January 2011

Breaking out of the Input Trap

Posted on:31-01-11

Yamini Aiyar

The recently released Annual Survey of Education Report 2010 serves as an important reminder of India’s greatest challenge - converting increased financial outlays to improved development outcomes.  Since 2004, India’s education budget has more than doubled, increasing from Rs 152,947 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 372,813 crore in 2009-10. For the same period, ASER has been tracking learning outcomes to find that learning levels have remained depressingly stagnant. Nearly half the children in standard 5 are still unable to read a standard 2 text. This outcome failure is not unique to education nearly every social sector s Read more »uffers the same fate.

All too many School Inspectors saying “all is well”?

Posted on:24-01-11

Shomikho Raha

Teacher absenteeism has been documented to be widespread and while the motivational reasons and drivers of this are complex (Ramachandran et al, 2005; Kremer et al., 2004), one factor that has permitted this is weak supervision or absence of inspections. Monitoring providers of services to hold them accountable is an important part of any service delivery system. Governments have acknowledged this and inspections have been taken particularly seriously by the government primary education system of Madhya Pradesh (MP) I recently visited (and more generally across states by the centrally sponsored Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme). Has it worked? On paper at least, it has. Assigned to undertake inspections of teachers in schools within a district are the following list of officials in MP: the Cluster Academic Coordinator (CAC or Jan Shikshak), the principal of the Higher Secondary School who functions as Cluster Drawing-Disbursing Officer (DDO), the Block Education Officer (BEO), Block Academic Coordinator (BAC), Block Resource Centre Coordinator (BRCC), Assistant Project Coordinator (APC) at the district-level, District-Project Coordinator (DPC), District Education Officer (DEO) and his Assistant, the Joint Director (JD) as well as the CEO Block and CEO District from within the Rural Development Department. Considering that there are usually 3 BACs in any BRC Office, 4-5 APCs at the DPC Office and several more CACs, the number of officials functioning as inspectors at any block or district are consequently many more. Do teachers however feel that they are functioning in an Inspector Raj system? Thankfully for them at least, this is not necessarily the case.

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Unpacking India’s Education Budget: PAISA 2010

Posted on:15-01-11

Yamini Aiyar, Avani Kapur and Anit Mukherjee

India’s education budget more than doubled in the last five years increasing from Rs 152,847 crores in FY 2004-05 to Rs 372,813 crores in FY 2009-10. An estimated 45 percent (figures for FY 2008-09) of education expenditures are now dedicated to elementary education. However, close scrutiny of India’s education system reveals a sobering truth – that this large investment has been spent poorly. And as the ASER report reminds us year after year, increased investments have failed to improve education outcomes. Despite significant financial investments, India’s education system is in fact, as characterized rather aptly by economist Lant Pritchett, in a ‘big Stuck’. What explains this ‘Stuck’? and how do we reverse this trend? To answer this question we need to understand the processes through which increased investments translate in to action. Critical to this are the links between plans, allocations and expenditures: how are resources allocated to states? What are the links between allocations and plans? How do funds flow through the system to arrive at their final destination? What are the link Read more »s between school needs and increased expenditures?

Education Survey Shows RTE Has a Long Way To Go

Posted on:15-01-11

The Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2010 report was launched by Vice President, Hamid Ansari on 14 January 2011 in New Delhi. Conducted every year since 2005, ASER is the largest annual survey of children in rural India. Facilitated by Pratham, ASER is conducted each year by local organizations and concerned citizens. In 2010, ASER reached 522 districts, over 14,000 villages, 3,00,000 households and almost 7,00,000 children. Every year, ASER finds out whether children in rural India go to school, how well they can read in their own language and whether they can do basic arithmetic. ASER 2010 also included a visit to over 13,000 government schools to assess compliance with those norms and standards specified in the Right to Education Act that are easy to measure.

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Surveys Assess the State of Global Freedom

Posted on:15-01-11

A trio of major surveys assessing the state of civil, political and economic freedom across the world have recently been released.The 3 surveys are Freedom House’s "Freedom in the World 2010: Erosion of Freedom Intensifies"; Reporters without Borders’ "Press Freedom Index 2010"; and the Heritage Foundation’s " The Link Between Economic Opportunity and Prosperity: The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom".
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Carrots for Teachers

Posted on:12-01-11

Anirvan Chowdhury

For quite some time now, India’s education system and policy has been in a state of torpor and seems to be waiting for little short of a miracle to shake itself out of the rut it’s in. While it is clear that the education sector has historically suffered from underfunding, this is only part of the story. What is as important as the resources we pour into the machine is what we are able to extract from it. And here, as a quick comparison of reading levels for primary school students across India shows, we have an almost perfect status quo across three years (see Figure 1). The number of children unable to solve a simple arithmetic problem (not shown here) also shows a very similar pattern. This is all the more disturbing since absolute allocation to education has increased in the recent past, though it is still significantly short of the normative target of 6% of GDP. Clearly, we need to look beyond the monetary aspect and take a closer look at service delivery, or the quality of teaching if we are serious about making a tangible difference in education outcomes, especially if we take into account that a large part of the education budget is dedicated to teacher salaries. Read more »

Performance based fund allocation for Ministries: Will it Work?

Posted on:10-01-11

Mandakini Devasher Surie

The Planning Commission recently announced that financial allocations to ministries in 2011-2012 will be based on their performance. An Indian Express article entiled "More for ministries that did well" reports that fund allocations will be made following a performance review of each ministry by the Cabinet Secretariat. But how exactly is ministerial performance going to be measured?  Since 2009, under a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office, central government departments have been implementing a new “Performance Monitoring and Evaluation System” (PMES). At the heart of the PMES is a relatively simple concept – “what gets measured, gets managed”. It marks a shift away from traditional practices of measuring expenditures as outcomes to a more rigorous system of evaluating the performance of government departments. Steered by the Cabinet Secretariat’s Performance Management Division, the PMES is designed to help government departments define, measure and monitor their progress against defined targets and indicators.
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Cash Transfers Vs. Subsidies…. the Argument Continues

Posted on:07-01-11

Ambrish Dongre

Cash transfers, whether conditional or unconditional, are getting a lot of attention in India these days. The success of cash transfers program in the some parts of the world, especially Latin America, and not so much of success of India’s own schemes and welfare programmes, have led many to think about cash transfers more seriously.

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Centrally Sponsored Schemes: One too many?

Posted on:06-01-11

Recently, Rural Development Minister, CP Joshi announced that only members of parliament would be entitled to inaugurate roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The rural roads scheme is part of a slew of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) which include the MGNREGA, ICDS, PMGSY, NRHM, SSA etc. What are Centrally Sponsored Schemes? Essentially these schemes are special purpose grants extended by the Central Government to States to encourage and motivate State governments to plan and implement programmes that help attain national goals and objectives, for instance, extending clean drinking water and sanitation to every habitation, eradicating polio and tuberculosis, making primary education universal for every female and male child, and so on. CSSs are formulated by concerned Ministries and Departments and implemented through counterpart State level departments and para-statal bodies identified for the purpose.

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