A group of academicians have urged the World Bank to postpone loan to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for the project -- Strengthening Teacher-Learning and Results for States (STARS), across six states in India and also requested for wider consultation on the project.
They have raised key concerns about STARS project such as lack of provisions to improve access to education among marginalized communities, potential involvement of for-profit entities in education and excessive focus on standardized assessments.
Ambarish Rai, National Convener, Right To Education (RTE) Forum said in a statement: "Government of India and World Bank should aim to create an Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant), empowered equitable and innovative public education system. STARS project in its current form fails to achieve this, instead pushing for privatisation of the school education system."
The signatories also asked World Bank and MHRD to hold wider public consultation citing inadequate consultation on the STARS project.
The collective letter by civil society members comes at a time when India's education system is grappling with potential increase in school dropout rate especially among children from the marginalized communities due to COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report by Malala Fund, 1 crore girls are estimated to be out of school worldwide as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement from the academicians said that on March 2020, Minister of Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank informed Parliament that MHRD doesn't plan to privatise primary education in India.
However, the project would include handing over of government schools to non-state providers, outsourcing specific services and introducing school vouchers. Large scale independent assessments such as Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the World Bank's WDR 2018 and Baum (2018) show that private schools and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) do not provide better quality of education.