Friday, July 4, 2014

Private schools not better than government schools - APF study

An Azim Premji Foundation (APF) 2013 report, "Private Schools Are No Panacea" (PDF; 20 pages - but see Update below) "suggests that contrary to popular perceptions, private schools are not adding value as compared to government schools to the children in the main subjects" (p. 15).

Previous analyses like that by Wilima Wadhwa in ASER 2009, "Are Private Schools Really Performing Better Than Government Schools?" (PDF; 3 pages) did suggest the same: "In the case of reading in the local language, in many cases most of the learning differential disappears once other factors are controlled for – Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. In the case of Madhya Pradesh, the difference is actually reversed – once other factors are controlled for government schools perform better than private schools. In the case of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where government schools had higher learning levels to start with, the gap widens once other factors are taken into account" (p. 3).

APF's School Choice study follows a different methodology. Government school children in 180 villages in Andhra Pradesh were offered a scholarship to study in a private school if they wished to. Then, the scholarship children in private schools, the non-scholarship children in private schools, and children in government schools were all evaluated over a 5-year period (2008-2013).

Analysis of five years of test data shows that:

"1. The scholarship children in private schools (children who were interested and voluntarily shifted to private schools) perform no better than their corresponding counterparts in government schools in the two main subjects - Telugu and Mathematics as also in EVS [environmental science] and English. This is observed consistently across the five years. This implies that private schools are not able to add any significant value in terms of learning achievement of these children.

"2. The learning achievement in general among non-scholarship children in private schools (who would have been in private schools any way) is significantly better than among children in government schools. However, the private school children’s households have a relatively better socio-economic and education profile which may have been a contributory factor.

"3. There are clear and significant differences in the profile of the teachers and the school facilities between the private schools and government schools. The teachers in private schools are younger, less experienced, less trained and with lower educational qualifications and are also paid substantially less. On the other hand, the government school teachers need to handle multi-grade teaching situations.

"4. Interestingly, interviews with parents of the scholarship children in private schools indicate that they are happy with the private schools. A closer look at the responses shows that the parents are possibly evaluating school outcomes on softer factors like uniforms, discipline, attendance in school (both of children and teachers) and social standing in the community.

"It seems clear that, contrary to general perception, private schools are not adding any greater value as compared to government schools to the children in Telugu and Mathematics, the main subjects, as also in EVS and English over five years of primary schooling, after controlling for the background of the households. The reasons for the perception that private schools may be better than government schools may lie in socio-economic, household or other factors. This research has provided rich data on various aspects and there is a need to do further detailed analysis to better understand these complex issues" (p. 1).

This is clearly a report that needs to be more widely known.

Update, September 2017: The report on which this post was based is no longer available on the APF website. However, there is a much shorter (3-page) overview of the research in D. D. Karopady, "Do private Schools Really Ensure Better Learning Outcomes for Children?" Learning Curve, XXV (January 2016). This overview, in turn, draws upon D. D. Karopady, "Does School Choice Help Rural Children from Disadvantaged Sections? Evidence from Longitudinal Research in Andhra Pradesh", Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 49, no. 51, (20 Dec 2014).

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