About the book
'UnpackED - The black box of Indian school education reform' is a one stop source to get a comprehensive perspective of issues in school education. It is highly recommended to those who are looking to understand nuances of such issues further.
Learning assessments in mid 2000s brought visibility to the poor learning levels in India. The pursuing discourse points to a wide range of aspects as the core reason for the poor state of education - inappropriate curriculum, lack of teacher training etc.
UnpackED synthesizes lessons from the reform initiatives till now and borrows from the literature on their effects, to probe such hypothesis and argues that weak state capacity is the 'critical constraint', the root cause. It further argues that all other cited reasons for poor state of education are symptoms of the deeper malaise of weak state capacity. The book highlights the implications of weak state capacity and argues that it is forcing us to settle for second-best solutions.
UnpackED elucidates that approaching reform in form of new schemes or scaling up innovations generally tends to hit a dead-end because they necessarily don't address the underlying issue of weak state capacity. It hence argues that we need a fundamental shift in the framework of our approach to reform, an approach where enhancing state capacity acts as the anchor of reform, instead of ideas/schemes. It further discusses the meaning of state capacity and provides a theoretical framework to understand the same.
UnpackED has separate sections on widely debated themes in education - assessments, decentralization, incentives, private schools, and vouchers, where literature on these aspects is summarized and commentary is provided on their applicability to Indian context.
Finally, based on all these arguments, the book proposes a framework for public school education reform, with enhancing state capacity as the anchor. It also identifies constraints to achieve quality in private schools and proposes reform framework for the same.
"Karthik [has] made a systematic, evidence-based attempt to identify the causes of [India's] catastrophic educational failure, and outline approaches to reform." Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok Satta Party.
"Dinne provides an engrossing analysis of the factors behind the sorry state of school education in India. Drawing on insights from across several disciplines, this unified synthesis makes a highly original and timely contribution as India frames its New Education Policy." - Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Chair of Education Economics and International Development, UCL Institute of Education, University of London.
"This deftly written, highly readable book has an important message: the quality of our schools matters. Failing government schools is a problem of state capacity. While trying to solve that problem, let us test creative alternatives, such as vouchers, which will also enhance choice and freedom for students." - Gurucharan Das, Author & Public Intellectual
"A thoughtful and interesting exercise in synthesizing what is known about education in India today. A book worth reading, especially since it is by a promising young researcher."- Rukmini Banerji, Director, ASER Centre.
"The author has done a great service by pin pointing weak state capacity as the prime cause of infrastructure deficiencies and poor learning outcomes in publicly provided K-12 education. It is a moot point whether weak state capacity is wilful or accidental. I believe it is wilful, driven by motivation of perpetuating a gullible and subjugated electorate."- Dilip Thakore, Editor, Education World.