PPPP

12/21/2007

4 Comments

 

I wasn't expecting a grandeur and spic-n-span office premises when I was asked to attend "ICT Partners Meet" at Shiksha Sankul in the pink city of Jaipur. Neither was I expecting a state-of-the art conference room with a neat welcome kit - session details, handouts of all the presentations, stationery items and bottled water - on each participant's table. As though the shock wasn't enough, I was left embarrassed when I conveniently entered the meeting room fifteen minutes late assuming that with government officials involved, the meeting couldn't possibly start earlier than half-hour past the scheduled time.

With Shubra Singh's (State Projects Commissioner, Rajasthan)  welcome note, the stage was set perfect for the quarterly Rajasthan Education Initative's  (REI) partners meet. I was blown away by the bureaucrat's impressive mannerism and her near-perfect articulation of the expectations from the meeting. With representatives from the corporate world - CII, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and IBM - and development organizations such as World Economic Forum, GeSCI and UNICEF, I presumed the stage couldn't have been set more perfect for a landmark public-private partnership. It was only in the meeting that I realized that the REI is one the among only three public-private partnership in education across the world, the other two being education initiatives in Jordan and Egypt.

However as the discussion progressed, the ground realities of this project unearthed. It is disquieting to know that though this initiative has been in existence for two years, there is still no dedicated project management unit to overlook the initiative. Even though this initiative boasts of high-profile core partners such as WEF, GeSCI and CII, it is incomprehensible that it was only in this meeting that it dawned upon everyone that drawing a road map for the initiative would make sense. I wonder whether this is the kind of professional maturity that such organizations bring elsewhere too. I wonder how learnings from Jordan and Egypt's initiatives seemed a far-fetched idea to the core partners.

The co-partners, which incidentally includes HiWEL, seemed to be keen in advancing ones own agenda and were primarily concerned about raising issues of how government inadequacies and bureaucratic processes were delaying ones projects. Many, including me, who were attending this kind of meeting for the first time, didn't know the proceedings of any of the previous meetings. To ones wonderment, none of the private players were aware of any of the others' initiatives. There were only a few ad hoc suggestions made in the air for exploring possible synergies. What was glaring was that there was an evident discord between the co-partner's core competencies and the projects they had taken up as part of their CSR activities. I fail to appreciate why Cisco was involved in PC maintenance training, while Intel and Microsoft were  conducting teacher trainings.  

It was incognizable as to how this initiative could remotely be called a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). There was neither a perceivable professionalism in strategic planning nor any operational efficiencies that the private partners brought to the table. Though there was no dearth of earnest concerns about  the pathetic educational scenario of the state, all of the players seem to suggest the same old traditional philanthropic route to reforms. The government on the other hand, let alone make an attempt to benchmark itself against other states, was not even cognizant of best practices from other states. Even after two years of existence, it does not seem to realize that it is indeed reinventing the wheels.

There is no doubt that the enormity and complexity of the education in the country demands much more than a sheer lip service from private players. Nobel Laurette Amartya Sen recently called for synergy between industry and teaching community (Read more here). However, until the time public's concern and private player's competency match and converge, such initiatives can be best relegated as another one of those Poor-Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPP).

~ Santosh

 


Comments

Priya
12/23/2007 04:41

How I wish you had voiced all of these 'Thoughtful thoughts' of yours in the meeting...
I would have loved to get a first hand experiance of Shubra handling you after that!!!
'Put your hands into the dirt and then try!!' What say Mr. Santosh?

Reply
Abhishek
12/23/2007 21:07

cant agree with your 'senti'ments more.

Looks like inefficiencies in this sector pervade across govt, private, NGOs.

Although i dont know whether this has something to do with the development sector itself or the organizational capabilities in this sector.

Reply
Santosh
12/24/2007 20:46

Yes Priya, I should have risked that :)

Reply
Santosh
12/24/2007 20:48

Abhishek, even I wonder why the same players afford to be inefficient when it comes to such development initiatives.

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