Judges Dancing to Govt Tunes Find Nothing Abnormal and Nothing Wrong in Reckless Privatization of Education in India. These Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court of India are Real Culprits. They are Human Rights Violators.I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks....
i think, at this moment also the urban-rural divide on access to E-Education is a grave issue
To add to the title of the piece: it is also a class divide and, as Mansee says, a rural-urban divide. Somehow our political leaders--across the board--are insensitive to people's needs and take decisions as per their perceptions ignoring the majority of our population.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre