Lessons that educationists need to learn
Reviewed by M.M. Goel

Education and Economics
by Saumen Chattopadhyay
Oxford University Press. Pages 334. Rs 750

There is a need to adopt measures so that education up to the secondary level could be provided free of cost. More children should be able to have access to it
There is a need to adopt measures so that education up to the secondary level could be provided free of cost. More children should be able to have access to it

The author has established his credentials in economics of education and opened the debate on the recent market-oriented reforms in education. To provide education to the people at a price or free, the financing of education at all levels has implications for access, quality and expansion of the delivery mechanism. The rationale for the revival of economics of education with substantial modifications from the mere human capital approach deserves the attention of the stakeholders.

To realise the objective of inclusive growth in India, we need to strengthen education at various levels. The emerging global knowledge economy calls for understanding of growth with equality, tackling unemployment, inadequacy of skill formation and redefining the role of the government in India. It falls in the domain of economics of education. The human capital approach is necessary but not sufficient. The role of higher education has been conceptualised by the writer in the new-growth theory. The quality of education has a definite role in the linkage between education and growth.

To study the educational institution as any manufacturing factory, the writer has given a critical overview of input-output approach.

To understand the process of education, the perspectives of the theory of screening, capability approach, social-choice approach and the Marxian perspectives are necessary to view the human capital theory critically.

The classification, not merely commodification, of education as public good is dealt with. Secondary-level education, which is necessary for choosing a vocation, is a public good and should be provided free of cost to one and all by the Centre.

The specific features of the market for education, particularly higher education with its failures in efficiency and government interventions, have been very well explained. The author looks at market-oriented reforms in terms of the education policy measures, including funding, public-private partnership (PPP) being implemented in India with a neoliberal tinge. To achieve efficiency and deliver quality education, we certainly need good governance which means SMART (Simple, Moral, Action oriented, Responsive and Transparent) administration for every institution at all levels in India.

The writer has examined the pros and cons of the recent education policy initiatives in India, including the entry of foreign providers which needs a continuous debate and discussion. We need to replace unhealthy competition with cooperation and coordination in production of knowledge for the inclusive growth of Indian economy.

To study and analyse the emerging issues in education, there is a logic and rationale for economics of education evident in the book.

We need to stop producing half-baked products as semi-educated and unemployable manpower in our educational institutions. This is essential to stop youth from falling prey to destructive and anti-social activities, including terrorism and crimes of various kinds.

Let the youth be provided employable skills with the trust in the dictum "work works". We need to bring hope, optimism, passion and enthusiasm by motivation through identification of the potential for achieving success with hard work and patience.

Even at the risk of being misunderstood by the fraternity of economists, I wish to say that the economics of education at the micro level, instead of increasing the value of education has devalued the real value of education. There is a strong case for strengthening the educational value of education which is more than making a person capable of earning his/her livelihood. To appreciate the complexities of Indian education entangled with social, cultural, political and economic issues, the book is useful for all the stakeholders, including teachers, students and policy formulators and bureaucratic implementers.

In totality, the book is an in-depth analysis that gives an opportunity to understand the economics of education and suggest policy implications.