What evidence is there, for India and the region in particular, comparing the learning achievements and relative cost of private versus public secondary education, as indicators of their relative performance?
The public versus private provision of education debate is the backdrop for enquiries such as this. Experts differ drastically in their approach to the potential role for the private sector – whether as ‘conduit’ and peripheral, or as legitimate and key provider. Overall, issues of equity and quality lie at the heart of the debate and feed into all comparisons of performance. As summarised by Psacharaopoulos (1987): “Two lines of thought have developed on the issue: those who believe that greater reliance on private schools would introduce competition and choice into the system, and thus a higher level of efficiency; and those who argue that privatisation of the school system would lead to greater social and economic stratification in society.”Evidence comparing public versus private schools in secondary education, in India and the region, is ultimately sparse. While there is a good body of evidence to deal separately with comparing learning achievement, unit costs, and gender and equity issues, or with the broader debate on public versus private, studies that combine these elements are few and far between. Where there is a much more solid body of evidence is on primary school education and particularly in Pakistan.
There is some evidence for advantages in private schooling, particularly when focusing on learning achievements within specific subjects. Studies also provide good insight into the methodological challenges in comparing public and private schools, and in isolating the factors that influence learning achievement.