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Marketization, Managerialism and School Reforms: A Study of Public-Private Partnerships in Elementary Education in Delhi

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Vidya K.S.

Vidya K.S. joined the Max Weber Stiftung Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India” in 2014. She is a doctoral student at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi, where she works on the interaction between global and national discourses of privatisation in school.

Through the late 1970s, there was a fundamental repositioning of education in relation to the nation-state, most notably in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Part of larger processes of economic reforms initiated by New Right governments in these countries, a central feature of this trend was the move to “disempower centralized educational bureaucracies and create in their place devolved systems of schooling, entailing significant degrees of institutional autonomy and a variety of forms of school based management and administration” (Whitty 1997: 299). These reforms were advocated with the view of addressing the rising discourse of falling educational standards in public schools in these countries that blamed teachers and poor school management (Whitty 1997, Helsby 1999, Connell 2009, Maguire 2010).

In the run up to the reforms, various facets of the school came under public scrutiny. These included forms of management, kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning transactions and the structures of labour hierarchies within schools and across school administration boards. The project of educational reform led to new forms of partnerships between the state and the private sector. Principles of public management emphasising performance and outcomes popular in the corporate industrial sector were imported as alleviatory measures into the public school system. Increasingly, these typologies of reform are being imported into later developing countries, including India, as effective measures of repairing an increasingly maligned public school system. The modes through which these discourses of reform are interfacing with educational reforms in the context of a postcolonial country such as India present a complex picture today.

The focus of this research study is to examine these broader global discourses of reform and the complex nature of this interface with a heterogeneous government schooling system in India. The consequent changes that these reforms impose on the school will be examined through the lens of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that are one of the key modes through which markets are entering elementary education in the country. Teacher training programs are an emerging form of PPP that are seen as central to improving school outcomes. Apart from a survey of the range and nature of teacher training PPPs, the study will examine the ‘Teach for India’ (TFI) intervention, one significant PPP in teacher training, that seeks to address educational inequity in teaching-learning transactions in the classroom.

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