Friday, October 4, 2019

The private schooling phenomenon in India

A Brief Explanation of the private schooling phenomenon in India

Here providing the Private Schooling Penomenon in India by NIC Results. This study is completely done by Geeta Gandhi Kingdon (Institute of Education, University College London) which is we posted here.


Private fee charging schools are a visibly ubiquitous phenomenon in urban and rural India. On the one hand they are in high public demand and growing in numbers, on the other, in public discourse their growth is often dubbed the ‘mushrooming of teaching shops’ and opposed. State governments regulate private schools to a lesser or greater degree. The Right to Education Act 2009 co-opts them for the delivery of education, mandating that they give at least 25% of their seats to children of ‘economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups’ for which the state governments will reimburse them, thus setting up a unique kind of public-private partnership in education.

Yet, despite their preponderance and growth, and the public expectation from them, relatively little is known about the nature of private schools in the country. This review unravels the enigma by presenting up-to-date evidence on several important facets of private schools, and benchmarks these by comparing with government schools.

The paper asks a number of questions: Policy makers’ perceptions about private schools are more heavily shaped by the types of private schools that are prominent and visible in the national and state capitals, but are these schools representative of the wider reality of private schooling in the country? What are the actual numbers of private schools, and just how rapidly are they growing? How diverse are they in terms of their fee levels and costs, and are high-fee private schools the main bulk – or just a small minority – of all private schools? What are their teacher salaries, the achievement levels of their students, and the ‘value for money’ they offer? What are the implications of the RTE Act for the existence and spread of private schools? Given the omnipresence of private schools in India, these are important questions, and it is not possible to make sensible education policies in ignorance of the reality of private schooling in the country.

This paper offers evidence on these issues from the official District Education System on Education (DISE) data, National Sample Survey (NSS) household data, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) data, and from data presented in a number of existing studies. 

Section 2 describes the datasets used, and assesses their strengths and drawbacks. Section 3 examines the size and recent growth of the private and government schooling sectors in India. Section 4 presents evidence on the fee levels of private schools by state. Section 5 presents data on teacher salaries in private and government schools while Section 6 examines the learning outcomes in these two school sectors. Section 7 compares the cost-effectiveness of private and government schools, assessing whether private schools offer higher value-for money to parents than that which the tax-payer gets from public expenditure on education. Section 8 considers the provisions of the Right to Education Act that impinge on private schools and the last Section concludes.

The Data
There are several challenges in piecing together the picture on private unaided schooling in India to answer the above questions, since there is no one comprehensive data source on private schooling in  India. Before the passage of the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, in most states private schools were not even required to be registered let alone be mandatorily government-‘recognised’. While officials thus do not have a comprehensive list of all unrecognised private schools, they do informally know of many of these schools, since they are required to serve closure notices to the unrecognised schools. Yet, the official District information System on Education (DISE), which is meant to be an annual census of all schools in the country, generally does not collect data from most of the so-called nonrecognised private schools. Moreover, coverage of even the recognised private schools is incomplete in DISE since not all private unaided schools give their data. Finally, to compound matters, although the DISE questionnaire separately identifies aided and unaided private schools, in the DISE data report cards published annually by the official agency, in practice unfortunately these two types of schools are often lumped together and treated as a single category ‘private schools’.

While the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) published by NGO Pratham is helpful in generating extensive evidence on private as well as public schools across about 15,000 villages across all Indian districts annually, it is based on a rural survey only and misses out urban India altogether. Moreover, it also lumps together private aided and private unaided schools into a single category ‘private’. While for some states, the distinction is unimportant because there are few aided private schools there, in other states with a higher proportion of aided private schools, the distinction matters much. 

The National Sample Survey (NSS) which is an annual household survey, periodically collects information on education, for example, in 1995-96, 2007-08 and again in 2014-15. While NSS is a household survey and not a school survey, it nevertheless has valuable information on enrolment in different school types, which permits cross-checking the veracity and comprehensiveness of school censuses (such as DISE) and surveys (such as ASER), and it also furnishes data on household expenditure on education in different types of school – government, aided, and private.
This paper draws together evidence from all the above sources, i.e., raw National Sample Survey (NSS) data for various years (latest being 2014-15, 71st Round NSS), the ASER data, District Information System on Education (DISE) data, and data in studies carried out by individual scholars or institutions. 

