July 24, 2014 Print

In India, the Centre for Civil Society (CSS) launched Boondein, a national campaign designed to strengthen the voice of Budget Private Schools, ensuring that children have the opportunity for quality education at an affordable price. The last decade has seen a surge of privately owned schools change the education landscape of India. Known as Budget Private Schools, these are small, run without government aid and have a fee structure that is lower than government per-child expenditure in public schools. Initiated by private entities to meet the demands of the poor households, these have infused the low-cost private education sector with hope for quality education. When the Right to Education (RTE) Act was passed in 2010, it aimed to provide free and compulsory schooling for every Indian child between the ages of 6 and 14. Though the law recognizes the effectiveness of private education, different interpretations of it have begun to undermine the efforts of the private sector altogether. The grim reality is that strict norms imposed by the RTE Act, regarding infrastructure and other aspects, threaten to close these private schools permanently. The choice for parents between private and public school is difficult. Media reports that since the passing of the RTE, 2,983 schools have been shut down across 17 states and another 5,907 face the threat of closure. In Punjab alone, 1,170 schools have been shut down. CSS field coordinators report that the threat of closures is affecting more than 1,800,000 students. CSS, an Atlas Network partner, notes that there is an immediate need to reshape the school education policy landscape by shifting the focus to learning outcomes, expanding choice in education and advocating deregulation of the private sector. The National Independent Schools Alliance published Boondein, a coffee table book, detailing forty-five stories of the commitment of parents, teachers, students and school owners, why parents prefer private schools to their government counterparts, and what made “edupreneurs” start these schools.