Low-fee private schooling

In recent years, there has been a marked increase in private schooling in low- and middle-income countries, particularly low-fee private schools run by small and large entrepreneurs. This can be fee-based though not profit-making but also fee-based and profit-making. Opinion is strongly divided on the claimed benefits of low-fee schooling, including greater access and greater learning outcomes, and social justice issues.

Many more parents are opting out of free government schools to pay for a private education for their children, even if it means making sacrifices. Those on a very limited budget are finding they have to grant privileges to one child over another. While private schooling may provide a short-term solution to the educational needs of children in India today, it is unlikely to be the best means of providing education for all children in the longer term as its benefits are not equally shared, but according to gender, location and income.

Although access to private schools is increasing for relatively poorer families, even ‘low’ fees are out of reach for the very poor. Our research also highlights an emerging gender gap whereby sons are being given preferential treatment over daughters, the result of the very poorest parents making hard choices about which of their children they can afford to send to fee-paying private schools.

Our evidence suggests that there needs to be a reform programme for government schools to make sure they deliver high-quality education. Regulation of private schools is also essential, including increasing access to the most underprivileged, as well as those who can afford to pay. Education For All will only be achieved if policymakers address the inequalities emanating from school choice and can maximise the contribution of both sectors to mitigate against inequality.

What’s new

International Journal of Educational Development'Does Teaching Quality Matter? Students Learning Outcome Related to Teaching Quality in Public and Private Primary Schools in India', by Renu Singh and Sudipa Sarkar, International Journal of Educational Development 41: 153-163


Oxford Review of Education'Choosing and Changing Schools in India’s Private and Government Sectors', by Zoe James and Martin Woodhead, Oxford Review of Education 40.1: 73-90


Journal of Development Economics‘Private School Effects in Urban and Rural India: Panel Estimates at Primary and Secondary School Ages’, by Abhijeet Singh, Journal of Development Economics, early online publication


International Journal of Educational Development'Does Growth in Private Schooling Contribute to Education For All? Evidence from a Longitudinal, Two-Cohort Study in Andhra Pradesh, India', by Martin Woodhead, Melanie Frost and Zoe James, International Journal of Educational Development 33 (1): 65-73

WP131_Changing schools in Andhra PradeshChanging Schools in Andhra Pradesh: The Experiences of Children and their Caregivers, by Uma Vennam, Anuradha Komanduri and Udaya Duggani, Young Lives Working Paper 131

We need to end child poverty in order to break the cycle of poverty.