Thursday, March 25, 2010

The proposition of a Private-Public partnership model in Higher Educational service delivery.

Any commentary on educational policy essentially takes into consideration the various methodological debates that exist within the scope of the attempt to define education at elementary and advanced stages. It is essentially a wide ranging and interesting subject as the very tools and methods that go into researching a certain educational policy are in themselves real reflections of policies on education that have shaped the scope of logic.

Having thus acknowledged these various dimensions, and based on the need to restrict the scope of this article to the proposed changes to India’s Higher Education Policy I would speak about the higher educational policy in the context of an assumed service delivery model without questioning the underlying assumptions of such a model.

In order to fully understand the possible benefits of a Private-Public partnership (PPP) service delivery model in higher education let us explore what exactly is the rationale behind adopting PPP models and the various benefits that can accrue from it.

Initiatives of adopting a PPP model in most sectors seeks to fuse the skills, expertise, and experience from both the public and private sectors towards delivering higher standards of service delivery centered on the respective strategic advantages of both the parties in the initiative. The public sector essentially brings to the table its expertise in governance, responsibility to the electorate, access to funding (subject to other variables) appreciation of local cultural sensitiveness as well as a local workforce, many with long years of service delivery experience.

The contribution from the private sector includes operational efficiencies, innovative technologies, international and sometimes cross cultural managerial experience with access to additional finance and risk sharing. Risk sharing is one of the most important strategic advantages.

The definition of a private-public partnerships especially in the context of education is an important step because all stakeholders have very different perspectives on the problems and of the goals and aspirations of involving the private sector. Thus a consensus needs to be maintained within the following steps;

  1. The different sets of higher educational objectives are kept compatible or if possible aligned.
  2. The objectives of the higher education sector are agreed at the outset
  3. Unattainable objectives for this sector (education) are exposed and future steps are tailored to meet the objectives.

Concerns of private initiatives into educational service delivery have long been there and have been debated and the problems that accrue to the most important stakeholder in this context, that of the student in higher educational ventures of the private sector have been lack of accountability mechanisms.

This has been partially due to either lack of regulation or the presence of archaic regulatory bodies which are themselves mismanaged, and/or caught up in legal red tape-ism.

However, Government initiatives in higher education has not been without its own share of problems, mainly mismanagement, resource shortage and most importantly absence of industry linkages to the private sector.

In this context PPP models or a well regulated Private Sector model makes a lot of policy sense and is undoubtedly of tremendous significance for guaranteeing a certain quality of human resource for the society and the industry. However, attention needs to be on the all important regulatory model, which needs to be free from political processes as well as corporate interests.

This shall also mean that it would not just be the private educational initiatives that would be regulated but also the government sector- central or state government funded universities that should come under the purview of such a regulatory body which guarantees a uniform standard of educational service delivery across private and public sectors or any mutual alliance thereof.

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