The Impact of Education Policy Reforms on the School System : A Field Study of EGS and Other Primary Schools in Madhya Pradesh

This paper presents the results of fieldwork on rural primary schools of two districts of Madhya Pradesh, India, conducted from December 2001 to March 2002. Since the mid-1990’s, the government of this state has initiated reforms aiming to extend the public primary school sector, to decentralise its management, and to facilitate the development of the private sector. Fieldwork focused on the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS), a school creation programme relying on decentralisation that the state government presents as epitomising its approach to universalising access to primary education.

EGS has strongly improved access to schools in villages under study. However, EGS centres have low input levels, especially in terms of teaching positions and teacher training, and constitute classes rather than proper schools. The quantity and quality of teaching appear deficient, and achievement levels of pupils about to complete the primary curriculum are low. Neighbouring government schools, predating EGS, happen to be potentially stronger institutions, but suffer from comparable deficiencies.

Despite key changes in recruitment rules, teachers still consider themselves civil servants. Many show little interest in interacting with children, and existing incentives fail to generate and sustain their motivation. Decentralised management procedures, common to all public schools do not provide enough control or support. Notably, the involvement of village panchayat and Village Education Committes or parents-Teachers Associations is yet to have a strong impact on education matters. However, the provision of inputs and the basis supervision of teachers would have improves through the creation of local units of the state education administration.

Parents are motivated for sending their children to school, but face high (mostly direct) costs of and uncertain returns to schooling, and the structured ‘community’ demand for education on which the reforms rely fails to emerge. Conceptions by teachers, parents and other villages of what education is and who should have access to it remain inadequate. Village-level socio-political structures do not further the interests of children of deprived backgrounds who attend EGS or even government schools, as opposed to private ones. A notable consequence in one of the areas under study is the proliferation within each village of schools of different types that are typically too small to be efficient.
Recent government policies have led to a remarkable increase in the public and private supply of primary education in rural Madhya Pradesh. It is now necessary to guarantee the quality of the new schools, address equity issues raised by the co-existence of different school types, and make the school system suitable. Change in educational values, however difficult to promote, may well be required for the necessary increases in resources devoted to primary education and further alteration of the incentive structure of the school system -if they take place- to produce their expected results.

  • In :
    CSH Occasional Paper N°5, Publication of the French Research Institutes in India, Rajdhani Art Press
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