Cross-border educationists endorse school vouchers

A team of education activists from Pakistan and members of Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society shared their experience on the ‘school voucher project’ in both countries.

At an event at St Mark’s Convent School in Seelampur in north-east Delhi on Wednesday, Tajamul Hanif from the Pakistan-based National Commission for Human Development said her country fares better in the voucher education system.

The Delhi school voucher project, which was started in 2009 by CCS, pays for the education of poor children in budget private schools. It has benefited over 400 poor students from 68 wards in the Capital.

“Our government is extremely supportive of private intervention in education, though this is not a priority in the country. We are still in the stage of formulating Right to Education laws, which means most schools in Pakistan are not registered,” said Hanif.

CCS plans to present a report of this pilot project to the government so that a voucher system can be used for educating children under the economically weaker section category. The Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies has prepared the report.

With the help of the voucher system, students get the option of choosing their preferred school.

“We aim to convince the government to use this system instead of making schools wait for years to get their due for educating children under the EWS category,” said Shantanu Gupta of CCS.

Under this system, parents were given vouchers worth
Rs 3,600 for a child’s education for a year, which includes school fees, uniform, books, travel and other annual charges. A student should have studied till class six or below at a government school to avail these vouchers. The family concerned must also provide an income certificate to show their financial status.

The CMS conducted the study with 371 voucher students studying from pre-primary to class 8, 371 students attending private schools and 371 students from government schools. Students were tested separately in Hindi, Mathematics and English to evaluate their learning levels.

The findings show that students whose studies were supported by the voucher system performed better than those studying in government schools. They were even at par with students from private schools in all grades.

“Over 50 per cent parents availing the benefits of the voucher system said if this system was stopped, their children would either go back to government schools or stop going to school altogether,” said Gupta.

However, St Mark’s Convent School principal Dr Rajendra Kumar said budget private schools face the threat of closure as they are unable to meet RTE norms laid down by the Delhi government.

“We don’t meet most of the criteria as we do not have space to expand or provide playgrounds and cannot afford to give teachers salaries as per the Sixth Pay Commission,” he said.

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