Generating evidence in the private v/s public school debate: Covering the Muralidharan and Sundararaman paper

My latest livemint column where I discuss a recently published paper that contributes to the evidence-base in the private v/s public school debate. An interesting aspect of the research design was:

…in this study, the researchers first randomly assigned villages to whether they participated in the voucher lotteries or not; and then the villages selected were informed and a lottery was conducted to identify two groups—of voucher holders and others. This helped to observe a group of school-going children of a “pure control” nature—where no lottery took place at the village-level, in addition to being able to observe the groups that won or lost in the lottery.
The researchers also included in the study students already in the private schools to which those with the new vouchers were enrolled. This was done to track the impact of the additional enrolment into the private schools—a situation that the researchers claim mimics the key question in the 25% provision debate in Right to Education (RTE) in India
In another column, I will discuss the policy implications of the results reported. The private v/s public school debate has carried with it deeply embedded ideologies. The results are sometimes confusing, but clearly are very important in today’s context where millions of poor households are forced to send their children to schools (both public and private) where the quality of learning is unacceptably low.

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