Basic education: beyond school choice

This is my latest livemint column – where I take a look at the policy implications of the Muralidharan and Sundararaman AP school choice experiment. The results have been presented as being in favour of private schools by multiple reviewers, but clearly, it is not so clear what the conclusions are. One key point in particular, questioning the assumption that the private sector’s ability to drive innovation and excellence will work in primary education as well…

Private schools may currently be delivering outcomes comparable (or better) to state schools at a lower cost, but can we be sure that this will continue to be the case if the state introduces a system of vouchers which enables school choice? Consider this: given that state schools are free and private schools have to compete for extremely scarce household resources, they are incentivized to be as productive as possible. Private schools also possibly face greater accountability pressure from families who expect returns for their hard-earned money.
If the government introduces a universal school-choice voucher, the resultant household-level decision becomes significantly different in magnitude. As a result, being for-profit entities, private schools can focus on delivering results that are just as good or marginally better than state schools. Any expectation that we may have of innovations within the private sector will never be realized
Read the full column on livemint

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