Neither Choice nor Loyalty: School Choice and the Low-Fee Private Sector in India

Prachi Srivastava
University of Sussex
2007

Perhaps sparked by the work of Newcastle University's James Tooley, there is an increasing interest in studying private school systems in the developing world. This paper examines how sixty low-income parents in Lucknow, India chose among a plethora of inexpensive private schools. Readers should be forewarned that it is written for academics and uses needlessly complex language. Still, the author uncovers a few interesting nuggets, including the clear perception among respondents that private schools served brighter kids and offered better education. The author also notes that those interviewed tended to take a "consumerist" and "active engagement" approach to their children's schooling. They negotiated tuition fees, weighed multiple factors before choosing a school, and acted as "quality-conscious ‘alert clients'" (i.e., they care about school quality). Srivastava draws some dubious policy conclusions from her own work, however, including angst that a proliferation of such private schools will hurt their state-run peers and that India's more-engaged parents will opt for private instead of public education. But in a country with hundreds of millions of poor children not becoming literate from the government system, ordinary readers might find such schools a blessing. You can find the paper here.

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