The Impact of Aid on Education in India

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RECOUP Working Paper No. 27

The impact of Aid on Education Policy in India
Christopher Colclough University of Cambridge Anuradha De Collaborative Research and Dissemination (CORD) New Delhi

March 2010

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© 2010 Research Consortium on Educational Outcomes and Poverty

WP10/27

RECOUP Working Paper No. 27 The Impact of Aid on Education Policy in India1

by

Christopher Colclough2 and Anuradha De3

Abstract
In the early 1990s, large numbers of children in India remained out of school. International commitments to achieve education for all (EFA) globally meant that India was an important case for donors. India was pressed to accept aid for primary education, and agreed with some reluctance. Although subsequent donor involvement was substantial and influenced aspects of both policy implementation and management, it is shown that Indian education policy priorities remained self-determined. The Government of India – though falling short of securing universal education for its children - succeeded in using external resources and expertise in ways which suited its own purposes, whilst minimising external impact on policy development. The politics and economics of this process are discussed.

This project is part of the Research Consortium on Education Outcomes and Poverty (RECOUP), which is funded by DFID. The views expressed here are those of the authors and cannot be attributed to DFID, or to any of RECOUP’s partner institutions. A version of this paper which excludes the statistical appendix, is forthcoming in the International Journal of Educational Development. 2 Centre for Education and International Development, University of Cambridge, UK. 3 Collaborative Research and Dissemination (CORD), New Delhi, India.

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Introduction: Education, Aid and Development – the shift to basics During the past three decades the importance attributed by governments and international agencies to investment in basic education has changed profoundly. During the 1960s and 1970s, primary education was given far less emphasis in national economic plans, and aid documents, than was accorded to the higher levels of education, which were judged to be the central means of producing the skilled ‘manpower’ needed to achieve rapid economic growth in the countries of the South. During the 1980s, however, evidence that primary schooling provided an important means of reducing poverty began to emerge (Colclough 1982; Behrman 1990). This showed that primary schooling not only gave better access to formal sector employment for poor households, but that it provided skills which brought greater productivity in rural and informal work, and encouraged behavioural change (particularly in the areas of health, nutrition and fertility) which allowed a range of other development objectives to be achieved. This evidence became increasingly influential in investment allocation, leading to significant changes in the practice of aid policy, and in the extent to which developing country governments gave renewed emphasis to primary education in their own plans and programmes. As a consequence of this changing balance of evidence, many aid agencies increased resources for primary schooling. A watershed for such attitudes was the World Conference on Education for All, held at Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990, jointly convened by the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNDP. It proposed the attainment of universal primary education (UPE) by 2000, and five additional undertakings on other aspects of access to education and the quality of learning were affirmed (UNESCO 1990). A UNICEF paper, presented at the conference, indicated that these bold targets were attainable provided that sufficient resources were made available by national governments, supplemented by significantly increased levels of international aid (see Colclough with Lewin 1993). Arising from the conference both the World Bank and UNICEF announced ambitious increases in their intended...
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