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India's Schooling Experiment Tests Rich and Poor 174

theodp writes "Passed in 2009, India's Right to Education Act mandates that private schools set aside 25% of admissions for low-income, underprivileged and disabled students. Many of the world's top private schools offer scholarships to smart poor kids, but India's plan is more sweeping in that the rules prohibit admission-testing of students. 'Over the years schooling offered by these two systems [public and private] has become increasingly disparate and unequal,' explained Anshu Vaish of the Dept. of Human Resource Development. But the most notable results of the experiment thus far, reports the WSJ, are frustration and disappointment as separations that define Indian society are upended, leading even some supporters to conclude that the chasm between the top and bottom of Indian society is too great to overcome. Hey, at least we don't have these kinds of problems in the US, right? BTW, about 30% of this year's Intel Science Talent Search 2011 Finalists hailed from private schools, where annual tuition ranges from $15,750 at Ursuline Academy (the alma mater of Melinda Gates) to $37,020 at Groton School (the alma mater of FDR). Some 10% of all elementary and secondary school students were in private schools in 2009-2010, according to the US Dept. of Education."
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India's Schooling Experiment Tests Rich and Poor

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  • by s13g3 ( 110658 ) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @09:24AM (#36342126) Journal

    This is an excellent illustration at a much larger scale of exactly the education problems we face in the U.S., where we spend more on prisoners than students [].

    Speaking for myself, I have... let's call it an "above average" character in terms of education and intellect, and yet public schools couldn't be bothered with me. Had it not been for the fact that my parents had worked hard enough to be able to afford very expensive private schooling, I would never have graduated from High School.

    The answer is NOT for those who can afford such things to be taxed into giving up those funds to educate everyone else's children. The "answer" is not even something I can feasibly address with any sanity or brevity in a forum like this one (ok, I can in three words: "One room schoolhouse"), but it should be rather clearer now what a failure our current model is, where students are graduating from High School less educated than their parents - on average - for the first time in our nations history over the last several years, and that we need to completely re-address our schools, teaching methods, and sociocultural emphasis (or lack thereof) on education.

    • Nice strawman (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @09:33AM (#36342158)

      This is an excellent illustration at a much larger scale of exactly the education problems we face in the U.S., where we spend more on prisoners than students [].

      Of course we spend more on prisoners than students. Prisoners live in prisons 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Students are in school for 7 hours a day, for only 8 months out of the year.

      • by zill ( 1690130 ) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @09:37AM (#36342174)

        The solution is obvious then.

        Lock those pesky kids in school 24/7.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Years ago a teacher was telling me how kids see school. Some are there to learn, but others just see it as a prison sentence. You have to go there by law and have no choice in the matter. Some of them go on to do okay at college because their attitude changes when they are there by choice.

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        If you ran a prison for profit and cared for your shareholders - at some point your going to get a lobbyist to ensure that your "24 hours a day, 365 days" payment per prisoner is big, and updated often.
        • by IICV ( 652597 )

          Not only that, but a lot of prisons are beginning to force prisoners to work at menial jobs while they are in prison; in principle this is something I approve of, but when you realize that the prisoners don't need to be paid real wages, it gets bad.

          What happens is this:
          1. The state contracts out prison management to some private company, paying them per prisoner.
          2. The private company turns around and signs contracts to have its prisoners do menial labor at some unbeatable price since not only is their work

          • I once saw a TV report about that practice. The prisoners basically had to work, unless they wanted to eat stuff that tastes like shit. They didn't earn much, but it was enough to make their stay comfortable enough.

            If prisons can be profitable businesses, why not? And that way, the former prisoners can at least say they've been working during the x previous years they've just spent in prison. Maybe it's slave labor, but it's still better than having them scratch their backs while free citizens keep on payi
            • The main problem is if they're competing with some legitimate business that is forced to pay its workers minimum wage, they'll lose against the prison workforce every time, unless they are also forced to pay the prisoners an equal wage. Though, one potential solution I could see is to contract the workforce out to a private company, require that minimum wages be paid, and have the state garnish these wages to pay for the prison. Problem with this is what private company in their right mind would pay the sam

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The whole submission is an attempt to say "WE HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM HERE." The fact is that we don't. Our public schools have problems, but not anything like India, where the average class size is fifty and *TEACHER* absenteeism is a huge problem. You go to school, there's fifty kids in your class, and your teacher doesn't show up. That is not uncommon in India's public schools. Which is why the middle/upper class send their kids to private schools.

