Seema Patel

Private Schools for the Poor

Private School Ads IndiaTwo new World Bank policy papers have come out recently reporting on the status of public and private schools in Pakistan (via PSD Blog). The reports show that, contrary to most perceptions, the average private school is affordable even to the poor. These reports focus specifically on Pakistan. But according to a paper written by James Tooley, this phenomenon is occurring in schools in India, China and Africa as well:

The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school. The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

Click “Read More” to read a summary of and links to the World Bank papers.A Dime a Day: The Possibilities and Limits of Private Schooling in Pakistan

This paper looks at the private schooling sector in Pakistan, a country that is seriously behind schedule in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Using new data, the authors document the phenomenal rise of the private sector in Pakistan and show that an increasing segment of children enrolled in private schools are from rural areas and from middle-class and poorer families. The key element in their rise is their low fees – the average fee of a rural private school in Pakistan is less than a dime a day (Rs.6).

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan

This paper reports on achievement tests of over 14,000 children in 800 rural public and private schools. In the first large-scale testing exercise in rural private schools in Pakistan, results show that the learning gap between rich and poor is dwarfed by that between public and private schools.