Policy approaches to education
Friday, May 05, 2006
[By this time, you must know that my posts hardly live up to their grandiose titles. I like keeping such names though. *Grin*]
This post is a response to Kuffir's response to my response to his original post. :-). Do read the last comment he left, the one I am responding to, if only to get some idea about what this post is in response to.
Kuffir, I largely agree with your observations. Change in favour of libertarianism is indeed hard; it would be naive to expect the government to devolve power of its own accord. It is also true that the best opportunities for change are crises, like in 1991. (Reading your comment made me smile, because just last night I was reading Milton Friedman say the exact same stuff in "Capitalism and Freedom".) It is also true that, when the crisis moment comes, a policy framework should be in intellectual currency for any chance of getting implemented. For this reason, I think it is important to keep alive and respectable the policy implications of libertarianism -- smaller governments and free-er markets -- no matter how bleak their chances appear today.
[A small digression. You say:
individuals can only coax,nudge and cajole the state to run along a certain course that would lead to more, and more devolution of power. and individuals would have to, paradoxically, work in groups to achieve this.If by the use of the word paradoxically, you imply that individuals working in groups is somehow against the grain of libertarianism, I will have to disagree. It is only natural that a free man should associate with a fellow free man in order to better serve his own interest; there is nothing paradoxical in this.]
Now to get to what you were really leading upto: your idea that forcing the government to concentrate on primary education would lead to a reduction in governmental spending elsewhere. You say the powers-that-be have realized investment in education needs to be raised to around six percent of the gdp. This is news to me. The current spending has averaged 4% and, given the rate at which our GDP is increasing, it will get tougher for future governments to get closer to the 6% figure (source).
I think shaming the government into action over education will be tough when we have failed to shame it into action on child malnutrition or narmada rehabilitation . Hell, even the moral overlords over at The Other India havent yet come around to talking about education. That is all the more reason to talk about education louder, yes, but I am not optimistic that the government will give this a priority.
The almost default choice left for the government is to let private players come in. And the government must be less jealous about letting them in than is usual. Already private players seem to be doing a good job. Basically, I dont see why there wont be more private schools if more people are willing to pay money for education. Which brings me to the question of poverty hindering education. I still think poverty needs to be tackled if we are to think about reducing illiteracy. Human needs can be ranked: food, water and shelter are all more important than education and for the poorer families the choice is rather obvious. Any money/vouchers you give to poor people will be diverted to other, more pressing needs. The only way out is to subsidise fees, and you get shoddy government schools, which are still better than nothing anyway.
Dont get me wrong: I would love it if you pointed to me news that the government is definitively increasing its spending on education, if that means it is reducing spending elsewhere. It would only be a good first step though: as we get richer, I expect more private schools to come up, and I would hope for the government to scale back its presence (dream on!). I am just too cynical to get my hopes up though.