        • Hey I went to private school in India and the class size was 60!

          No teacher absenteeism though

          What's the class size in the US?

      • But the school aged population [] of over 50 million in the United States is about 7 times larger than the prisoner population [] of about 7 million. And it seems reasonable to assume that educating a person is more resource demanding than detaining a person. The fact that the amount spend on prisons is even on the same order of magnitude as the amount spent on schools is more than a little disconcerting to me.

        • The incarcerated population in the US is about 2.3 million - the other 4.7 million are on probation or parole. The school-age population does not count preschool, early kindergarten or any students over age 17, so it should be ~12% higher. The ratio of populations is about 24.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      > Had it not been for the fact that my parents had worked hard enough to be able to afford very expensive private schooling

      Two problems with that. Firstly it is not simply a matter of "working hard". All the evidence suggests that it is much harder for poor people to get on in life. Social mobility has actually gone down in the last decade. If you don't have the money to live in a good neighbourhood, both parents have to work so can't spend as much time reading to you at an early age, can't afford to tra

      • I agree with your first paragraph and the overall point of your whole post, but you say:

        "Secondly it is in your interest to subsidise poorer children. You want the best and brightest children to power the economy or become your doctor. "

        Yes, but ability is highly correlated with parental wealth. This is because intelligence and other success related qualities of the parents are correlated with earning power, and these abilities are highly heritable, both genetically and indirectly through parent-child inter

        • So, do genetics work differently in the US than other countries which don't have anywhere near the same correlation between a parent's income and that of the child?

          Why does a Swedish doctor or lawyer not confer the same earning potential or intelligence to his child than an American?

          • Short answer: who says ability is less heritable in Sweden? And even if so, who says that Sweden allows higher ability people to keep their earnings, or even tolerates the idea that some people just have more general ability than others?

            Long answer:
            I'm not sure that the correlation is actually much less, rather the range of incomes is more restricted due to taxation and culture (not rewarding greater ability, denying its existence, or even ostracizing high ability people for insufficient humility). Also th

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      The US has a competitive culture, yet we know economic development depends on a well educated populous. Therefore the public school system has been set up, for at least the past 40 years, IMHO, to provide both full opportunities for those who want to the educated and compulsory minimums for those who don't.

      Because of the free market nature of the US gaining the maximum benefit of public education is also competitive. Parents of means have always had the opportunity to enroll in private school or move to

    • So privatize the schools then. NJ already spends the same $15,000 - $30,000+ per pupil pear year on public schools, so it's not the price, it's the monopoly that's destroying the quality.

    • Speaking for myself, I have... let's call it an "above average" character in terms of education and intellect, and yet public schools couldn't be bothered with me. Had it not been for the fact that my parents had worked hard enough to be able to afford very expensive private schooling, I would never have graduated from High School.

      No offense, but it sounds like you're, let's call it "below average", on a number of other skill-sets, if you were unable to graduate from public school, especially High School.

      Don't tell me, you were "soooo bored" with school that you just couldn't hack it....right? Do what the rest of us did and read during class, program on your TI85 during class, hell do diffeq in your head if you feel like it. "I'm soooo smart but can't do the work" rings, well, false.

  • Enjoy the 28 Most Expensive Private High Schools In America []
    The US just has to ensure testing is fully funded in every state and that its best and brightest get scholarships to the top endowment funded U.S. universities.
    Testing 100% of every states students vs educating the bottom ~90% every year? Best to put limited state tax funding into the top few %.
    The real question is how to keep the bottom 90% distracted every year?
  • The Real Lowdown (Score:5, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @09:42AM (#36342202) Journal
    When India adopted the Constitution it imposed a quota system and "reserved" 20% of the seats in educational institutions, government employment etc for disadvantaged people, (12.5% for people mentioned in the castes in a schedule of the constitution and 7.5% for the tribes in another schedule). These people commonly referred to as Schedule Castes and Tribes got a special Affirmative Action like treatment. It was supposed to be for just 10 years. But politics being politics, that policy was extended again and again and it is still going strong. More more castes pressed to be included in the schedule, which could be amended more easily than the Constitution, created new categories like Backward Castes and Most Backward Castes.

