Choosing and changing schools in India’s private and government sectors: Young Lives evidence from Andhra Pradesh

The growth and increasing popularity of ‘low-fee’ private schooling across many parts of India has attracted much research and policy attention. This paper broadens the discussion by drawing attention to the increasing heterogeneity of the educational landscape in many communities. Our specific focus is on the consequences for school choices made by households across rural and urban Andhra Pradesh. The paper draws on longitudinal data for two cohorts comprising approx- imately 3,000 children, collected as part of Young Lives research, together with a qualitative sub- study involving a purposively selected sample of Young Lives parents and children. Trends in school choice are discussed, as well as the factors that underlie the schooling decisions that households make as they navigate the complex school hierarchies within their communities. The paper offers new evidence of an increasing trend for households to make successive choices of school for their children, as household circumstances change and school options are re-evaluated. Household survey data from 2009 show that 16% of a sample of eight-year-olds had moved school at least once during the early grades of primary school, an increase from 5% of a compara- ble sample of eight-year-olds in 2002. The consequences of a dynamic and more market-driven school system are explored, and implications discussed.

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