NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Wednesday said the government needs to exit infrastructure projects and even look at handing over schools and colleges to the private sector as is the case in Canada and Australia. At the same time, he was critical of India’s private sector, terming it as “most irrational” and “insensitive”. Mr Kant said it messed up projects by aggressive bidding and creating the current crisis in the public private partnership (PPP) model. The idea of privatising education is not a new one; over the years, thanks to the dipping quality of education in government-run schools in India, there has been a demand for private intervention. But in India, the experience of PPP in education has been a mixed one. Two years ago, the Rajasthan government unveiled a PPP policy model to hand over more than 70,000 State-run schools to the private education sector but had to be scrapped after 3.5 lakh teachers resisted the move.
At the international level, the mood, however, is towards private-public partnership The Sustainable Development Goals — Agenda 2030 — (India is a signatory) also talks about the PPP model, but mostly in the infrastructure sector. However, PPPs cannot be a panacea in any sector unless there is a robust institutional framework to oversee its implementation. A United Nations Department of Social Affairs report — ‘PPPs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ‘— stresses that for PPPs to become successful, it is necessary that countries have in place “the institutional capacity to create, manage, and evaluate them”. It also talks about the four steps that need to be taken to ensure the success of PPPs: Correct identification of projects, proper structuring of contacts, establishment of a comprehensive and transparent fiscal accounting and reporting standard, and ensuring legal, regulatory and monitoring frameworks that ensure appropriate pricing and quality of service.Goal number 4 of SDGs is about education: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes” is one of the main targets.
If this goal has to be reached using the PPP route, then it is imperative that the government systems have to be upgraded to keep a hawk eye on the progress of such partnerships. But present India doesn’t seem to be ready and equipped for such an overhaul.