    By the time I was finishing high school the situation was so bad that in my State 70% of the seats were reserved for these castes. The remaining 30% was considered to be "open competition", which means any disadvantaged student who scores high will not be counted towards the quota. The closing score for engineering/medical admission for my caste was some 98.5%, that is anyone scoring less would not get admission. The closing score for the ST category was some 45% and SC was 55% and BC was around 75%. The central government did not have the BC category so for IITs 80% of the seats were in play. Some 1350 seats for the entire population of India. If you have been wondering why the IIT alumni of that age (45 to 55 presently) are so strong in academics and engineering, it is because they were the students score above mean+3 sigma.

    Over the years a creamy layer has developed and the people who benefited by the reservation policy in 1950s, their children and their great grand children enjoy all the benefits. The benefits do not reach the really stuggling, poor deserving people of these castes. Among the so-called forward castes so many poor rural people have much higher disadvantages. The situation is so bad there, even the corrupt Indian politicians and the corrupt journalists pandering to the semi-literate allegedly suppressed communities are coming out periodically with such band aids to sooth the raging public anger. The really poor disadvantaged people of all castes are pissed off. Only the creamy layer of people belonging to the SC/ST/BC castes likes the present situation.

    One good that has happened over the last two decades is the mushrooming growth of private colleges that finally gave all people to get an engineering degree if they wanted it. Now the private colleges are outshining State funded colleges. Now the creamy layer has its eyes on the private colleges. They want in, into that sector too. So this is their way of forcing the private colleges also to impose a reservation system.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The BBC talked about this in its []
      re the Schedule Castes and Tribes policy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This comment is ignorant of the reality in India and is representative of only one part of the population he belongs to. The reservation by the Indian Government was an initiative to bring the un-educated and down trodden the means to higher education and higher jobs and thus higher standards of life. Even though lately the competition in the open category is cut throat, it has not stopped the author of the comment from seeking alternative avenues, he and his caste had the information and the means to seek

      • Buddy, when I was in IIT I was part of the National Service Scheme, the student organization, I was the gen sec for a year and joint sec for two years. I taught in a slum all the five years, four days a week, 5 to 7 pm. I had a graduation rate of 70% for my kids. If any of my kids in those classes scored 70% and was preferred over my brother scoring 95%, I would call it fair. I know how poor they were and how difficult it is for those kids to succeed academically. But the ground reality is, those slum kids
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          If any of my kids in those classes scored 70% and was preferred over my brother scoring 95%, I would call it fair.

          Calling it fair is nothing like being fair. It's not fair to be poorer than someone else, or otherwise disadvantaged (by definition). But it also isn't fair to sneak weak students in because they weren't treated fairly earlier in their life. We can't fix those harms merely by gaming an entrance exam.

          • Doing well in a test does not by itself mean that person has superior intelligence. This is not sour grapes talk. I have extremely good test taking skills. I got through JEE, and placed in the top 1% of the world in GRE. Still I think there are so many great students who would make better engineers than me, who perform worse than me in tests. These poor students who make 70% would really make better engineers than someone scoring 95%. If the reservation system benefits such students, I will accept it. But w
  • in Asia it's all about the test and mass cheating goes on there. The us needs to drop the teach the test idea and go back to the old days. College is odd that some of the high cost schools are carp and all about makeing money and other are better price wise but range from poor to good.
  • I urge everyone to read to the end which relates impoverished Vipil's successes, showing why good education for everyone is a great boon for society.

    Though I like the outcomes of India's law, I think it is impinging on the freedom of the schools too much. Consider the borderline families, where the effective 25% price premium means the difference between sending their children to a good school or not. We barely afford to send our own kids to private school, and an extra charge of that size might well kick

    • I urge everyone to read to the end which relates impoverished Vipil's successes, showing why good education for everyone is a great boon for society.

