VOUCHER AND SCHOOL CHOICE: AWARENESS OF PARENTS IN HYDERABAD, INDIAadmin
The aim of this paper is to analyze parent’s awareness about “Voucher and School Choice” in Hyderabad. Rumi Education Foundation piloted voucher system for school drop outs in selective areas in Hyderabad district. The organization created awareness among parents about vouchers and school choice. The paper explains about awareness of parents who are beneficiaries of voucher system. There are 110 parents who got benefited by Rumi Bright Futures Voucher Programme in Hyderabad. The voucher is valid in selective private unaided schools in Hyderabad. The study found that parents are aware of voucher as a financial benefit to educate their children in a private unaided school. They are not aware of the benefit of school choice in the voucher programme as the organization restricted its service to only 18 schools in Hyderabad district. The parents had a choice to select among the schools suggested by the organization, but the schools are located far from each other, which again limited the choice for parents. The paper discusses the awareness of parents with regard to a voucher system, school choice, competition, education, equality and implementation procedure.
Key Words: voucher system, school choice, competition, education, equality and implementation procedure.
Voucher and school choice came into existence as the demand for education increased, demand for quality education increased and demand for increased choice. Demand for education increased when the parents started realising that education is the backbone of every human being in this world. Demand for quality education was realised when the parents experienced the difference in education offered by the schools of different management types. They look for certain requirements in the schools as they want their children to be educated with good knowledge, environment and facilities at an affordable cost. Improved quality of education can be achieved through quality teacher training and academic support and sufficient resources to fulfil the prerequisites of universal elementary education (Sunil Mitra 2010). Demand for choice increased when education institutes increased, which was due to increase in demand for education from the parents’ side. In a study by Andrew J. Coulson, (1999) he discusses about the
factors that affect private and public school decisions. In his discussion paper he states that there are certain major factors considered by the parents in choosing the school for their children. The factors are “academic reputation, school size and class size, safety, reputation, school admission, support services, costs, Governance, religious and moral instruction, location, ideology, quality of teachers, level of education, teacher impact and perception and special needs.”
In India the schools are categorised by different management types (PROBE 1999, Geeta
Kingdom 1996 and, Tooley et al 2003 and Baladevan et al 2012); Government, Private Aided and Private Unaided Schools (recognised and unrecognised, the unrecognised is again categorised as registered and unregistered schools)
In the recent past, the demand for private unaided schools increased as the parents were satisfied with the education offered. According to PROBE team (1999), only 53% of government schools had any teaching activity going on in any of their classes. On the contrary, in private schools there were high levels of teaching activity, even in the poorest financed facilities. This shows that the social responsibility, which was to be taken care by the government showed no improvement, so the private schools had volunteered by shouldering the social responsibilities, particularly in educating children from low income families with an effective teaching taking place. These schools are funded by the fees collected from the parents so they are more responsible by being accountable to the parents and students. To maintain their reputation they appointed teachers who are loyal and those who are located within their school premises. Similar finding were found by Tooley (2003) in his study. He also found that private unaided schools are far better than the free government schools.
Parents want more choice to decide a school for their children. Those who are less affluent also think the same, but due to their financial crisis, they are unable to make a choice, if at all they choose a private unaided school serving lower income families, they are unable to pay the fees (Tooley and Dixon 2005, Parth J Shah 2006) and later they turn out to be defaulters or dropouts or force to move to the schools which are their least preference like government schools. In India,
the government initiated various schemes (one such effort is SSA) to provide quality education, all has shown the very less impact in bringing up the education standard and enrollment rates (http://ssa.ap.nic.in/) but the voucher is expected by many researchers that it can pave the way for poorer students to have equal access to education (E.G. West 1982; E G. West 1997; Eva Weidrich 2003; Tooley 2005; Varun Gauri and Ayesha Vawda, 2003).
CCS, a voluntary organization in New Delhi, India, showed the beam on the many advantages to education vouchers. “Firstly, the student gets the purchasing power to choose a school. Secondly, private schools would be ready to admit poor students (the burden of providing education for the poor is not on the school but on the government). Thirdly, the government is able to help the student directly, instead of indirectly through financing and managing schools”. In many research studies, it is said that voucher combined competencies of private and public schools will lead to higher efficiency, accountability, equity and opportunity. (http://www.ccsindia.org)
Some of the countries not only felt the need, but also implemented voucher scheme, the countries are Colombia, Chile, Florida, Milwaukee, Netherland, New Zealand, Bangladesh and other developing countries. The researcher who favoured voucher system believed that voucher will provide freedom of choice among the parents as they will have the purchasing power. Particularly a study on private school for the poor by Tooley has conveyed many changes in the education system and advocated a policy change. Based on his study and a pilot work on voucher scheme, discussion was initiated by the planning commission to advocate “Voucher System”.