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In India, Private Schools Succeeding, Government Schools Failing

Dr. Reisman posted a link on the Mises blog to a New York Times article about the success of private schools in India:

Even those with little cash to spare seek out these schools. Ram Babu Rai, who farms less than an acre and earns about 1,000 rupees a month ($22), working part time, sends one of his three sons to a private school here. Just sending one boy is a struggle, costing him 2,200 rupees a year ($49), including the 10-year-old's orange and navy blue uniform.

"With my little means, I have to manage my family," Mr. Rai said. "But still, I thought to spare some extra money for the boy, so he will do well in life." A member of the cowherders' caste, Mr. Rai dreams that his son will become a "big officer."

"Since ages, we are doing manual work," said Rehaman Sheik, 35, an illiterate plumber in the Dharavi slum of Bombay. "Why should they?" he said of his sons. "They should have a good profession."

To all the people who argue that a completely private education system would fail because parents are too irresponsible to care for their own children, I say, "Look."

A recent census in the slums of Hyderabad, in Andhra Pradesh, found that of 1,000 schools identified, two-thirds were private, according to James Tooley, a professor at the University of Newcastle in England who oversaw the research.

"In big cities, it's more or less over," an economist, Jean Drèze, who helped write a national assessment of education in 1999, said of government primary education, although rural students depend heavily on government schooling. "Within 10 to 15 years, government schools will be almost wiped out."

There's also this:

In Bombay, government schools that teach in Marathi, the regional language, have lost 30,000 students in the past three years, mostly to private schools, according to city officials. The city has converted about 40 schools to English medium in an attempt to retain students.

Public schools, losing out to the competition, adjusting their curriculum to retain customers? It's incredible what a little competition can do! Ask yourself this: Would this change, clearly desired by the parents, have occurred under a system where the public schools were better-financed and therefore better able to prevent the encroachment of private schools? No? Then don't tell me the way to improve our own school system is to pour more government money into it. That would only make it less responsive than it already is.

We need to end the system of public education, not reform it. I want parents to face the responsibility of making informed choices about their children's education. I can think of no other area where the customers have such a vested interest in monitoring the long-term quality of what they're buying. Competition would be fierce and everyone would benefit. The willful ignorance of the opponents of private education on this point is appalling.

Eliminating public education would also end the shamefully immoral practice of taxing people who have no children, to pay for the education of others, and also of taxing people who send their children to private school, so they must pay twice.

I consider the argument that even the childless should pay for education because they benefit from it indirectly to be wholly without merit, and I dismiss it contemptuously, because the great benefit of capitalism is precisely that people are net beneficiaries of the system. To call for taxing away the net benefit is to advocate the destruction of the value of the system and must be repelled in the strongest terms possible. (I have not "paid for" the medical technology that allows so many people to live longer and more productive lives, but I benefit from it indirectly all the time. The indirect benefits of economic competition are, in fact, one of the primary reasons to support it, as I elaborated in my globalization essay. The only consistent way to pay for all indirect benefits is to establish socialism.)

Tiny Island