Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poor are educated well by Pakistani private schools.

Private education is for the elite. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. It is the wealthy and well-off who can “afford” private education. So private schooling is inherently elitist and destroys community cohesion by separating people into economic classes. This is the sort of rot you get from Marxists and teacher’s unions.

So it might surprise you that private education thrives in the poorest places on earth -- even more so than it does in the wealthy nations. Researchers associated with the World Bank, Harvard University and Pomona College recently studied the state of education in Pakistan. What they found is that “private schools have become a widespread presence in both urban and rural areas, providing parents another option for investing in their children’s education. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of private schools increased from 32,000 to 47,000, and by the end of 2005, one-third of enrolled children at the primary level were studying in a private school.”

In the past the typical Pakistani lived in a village with two government schools. But a survey in Punjab province found that half the population “lives in villages where parents can choose from 7 or 8 schools.” The researchers now describe the education sector in Pakistan as “an active educational marketplace with multiple schools vying for students whose parents are actively making educational decisions.”

Even though the government teachers are better paid, and have more education, they don’t seem to do as well at their main task of educating students. The World Bank reports: “Children in private schools score significantly higher than those in government schools 1.5 - 2.5 years of additional schooling to catch up to where private school children are in Class 3.”

The superior results aren’t because the private schools cost more. They actually cost less. The World Bank says “it costs half as much to educate a child in a private school (Rs. 1000 per year) compared to a government schools (Rs. 2000 per year).” The main reason for the higher state expenses is that costs are “driven by higher teacher salaries”.

The fact is that when education is provided via the political system then teachers become a special interest group with enormous clout and they will tend to redistribute educational spending toward themselves. This is less of a problem in private education because private schools are not run by politicians needing to placate special interest groups.

Even the private schools in the rural areas are affordable for the poor. “In a nationwide census of private schools in 2000, the fee in the median rural private school (50 percent of all private schools charge lower fees) was Rs.60 per month. According to household survey data from the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey, 18 percent of the poorest third sent their children to private schools in villages where they existed.”

What the poor are spending is substantial when compared to state spending. The survey found that “Out-of-pocket spending by households on children’s education is higher than what the government spends on providing education through public schools for the richest one-third” of the rural households in the survey. Even when they looked at the poorest one-third of households they spent 75% of what the state was spending. In spite of state schooling being “free” parents are investing substantial funds in the education of their children outside the state system. And apparently they are happy with the results they are receiving if growth rates in private education is any indication.

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