Session Submission Summary

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Publicly financed and sensibly provided: managing public and private education to deliver access, equity, and quality

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

Session Submission Type: Group Panel

Description of Session

Whether by accident or design, many developing countries have ended up with a high proportion of private education. Increasingly, the need is recognized for more nuanced policy advice about how the state should interact with the private sector in these cases. In this panel, we present three papers based on new research: on private and public schools in Lagos, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Nepal; and from a review of voucher schemes around the world. We will propose a framework based on theory and the existing evidence as a way of understanding how these new findings can inform policy guidance. We will end the panel by using the framework to highlight some important policy lessons that can already be drawn, as well as some important gaps that remain.

What should policy-makers do who want to maximise equity? Our review suggests that education needs significant public financing, coupled with additional funding to disadvantaged groups (Lipcan, MacAuslan, & Uppal, 2016). In this panel, Bahri and Lipcan will present findings from a survey of private and public schools in Africa’s largest city. While Lagos private schools cater for boys and girls from across the socioeconomic spectrum, we observe less learning in private schools with a high proportion of pupils from poor households. Interventions from development organisations in this context would benefit from a greater focus on equity, such as expanding access through vouchers. Asadullah and Chaudhury will discuss the growing enrollment share of private schooling in Bangladesh relative to public schooling. The results show that private schools avoid rural locations and poverty stricken areas. Therefore further expansion of this sector can widen regional inequalities in educational access and outcomes. Baum and Cilliers will present a framework for assessing the applicability of school vouchers for various educational contexts and why in Tanzania school vouchers could effectively complement the existing government system by funding students with low average household wealth in locations with the lowest secondary enrollment rates and without access to government services.

What should policy-makers do who want to maximise quality? Our review suggests that they should not be biased either in favour of or against private schools (Lipcan, MacAuslan, & Uppal, 2016). The panel will discuss how the private and the public sector should interact to improve educational quality. Bahri and Lipcan explore the gap in skill acquisition between private and public school pupils. The paper by Joshi will highlight less discussed topics, such as the politicization of education and the stigmatization of public schooling. It also highlights how principals of public schools that are located in areas with higher private market share are more likely to highlight these challenges and lack of motivation to reform, suggesting the need for targeted policy attention to schools located in these areas. Baum and Cilliers’ review will explain why vouchers should not be expected to yield significant changes in learning. Asadullah and Chaudhury will argue that private schools in Bangladesh may help improve learning outcomes but unlikely to help close rural-urban gap in education quality.

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