Private schools that rely entirely on student fees for financing are increasingly popular in many low-income countries and parents often prefer these schools to government-run ones. In Pakistan, children in these schools tend to outperform students in government-run schools. But financial constraints can limit the growth of these private schools, whose fees are set low to attract poor students, especially if they cannot access formal credit markets. Researchers will seek to overcome these constraints by studying private financing models -- grants and loans -- to support these schools in Pakistan.
Research area: Education
Evaluation Sample: About 2,000 schools in about 650 villages in Punjab, Pakistan
Timeline: 2012 - 2016
Intervention: Grants, micro-loans, private schools
Researchers: Tahir Andrabi, Pomona College; Asim Khwaja, Harvard University; Jishnu Das, World Bank
So-called low-cost private schools are a growing and increasingly popular option in poor countries. These private schools usually spend less per student than government-run schools, holding down costs by paying their teachers lower salaries than in the government system. Although the teachers often are not as formally qualified as teachers in the government schools, students in these private schools tend to do as well or better than their counterparts in the other schools. One question is how to encourage these schools to expand beyond primary education, and how to encourage them to make further investments in the education they offer. This evaluation of a new financing mechanism for low-cost private schools in Pakistan will help policymakers understand their options for supporting these schools, allowing them to harness the power of the market rather than relying on greater public subsidies to the private sector.
Since 1980, the number of private schools in Pakistan has grown from about 3,000 to about 45,000. Nearly one-third of all primary school children in Pakistan country attend private schools, covering all income spectrums. A 2001 survey showed that about one in five of Pakistan’s poorest families sends their children to private village schools.
Children in these private schools tend to outperform those in public schools, while costs per student can be 20 to 50 percent lower than those in public schools, generally because these private schools hire less-qualified local teachers at lower wages. Despite these advantages, private school growth may be limited by the lack of financing possibilities. This evaluation assesses the benefits of different financing models for encouraging school expansion.