On June 24, the World Bank approved the loan of $ 500 million for Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Outcomes for States (STARS) program in six states of India. The program expands private initiatives and partnerships in the education system, as well as the implementation of radical reforms in learning assessments.

The loan contains provisions to facilitate a national framework for partnerships with non-state actors, including the private sector, a strategy increasingly championed by the World Bank as part of its Maximize Financing for Development approach ( see Observer Spring 2020, Winter 2018, Fall 2017). June report Oxfam India, however, concluded that the project “risks a significant diversion of Indian taxpayer funds to a range of private actors, introduces privatization of education in six of the Indian states, and changes the framework for engagement. of the private sector in education in India as a whole.

The program coincided with the implementation by the Indian government of its first new national education policy in 34 years. Politics has guest fear that the increased participation of the private sector undermine capacity of the state to provide education in India, in particular fair girls’ education, because the Covid-19 crisis has stop millions of children to access school during lockdown nationwide.

“Systemic inequalities in education in India, as highlighted by the pandemic, are not addressed in the STARS project. “Letter to the World Bank with 1,400 signatories

Kiran Bhatty of the Policy Research Center wrote in the Indian newspaper The Hindu in June that the World Bank, “mistakenly understood that state capacity should be strengthened by giving a greater role to non-state actors and increasing the use of technology. Both of these premises are wrong because they do not contribute to the state’s ability to provide better education. “

In June, a letter signed by 1,400 groups and individuals, including the National Coalition for Education and the National Youth Equity Forum in India, said the loan violated India’s Right to Education Act and called on the World Bank to postpone the loan. ready until it addresses their concerns. He stressed that “systemic inequalities in education in India, as the pandemic highlights, are not addressed in the STARS project”. The letter, addressed to Hartwig Schafer, vice president of the South Asia region at the World Bank, urged him to reconsider partnerships with non-state actors, develop concrete plans to promote equity and prioritize capacity building of the State.

Covid-19 exacerbates concerns over privatization of education

The Covid-19 has pushed 1.5 billion children out of school globally, as education systems around the world face crisis in public financing, with the World Bank to predict further cuts of 10% in education budgets around the world for 2021 due to the pandemic. Despite this, concerns have been expressed that the World Bank is taking “two steps back” in expressing support for the private sector in education during the Covid-19 crisis (see Observer Summer 2020).

According to a 2019 report Oxfam International, more than a fifth of the World Bank’s education projects between 2013 and 2018 included support for private education, which has been criticized for deepening iniquity and violate the Principles of Abidjan on the law to education (see Observer Fall 2020).

In September, 190 civil society groups sign a “ten point call to action for funding post-Covid education”. The call to action stipulated that “aid from bilateral and multilateral agencies must be better harmonized and aligned with the strengthening of government systems, … considering private supply as a symptom of failure rather than a durable or equitable solution ”. The call to action followed in August letter by 275 world leaders, including former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, urging the IMF and World Bank, among others, to prioritize education in the recovery from Covid-19, including through relief bigger debt.

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