- Economic growth, higher incomes, and a growing middle class:
The World Bank says India has been the biggest contributor to poverty reduction between 2008 and 2011, with around 140 million or so lifted out of absolute poverty.3 India is now a $2.3 trillion economy, with a large and growing middle income population.
- Increased personal investment in education:
Private expenditure on elementary education which comprises that incurred by households on school fees, exam fees, private tutoring, books & stationery, and conveyance is estimated to be INR 5,959 per child per year.4 Consumer Pyramids data from The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy finds that across almost every income group, personal investment in education averages 3% of monthly income. Even the poorest income group (the key target population for public schooling) spends approximately 2% of income, a figure that has remained steady over recent years.
- Greater preference for private schools:
Parents across economic class have recognised the value of English education in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. Unaided private schools have grown from 254,178 in 2009-10 to 319,990 in 2013-14. Enrolments in unaided private schools have gone up from 5.7 million in 2009-10 to 7.1 million in 2013-14 (from 30.4% to 35.2% of all children enrolled). The growth of private tuitions and preference toward fee-charging private schools indicates a high degree of parental dissatisfaction with free government schools. Low-cost unaided private schools have emerged as an alternative to government schools, particularly for poorer parents in urban and rural areas.
- Competition and the role of markets post liberalisation:
Since the reforms in 1991, India has witnessed the emergence of private service providers across all domains. What were previously considered commonplace public goods are no longer solely in the domain of public provisioning, be it water, banking or electricity; in most areas supply is led by private players or Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). The government has changed its role from sole provider to regulator and financier. In education too, private entities have slowly but surely established a growing presence across different price points and despite significant regulatory barriers. The increasing role of private service providers in education indicates a willingness and ability of parents to pay for services currently available free or highly subsidized through the government.
- Changing expectations from government:
Recent elections have underlined the changing demands of the population; development, economic opportunity and personal choice have received overwhelming public support, while conventional welfare themes, particularly those that emphasize the ‘provider’ role of the government have resonated less. Popular expectations have been recalibrated toward functioning markets, a level playing field, consistent rule of law, and consumer information and protection. Education too is slowly but steadily moving toward this paradigm, evident from the growing demand for private education, not just among higher income groups but also the economically and socially weaker sections of society.