      It only takes a few Sumit's to screw it up for not only Vipil, but all the 75% set-asides there.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      And I'm giving up vacations, cars, and retirement savings to do that,

      Here in Australia, I did the maths and find it better to spend the extra money buying (or renting) a house in the area of a good public school, than to pay fees for private schools. Hopefully I still can still get it all back for retirement by selling the house, if the market doesn't crash.
      Does that approach work in the US?

      • Yes.

        However I also believe that the primary difference between good schools and inferior schools is in how serious the parents are about the whole process.

        This is why private schools get better results.

      • That's an insightful question. You name precisely the tradeoff many others choose in my situation, typically accepting a long commute for one -- sometimes both -- parents in exchange for certainty and quality of schooling (as well as big lawns and so on). For context: my profession pretty much requires that I work in a big city.

        I decided I didn't want the second car and the yard, and most importantly that having a short commute would give me 5-10 hours of extra time with my kids every week. Pricing that

  • []
    "New York State current spends roughly 20,000 US dollars per schooled child per year to support the public school system. This essay suggests that the same amount of money be given directly to the family of each homeschooled child. Further, it suggests that eventually all parents would get this amount, as more and more families decide to homeschool because it is suddenly easier financially. It suggests why ultimately this will be a win/win situation for everyone involved (including parents, children, teachers, school staff, other people in the community, and even school administrators :-) because ultimately local schools will grow into larger vibrant community learning centers open to anyone in the community and looking more like college campuses. New York State could try this plan incrementally in a few different school districts across the state as pilot programs to see how it works out. This may seem like an unlikely idea to be adopted at first, but at least it is a starting point for building a positive vision of the future for all children in all our communities. Like straightforward ideas such as Medicare-for-all, this is an easy solution to state, likely with broad popular support, but it may be a hard thing to get done politically for all sorts of reasons. It might take an enormous struggle to make such a change, and most homeschoolers rightfully may say they are better off focusing on teaching their own and ignoring the school system as much as possible, and letting schooled families make their own choices. Still,homeschoolers might find it interesting to think about this idea and how the straightforward nature of it calls into question many assumptions related to how compulsory public schooling is justified. Also, ultimately, the more people who homeschool, the easier it becomes, because there are more families close by with which to meet during the daytime (especially in rural areas). And sometime just knowing an alternative is possible can give one extra hope. Who would have predicted ten years back that NYS would have a governor who was legally blind and whose parents had been forced to change school districts just to get him the education he needed? So, there is always "the optimism of uncertainty", as historian Howard Zinn says. We don't know for sure what is possible and what is not. "

    See also: [] [] []
    "A basic income guarantee (or basic income) is a proposed system[1] of social security, that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money. In contrast to income redistribution between nations themselves, the phrase basic income defines payments to individuals rather than households[2], groups, or nations, in order to provide for individual basic human needs. Except for citizenship, a basic income is entirely unconditional. Furthermore, there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it. The U.S. Basic Income Network[3] emphasizes this absence of means testing in its precise definition, "The Basic Income Guarantee is an unconditional, government-insured guarantee that all citizens will have enough income to meet their basic needs.""

    What good is education as far as economic advancement when the robots and AIs and voluntary social networks are going to do most of the jobs inthe future? []

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      That would be a great idea--if most of these families wouldn't immediately run out and blow the money on crack, gold jewelry, flashy cars, etc. almost immediately, And they would.

      • Perhaps some would. Let's say you are right. Remember, most of these people are the product of schooling. What does that say about raising those now adults during their formative years during the 1980s in day-prisons confined in chairs doing paperwork most of their youth and then fed mainstream TV promoting consumerism the rest of the time? It might take a while for the culture to heal...

        Also, why should everyone suffer because a few will mess up? There are already plenty of laws about "negect" and kids. O

  • There is similar happening in Scotland, albeit via a different approach - essentially private schools can have their charitable status revoked if they do not pass the "public benefit" test. This is applicable to all charities, though generally interpreted in private schools in relation to the level of fees charged and the proportions of bursaries granted: if high fees mean poor people are effectively excluded from the school, their "public benefit" is not so very "public".

    There was quite a push specifically

  • In the US most middle class private schools' main purpose is to give their kids a hefty dose of Jesus in their lessons. While kids in private schools learn more it's because of parental involvement and despite the broken lesson plans.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal