As India breaks free from the indignity of underdevelopment and shoots for the commanding heights of the global economy, the single most important engine that it needs is a competent workforce -- or to be more specific the quality of education that they have access to. Education is of course the responsibility of the government but like most other government responsibilities, it is never taken with the right degree of seriousness.
So private participation in this sector is becoming increasingly important and we see a large number of institutions -- from engineering and medical colleges down to secondary and primary English medium schools -- that have emerged. This is fine in principle but very often the management committees of these institutions, much like traders of scarce commodities, charge high prices, compromise on quality and behave with a degree of arrogance that is extremely distressing for the end consumer.
The obvious solution is to invite government regulation but that would be courting bureaucratic disaster. Instead, it would be better if there is a survey conducted by the media in association with market survey organisations and the results are placed in the public domain. Market forces will then ensure competition which will translate into quality and value for money.
The first focus should be primary and secondary schools to determine among other things (a) quality of teachers (b) infrastructure (c) results in board and competitive examinations. These scores, both on specific dimensions as well as the final composite, if available for each city, will be very useful. First parents, as the consumers would know where to put their money in and schools will have to be sensitive to their concerns. Secondly, these results can be used to channelise private charitable funds to upgrade infrastructure and reward deserving teachers. Given the amount of advertising interest that FMCG companies have on the school-going population it may not be too difficult to generate interest and garner funds for this purpose.