For year-on-year learning outcome improvements, we need to build an education system that incentivises accountability and performance, irrespective of the school type. Making strides on both counts will need a shift away from centralised planning to decentralisation, more competition and parental choice.
First, states currently have a large budget spending and execution role in education that should be backed by decentralisation of decisions on syllabus, teacher service norms, and use of ICT. The FFC is devolving spending to the states further; the NEP should in this spirit allow states to develop distinct accountability and pedagogical strategies.
Second, government needs to separate its role as provider and financier of education from its mandate as a regulator. Conflicting responsibilities has resulted in a lack of independent and neutral monitoring of government and private schools, favourable treatment of government schools, and missing accountability in the financing of education. These three roles should be separated and in an ideal scenario handled by three independent entities.
Third, government and private schools should be treated on equal footing, held to high standards and rigour, and made to compete for parent and child preferences. Using competition constructively will lift outcomes for the whole system. Alongside, the government should equip parents to make better decisions through instruments such as access to finance, school rating systems, independent learning assessments, and allowing for more schools to offer differentiated options to children with different abilities.