Interview

Partnerships Increase Efficiency : Dr Shabnam Sinha, Senior Education Advisor, IL&FS Education and Technology Services (IETS) Bombay, India

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How do you see increased access, effectiveness, and efficiencies happening in higher and vocational education and tertiary care through Public Private Partnerships in technology mediated education in India? How successful is this arrangement in India?
Quality education using ICT can be implemented across sectors and levels through partnerships with the Private Sector, NGOs, International Organisations, and other institutions. In the area of implementation of ICT in Education, the government sector is undertaking significant work in hardware provisions and connectivity. Implementation of such large scale hardware provision and connectivity is possible through networking with relevant institutions and agencies who would bring to the table innovative ideas, professional expertise, and up scaling strengths.

While models for PPP in education like BOOT and BOO exist, the efficient way to a successful partnership between Government and the Private Sector is through the creation systems and processes that are mutually supportive and sensitive to the needs of the sector being catered to, especially the disadvantaged sections within this segment. This could be through fashioning of MOUs that are workable and individualised. The PPP’s entered into by IETS vary and even the BOOT model has been successfully used, especially in projects that were hardware centered. However, as the interventions of IETS go beyond hardware and include holistic solutions like providing multimedia content, training, capacity building, as well as designing and implementation of ICT based learning programmes; other modes of PPP have been successfully tried out.

What are the challenges you come across in the PPP way of providing educational services? What is the preparation needed for standard operating procedures for PPP in the ICT-induced education?
Since PPP in education in India is still in its infancy there are several challenges. The government departments and other institutes of learning need success stories and up scaling of projects to be realised before they accept that PPP is a way to implementing quality education in India. At present, tendering is generally the acceptable mode of initiating and getting into what is called ‘PPP relationships’. However, the Government and other national and international bodies need to adopt Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) modes in addition to the tendering process- basing the PPP relationship on trust and mutual respect. This of course, taking into account the fact that there should be a careful examination and identification of credible and sound institutions coming into the picture. This would provide the fillip needed to the adoption of PPP in the education sector in India.

What would you suggest in lines with strengthening PPP cells in the Ministry or departments of Education?
The RR Shah report on PPP in different sectors including education is an important base for PPP cells and the Ministry and departments of education to draw upon. In addition, internationally there are reports and case studies on PPP initiatives in education presented by organisations like the World Bank, Partnerships UK, UNESCO, and the Academy for Educational Development among others. In the Approach to the 11th Five Year Plan “Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth,” the vision specifies that the private sector has a critical role to play in achieving of objectives and that PPP offers the possibilities of increasing total investments in key sectors and that PPP could increase efficiency.

It is also important that the GOI and Education Ministry interfaces with the concerned stake-holders in meaningful dialogue- with private sector players, PPP experts, academia and social workers and grassroots implementers of programmes. PPP initiatives being planned in corporate boardrooms will always fail to make the relevant impact in real life difficult situations in large scale roll out in the States of India, where the need is felt the most for such initiatives. 

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