Learning outcomes in private schools

While the National Council of Educational Research and Training, New Delhi (NCERT) has been carrying out large-scale surveys of children’s learning achievement levels using Item Response Theory since 2011, it conducts these only in public schools. Fortunately, it is possible to compare achievement levels in govt. and private schools in the surveys carried out for the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER, various years). Table 16 based on ASER data shows that while children’s learning levels in both private and public schools are low, they are higher in private than public schools.

The ASER report presents only raw learning achievement data but, since private school students typically come from better-off and more educated homes, their achievement levels would be expected to be higher even if private schools were of no better quality than public schools. Thus comparing raw learning levels in private and public schools could lead to a potentially false inference that private schools are higher quality.

Luckily, there is quite sophisticated evidence in India which compares learning levels in the two types of schools after statistically controlling for the socio-economic background of the children studying in private and public schools. The different authors have used a variety of data sources, e.g. the National Human Development Survey, the ASER survey, Young Lives survey and surveys in particular states or districts that the authors themselves conducted. The published literature published uses either simple regression analysis (Tooley and Dixon, 2005; Wadhwa, 2014), or use a variety of elaborate econometric techniques to correct for the problems of ‘selectivity’ and ‘endogeneity’, namely the problem that more able or more motivated students may self-select into private schools, techniques such as household fixed effects, village fixed effects, propensity score matching methods, panel data approach and randomised control trials. These studies are by Kingdon (1996), Desai et al (2008), Goyal (2009), French and Kingdon (2010), Chudgar and Quin (2012), Muralidharan and Sundararaman (2013), Singh (2015) and Azam et. al. (2016). This evidence shows that when students’ home background is controlled for, the large raw learning-gap between private and public schools falls but, in most studies, it does not disappear: typically an achievement advantage of 0.10 to 0.35 standard deviations remains. This literature indicates that children’s learning levels in private schools are no worse than, and in many studies better than, those in government schools, after controlling rigorously for the differing home backgrounds of the children in these two types of school.

The private schooling phenomenon in India

Value for Money from private schools

A study by Kingdon et. al. (2016) puts the ASER evidence on learning levels of students in public and private schools together with the evidence on per pupil expenditure (PPE) in public and private schools in eight major states of India, to examine the ‘value for money’ offered by public and private schools. Table 17 shows the value for money (VFM)

The next section puts this evidence (on the relative effectiveness of public and private schools) together with evidence on the unit costs of private and public schools, to examine the ‘value for money’ (VFM) offered to fee-paying parents by private schools and the VFM that accrues from public expenditure on education. calculation. While there is much inter-state variation, we illustrate the findings by looking at the example of Madhya Pradesh. Table 17 shows that annual PPE in public schools in Madhya Pradesh was Rupees 9384 and PPE in private schools was Rupees 3700 per annum, and thus the public : private PPE ratio was 2.5:1 (see row ‘g’) i.e. public schools operated at 2.5 times the per-pupil-expenditure of private schools. It also shows that the ratio of public to private students’ reading achievement levels was 0.48:1, i.e. public schools produced only 48% as much learning as private schools. Putting these two things together we find that private schools offer 5.3 times the value for money (VFM) as public schools in Madhya Pradesh. The findings are very similar for Kerala. However, there is much variation across the states. While in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Orissa, private schools are roughly twice as cost-effective (offer twice as much VFM) as public schools, in Gujarat, private schools offer 12 times as much VFM as public schools, and Uttar Pradesh is an outlier, with private schools there offering 29 times as much VFM as public schools – which is largely due to the very low fee levels of private schools in Uttar Pradesh, as also seen earlier in Tables 8 to 11. Kingdon et. al. (2016) also present VFM calculations using numeracy achievement levels in
private and public schools and the results there are even starker, though they are not presented here for space reasons.

Change over time in the ‘cost per unit of learning’ in govt. schools can also be seen in the last column of Annex Table 2. This shows that the cost per learning unit has roughly trebled in govt. schools in just the 6 year period between 2010 and 2016. This is a product of both falling learning achievement levels and strongly rising teacher salaries in govt. schools, which the table shows increased by over 15 percent per annum in the period 2008 to 2017 (the period from just before the Sixth Pay Commission to just after the Seventh Pay Commission), or increased by 8.5% per annum, if we take just the period from 2010 to 2016. 


