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GLOBAL ALLIANCE - independent schools in india

Our Global Alliance of independent schools in India is led by the group’s Chair and members who are appointed by GISA. The association assists the group by providing logistical support, which include the coordination of meetings and overseeing the production of key outputs. The group’s Chair will work with GISA to determine the scope of work and appropriate terms of reference for its operations. The group may hold a joint call once every month for four months to discuss the key issues. At the end of this period, the group will submit a final report to GISA which will include its analysis and recommendations. If you are interested in joining this group, please contact us.

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    India’s rapidly growing private education sector has a significant role to play in raising the quality of learning across the country. A new Alliance on Independent Schools in India, created by the Global Independent Schools Association (GISA), will allow the country’s most prestigious operators to come together and share best practice with policymakers and education experts.

    India has long recognized education’s role in securing its future. Over 50 years ago, the country’s National Education Commission wrote: “The destiny of India is now being shaped in her classrooms...”.[1] However, successive governments have faced systemic issues in delivering access to a quality education, among them poorly performing teacher-training institutions, a lack of adequate physical and digital infrastructure and the fact that Indian children spend significantly less time in school on average than their peers in other major emerging economies such as China and Brazil.[2] These issues have contributed to the growing popularity of private schools around the country.

    Today over 43% of India’s 1.5 million schools are privately run, a 30% increase from just 10 years ago, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Education.[3] As many private schools are not officially recognized, that proportion is likely to be be significantly larger.[4] Much of the increase has been driven by low-cost private schools, which are able to pay teachers significantly less than their government-run counterparts.[5] Advocates for such schools argue that they have expanded access to quality education for poor communities – although there is evidence that in rural India, at least, poorer children are less likely to benefit.[6]

    Parents across India are overwhelmingly in favour of private schools. A global survey of parent’s attitudes to education, conducted by the Varkey Foundation in 2018, found that 85% of respondents from India said that they would be likely to send their children to private schools, compared with 55% of parents globally.[7] There is also evidence that the growth of private schools across the country has dramatically shaped the wider public’s perceptions about who is responsible for education. A 2016 poll by the International Social Survey Programme found that just 47% of respondents from India thought that the primary responsibility for providing school education rested with government – by some measure the lowest level in any country surveyed.[8]

    The rapid expansion of private schools has posed a significant regulatory challenge for India’s national and regional authorities. In particular, the authorities have struggled to implement legislation meant to improve equity across India’s education system. Under the Right to Education Act, private schools are required to reserve at least a quarter of entry-level seats for disadvantaged children, at the expense of the State.[9] In practice, schools have struggled to obtain funding – and the issue has been the subject of frequent litigation.[10] Private school operators also say that the current system of official regulation and oversight is unnecessarily bureaucratic. They have particularly criticized the process of starting new schools, which requires prospective founders to obtain multiple sets of certificates, approvals and other documentation from different authorities.[11]

    India’s new National Education Policy, enacted by the government in 2020, places a significant emphasis on the role of private schools. Many of its provisions extend key operational reforms to private schools, such as around teacher’s eligibility to teach in classrooms. The policy also encourages cooperation between the private and public sectors, particularly around sharing best-practice. It also targets what drafters called “asymmetry between the regulatory approaches to public and private schools” and a need to curb the “commercialization” of education.[12] The policy, then, may reflect an ambition by central government to check the growing power of the private sector. 

    India’s leading private and independent schools have a great deal to share in terms of expertise and best practice, both with the wider public sector and their privately run counterparts across the country. In this respect, such schools have an opportunity to contribute to the significant work already being done on education by civil society groups and philanthropic organizations across India. But to do so, private and independent schools need a dedicated forum to convene and discuss key challenges and opportunities. To this end, GISA has created the Alliance on Independent Schools in India, for representatives of some of the most prestigious independent and private schools in the country to come together as a valuable resource for policymakers and experts alike.

[1] Report of the Education Commission 1964-66, The Education Commission, Chapter 1, para1.01

[2] Briefing note for countries on the 2016 Human Development Report: India, Human Development Report 2016UNDP, 2016

[3] Unified District Information System For Education Plus (UDISE+) 2020-21 and 2013-2014, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, Government of India

[4] See eg Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, “The Private Schooling Phenomenon in India: A Review” (IZA DP No. 10612), 2017

[5] “The Private Schooling Phenomenon in India: A Review” 

[6] Figure 2.6, Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2021/2: Non-state actors in education: Who chooses? Who loses?, UNESCO, 2021, citing Patel and Sandefur (2020).

[7] Global Parents Survey, Varkey Foundation, 2018

[8] "Role of Government V", International Social Survey Programme 2016 (ZA No. 6900), 2016

[9] Article 12(1), Right To Education Act

[10] For a summary, see Box 3.5, GEM Report

[11] National Independent Schools Alliance, “Advocacy”,

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