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The rise of fee-charging private schools in Bangladesh

Tue, March 7, 2:45 to 4:15pm, Sheraton Atlanta, 1, Georgia 5 (South Tower)

Proposal

This paper provides the first comprehensive assessment of the incidence and market share of enrolment in low-cost private vis-a-vis other officially recognized non-state schools in Bangladesh.

Although private schools are playing an increasingly important role in the delivery of educational services in South Asia, their contribution in educational development in Bangladesh is unknown. Enrolment in the non-governmental sector has expanded significantly relative to public schools in recent years (Nath and Chowdhury, 2008). Learning is low across primary grades in state own as well as government supported schools in rural Bangladesh (Asadullah and Chaudhury 2015). Student performance in public examination shows that students in non-formal and private schools do better than students in non-government schools. However, the incidence of private schools targeting out of school children in urban/rural areas is unknown. Moreover little systematic evidence is available about their strategic choices. School location policy affects other characteristics of schools that matter for learning outcomes (Kochar 2012) and therefore has implication for equality of educational opportunities. Private schools might locate in a region with lower teacher salaries in order to reduce cost. They may also emerge in districts with superior public infrastructure in place as it saves on school operation costs (Pal 2010). If true, growth of private schools may widen regional inequality in learning outcomes.

This study is a quantitative analysis. We use primary data on years when and where private schools were established to model location choice. The data set contains information over 10,000 private schools. Since government school census data doesn’t have information on area characteristics, we created a hybrid data set by bringing in indicators on local poverty rate and infrastructure development from other sources. The analysis is based on regression models and correlation analysis to examine the determinants of private school location choice. In addition, we present descriptive analysis on the growth of private schools using data on year of establishment. We also use secondary materials to comment on cost structure of private providers. The results are discussed with respect to existing research on non-state providers in other developing countries.

The enrollment share of fee-charging schools is significant and is on the rise relative to public schooling. Unlike some countries which have experienced the growth of for-profit private schooling catering to low-income households, there is no evidence that these schools cater to regions where a large population is below the poverty line. Regional level regression analysis reveals that private schools have significantly lower concentration in poor areas. Economically disadvantaged sub-districts (e.g. where a greater proportion of slum households and household have jobless members) and those far away from major cities have a lower presence of private schools. Thus, while there continues to be significant growth in private schooling in Bangladesh, the growth has yet to encompass low-income households and relatively poorer areas within the country.

The study contributes to the small literature on strategic behavior of for-profit providers in developing countries. Besides, this is the first study on private school location choice in Bangladesh.

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