This paper has sought to bring together evidence on Indian private schools in one convenient place. It has some surprising and some policy-relevant findings. The paper shows a rapid migration of students towards private schools, and an emptying of government schools. The out-migration from govt. schools has rendered a high proportion of them economically unviable, with very high ‘per pupil expenditures’, yielding low value-formoney from public education expenditure, to the extent that three states (Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh) recently closed down nearly 24,000 government schools. The abandonment of govt. schools is a longer term trend visible in DISE data from 2005, yet education policy and legislation has been ignoring this trend. For example, section 6 of the RTE Act 2009 legally obligates States to create more govt. schools – the kind the public has been deserting. An important policy lesson therefore is that decision-takers must take evidence into account before making education policy or legislation.

The paper discovered that a major reason for the rapid growth of private schools is their affordability. Data showed that the vast bulk of private schools in India are ‘low’ fee schools, when benchmarked against the state per capita income and daily wagers’ incomes. From a policy maker’s angle, the fact that about 80% of private schools’ fee levels are lower than government schools’ per pupil expenditure, draws attention to the serious difficulty that such low-fee private schools must face in mustering the resources to comply with the infrastructure norms of the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 without public subsidy, when most of the (well-funded) government schools themselves cannot comply with these norms; not surprisingly perhaps, data suggested that many private schools have been compelled to close down due to such non-compliance. It is clearly useful if policy on how to utilise, support and regulate private schools can take into account these realities, in order to avoid
unintended counterproductive effects such as the closure of the low-fee private schools which may be successfully imparting learning but which lack the resources to fulfil the demanding infrastructure and other conditions of government recognition.

The third major finding in the paper is that private schools are able to run on low fee – or low per-student-cost compared to govt. schools – mainly because their teacher salaries are a small fraction of the salaries in government schools. Government teacher salaries in India are high not only in relation to private schools but also compared with those in other countries.

Despite being paid at least four times the salaries of teachers in China (in terms of multiples of their respective per capita incomes), Indian teachers’ performance – judged from the learning levels of their students – has been very poor in the international PISA test, with India ranking 73rd and China ranking 2nd, out of 74 countries. This suggests the need to link future teacher salary increases to the degree of teachers’ acceptance of greater accountability, rather than across-the-board increases irrespective of performance or accountability. The paper discussed some ways of increasing accountability.

The discussion on the Right to Education Act 2009 suggests that the higher-fee private schools resist the RTE Act firstly because of their fear of loss of autonomy and the potential to be blackmailed under the Right to Information Act 2005 if they accept government reimbursement money and, secondly, the very low rate of reimbursement per child by the state governments for educating poor and disadvantaged students, a rate much below the amount stipulated in the RTE Act. It shows that many low fee private schools are unable to comply with the expensive ‘recognition’ conditions, leading to their being closed down or threatened to be closed-down by the education authorities.

The significantly higher value-for-money offered to parents by private schools – compared to the value for money from public expenditure on government schools – suggests that a public private partnership (PPP) model would be useful, whereby the public sector funds but the private sector produces education. However, there are scores of different designs of PPPs within each of the broad types (voucher schemes, Charter schools, Concession schools) in different countries – each with its own inherent in-built incentive structures for the schools and teachers. Before choosing any particular form of educational PPP, India must study these different designs and their relevance/applicability/adaptability, and must also pilot test the chosen models before scaling up any novel interventions. As shown in section 8 above, there have been major implementation problems with the PPP legislated in India’s Right to Education Act 2009 because the stipulated form of PPP was never pilot tested in a few districts and improved, before being enacted for the entire country and given legislative force. 

It is hoped that this paper will assist in the formulation of more evidence-based education policy and legislation in India, rather than policy that may be formulated on hunch, ideology or expediency. The evidence presented here can assist decision-takers to craft policy based on the realities of private and public schooling in India, rather than in the absence of the knowledge of these realities. 

The above information gathered from - Source :

CSAE Working Paper WPS/2017-04
The private schooling phenomenon in India: A review
Geeta Gandhi Kingdon
(Institute of Education, University College London)
February 2017 


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