India’s amazing education achievements and its hideous first world parasites

India has made some outstanding progress in educating its enormous population. Primary student enrollment level has increased from 19% in 1999 to 55% in 2011 and is on target for achieving >70% by 2015. Its out-of-school population has been reduced by 4.5 million. That’s the good news. It’s an outstanding effort that has made a difference to the lives of many millions of children.

The bad news is that the enormity of its population growth and levels of poverty greatly impede the rate of this progress. A staggering 37% of the world’s illiterate adults live in India. Even though the literacy rate increased from 48% in 1991 to 63% in 2006, rapid population growth has meant that there was no change in the total number of illiterate adults. The rate of educating people simply could not keep pace with population growth. Also government education funding per child through the country is not equitable. In India’s wealthier states, such as Kerala, education spending per student was about US$685, while in the poorer state of Bihar it was only US$100. On recent trends, universal primary education completion (defined as >97%) will not be achieved for the poor, particularly rural girls, for at least another two generations. Low levels of funding is clearly one key impediment to progress. It is an area that could be greatly improved if India could rid itself of some disgusting first world parasites.

According to the 2013/4 Education for all global monitoring report India spent $US212 per primary school child in 2011. This compares with $AU15,768 per public school student in 2011-12 in Australia. The report identifies a major contributor to low funding for India’s children is tax evasion by multinational companies. The following quote is from pages 119-120 of this report:

“Another stark example of the scale of the losses involved comes from the tax practices of SABMiller, a multinational drinks company, [the world’s second largest brewing company and one of the largest bottlers of Coca-Cola drinks], which is estimated to have deprived governments in Ghana, India, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia of up to US$30 million in tax revenue (ActionAid, 2012). … The government of India, which claims Vodafone India owes US$2.5 billion in tax (equivalent to around 4.5% of the country’s education budget in 2011), recently issued a high profile tax demand against Vodafone and other multinational companies, including Shell and Nokia (Development Finance International and Oxfam, 2013; Heikkila, 2013).”

The next time I am buying fuel for my car or replacing my mobile phone or buying a drink, I am going to keep the picture below in mind.
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Picture source: Global Partnership for Education Interviewing out of school children Karnataka, India GPE/Deepa Srikantaiah, 2012 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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