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Education policy and students going abroad for under-graduate education

Indian Express carried this story last Sunday on how students faced with high cut-offs are opting for foreign universities. Srinath Rao, who wrote that article, estimates that 430 out of 930 students passing out of DPS R K Puram are going abroad to pursue their college education.

Assuming that each of them will spend at least $ 20,000 each year ($ 10,000 each towards tuition fees and living expenses. In reality the expenses would be much higher). These 430 students alone will spend $ 8.6 million each year. Assuming their under-graduate degree is for four years, it works out to $ 34.4 million or Rs 172 crore (at Rs 50 per dollar).

A lazy answer would be to pin point to lesser number of seats available because of reservation. This might probably account for less than 5% of why kids go abroad. I would trace it to the faulty education policy that we have, that only allows not-for-profit people to run schools and colleges. As a result, education providers float a two-layer structure: one which has the physical infrastructure and another which manages the day-to-day operations of the school like employing teachers and managing the infrastructure. The first company- which owns the physical infrastructure- will be not-for-profit to satisfy the government rules. The second company will get paid by the first company for the services rendered, and would be making huge profits. A check at some of so-called e-education firms in India will establish the two-tier structure. As a result, people who have genuine interest in running schools and colleges as a for-profit institutions are not willing to run. 

Unless the policy is changed to encourage an open and fair way of running schools and colleges, the government will never be able to meet the demand. Rules that protect the interests of the students and at the same time provide flexibility for private schools to innovate should be encouraged. Or else, we will end up like what's happening in private engineering colleges. 

Those who oppose opening up education sector should understand that if 430 students spend a fraction of that money in a college in India, it would create better job opportunities. Nobody is stopping the government from opening many new colleges. After all if state-run schools and colleges become good, there would be no demand for private schools and colleges. 

And finally there are many thousands of students who don't get admission in good colleges but are forced to complete in poorly run institutions, mainly because they can't afford foreign colleges. Not because they are less talented or deserving than the 430 DPS students. Having a local option- run by private capital- would not only make it cheaper than foreign education but could help them compete with better resourced kids. 


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