In a curious response to my post, Ravikiran Rao points to an earlier post that draws an analogy between blogs and educational institutions. In particular, it should be easy for people to start educational institutions — just as it is easy for people to start blogs. You have heard about the death of set-up costs, haven’t you?
Students will be able to discover for themselves where the good institutions are, and they will flock to them — just like readers discover good blogs now. Death of transaction costs, too!
Ravikiran Rao seems very confident that he has found a clever solution to our higher ed problems.
Just imagine the possibilities of this wonderfully costless world: our students will be able to sample a whole bunch of colleges / courses for two minutes each. Or, they’ll just need to discover one or two good colleges, which will point them to many other similarly good colleges. (nanopolitan)
I did not intend to claim that I knew the solution to all the problems of higher education. I was merely pointing out that regulation is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Regulations impose barriers to entry and they tend to penalize the honest the most. Being snarky does not free you from addressing the point.
His second point is of course, quite valid. If it weren’t for the government certifying the quality of schools, the only way to find out their quality is by enrolling in them and studying in those schools for two minutes. It is because of the regime of school inspection that has freed us from the burden of selecting schools for our children. It is a proven fact that middle-class parents who have to choose schools do so by draw of lots. It is also a fact that there is a social taboo against speaking about how good or bad your school is, which makes it impossible for parents to gain any information about the quality of schools.
Our current problem is not that there are no private players, but that they have among them too many crooks, politicians and thugs whose primary motive is demonstrably something other than education. So the real issue is this: What changes do we need in our regulatory structure so as to attract the ‘right’ sort of private players — philanthropists — to enter the education sector in larger numbers? How do we keep the undesirable kind from poisoning the pool? (nanopolitan)
Bzzt. Already answered. Next question please.
As we all know, India’s agriculture is in deep and continuing distress and its farmers are committing suicide in large numbers because the government has reduced its investment in agriculture and R&D. While all this is happening, the media is cheering the rise of the stock market and reporting on fashion shows. Worse still, now we have the shocking spectacle of a private corporation preying off the distress of farmers by spreading its tentacles all over the country and claiming to provide what the government should be doing. Read the story of this atrocity here. (Registration may be required.)
Nilu says that I do not address a certain argument in favour of government schools. The argument has something to do with poor people having the vote. If that is supposed to mean that the poor can vote themselves better schools, Nilu should know that it is nonsense. One vote every five years is simply inadequate as an attention-getting tactic, when citizens have a hundred issues on which to draw their rulers’ attention. Presumably Nilu does know that, so he modifies the argument with something else that is still nonsensical.
A couple of years back, at a blog meet, I was having a discussion with Anand, who used to blog at locana. He was trying to defend government schools. His defence went: “Not all government schools are bad. I went to one myself. Ok, it was a government school at a campus that was filled with professors, but still…”
I sputtered a bit but never got a chance to complete my response in the din of the meet. This post at Nanopolitan reminded me of that conversation. This is as good a time as any for a response, I suppose.
People argue that private schools will serve only the rich and never provide the same quality to the poor. When faced with evidence that government schools also provide good quality only to the rich and neglect to serve the poor, their views undergo a fascinating inversion. The success of private schools for the rich is evidence that they will serve only the rich. The success of government schools for the rich is evidence that hope is on the way for the poor.