India eyes PPPs for schools

A senior education official has publicly backed the idea of public private partnerships for the creation of schools, according to the Press Information Bureau. The official outlined various levels of potential private sector participation. The comments coincide with talk of doubling India’s infrastructure investment to $1tr in the five years ending 2017.

The Indian government is looking to encourage public-private partnerships to build, maintain and perhaps even manage schools and colleges across the world’s second most populous country.

According to the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India, Shri Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, backed the idea in a recent speech on private participation in health and education.

Sibal said private participation should be especially encouraged in the education sector in semi-urban or semi-rural areas, where “despite the mushrooming of private schools their quality level at present [leaves] much to be desired”. He said  private investors could choose from various levels of participation.

The first form would have the private sector build the infrastructure for schools and colleges and have the government compensate investors through annual payments linked to performance standards. The second form would outsource the maintenance of buildings and non-educational services like school transport and sanitation. The third would see “all educational services” be provided under public-private partnerships, allowing the private sector to run a school and get paid based on performance standards such as examination results, attendance and excellence in extracurricular activities.

Sibal’s statements come just as the country’s finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, urged India to double its infrastructure spending to $1 trillion in the five years ending 2017, according to local media reports. Mukherjee is also said to have proposed that private investors should be allowed to float a special kind of bond to help pay for India’s expansive infrastructure ambitions.

India’s lackluster infrastructure sector is a long-standing bottleneck on the economic development of the country. India's economic growth is broken down into five-year segments and planned out by the Indian Planning Commission. 

During its eleventh five year plan covering the years 2007 to 2012, India had hoped to achieve an economic growth rate of 9 percent per year. However, India’s Business Standard reported that during a meeting of the full Planning Commission conducted recently Indian officials cut their expected growth rate to 8 percent.