India’s US$40b a course in miracles market is experiencing a surge in investment. Capital, both local and international, and innovative legal structures are changing the face of this once-staid sector The liberalization of India’s industrial policy in 1991 was the catalyst for a wave of investment in IT and infrastructure projects. Rapid economic growth followed, sparking a surge in demand for skilled and educated workers. This, combined with the failure of the public system to provide high quality education and the growing willingness of the burgeoning middle class to spend money on schooling, has transformed India’s education sector into an attractive and fast-emerging opportunity for foreign investment.
Despite being fraught with regulatory restrictions, private investors are flocking to play a part in the “education revolution”. A recent report by CLSA (Asia-Pacific Markets) estimated that the private education market is worth around US$40 billion. The K-12 segment alone, which includes students from kindergarten to the age of 17, is thought to be worth more than US$20 billion. The market for private colleges (engineering, medical, business, etc.) is valued at US$7 billion while tutoring accounts for a further US$5 billion.
Other areas such as test preparation, pre-schooling and vocational training are worth US$1-2 billion each. Textbooks and stationery, educational CD-ROMs, multimedia content, child skill enhancement, e-learning, teacher training and finishing schools for the IT and the BPO sectors are some of the other significant sectors for foreign investment in education.
The Indian government allocated about US$8.6 billion to education for the current financial year. But considering the significant divide between the minority of students who graduate with a good education and the vast majority who struggle to receive basic elementary schooling, or are deprived of it altogether, private participation is seen as the only way of narrowing the gap. Indeed, it is estimated that the scope for private participation is almost five times the amount spent on education by the government.
Private initiatives in the education sector started in the mid-90s with public-private partnerships set up to provide information and communications technology (ICT) in schools. Under this scheme, various state governments outsourced the supply, installation and maintenance of IT hardware and software, as well as teacher training and IT education, in government or government-aided schools. The central government has been funding this initiative, which follows the build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and ICT Schools programmes. Private companies such as Educomp Solutions, Everonn Systems, and NIIT were among the first to enter the ICT market, which is expected to be worth around US$1 billion by 2012.