The `Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan' (SSA) in India is supposed to be a fantastic program which has driven up enrollment rates to near 100%. As an example, here is an article by the World Bank staff that has lent money to the project. But simultaneously, we see data streaming out about teacher absenteeism and - most important - poor educational outcomes. I see a big gulf between education professionals, who are keen to get customers into schools, and economists, who worry about what children learn.
Education vouchers seem to increasingly loom large as the way out of the present problems. On 16 February, Economic Times had an edit on this theme.
The second problem with SSA is that a lot of children are getting past the first few years of school, but then the capacity of existing schools breakdown. The very success of SSA in getting kids enrolled, and the demographic patterns of India, induces a surge in demand for schooling for middle school. Ila Patnaik has a fascinating article in Indian Express proposing `scholarships' (vouchers conditional on performance in standardised tests) as a way to address the gap in education for slightly older children.