School Choice and Academic Performance: Some Evidence from Developing Countries

Journal of School Choice, 2011, 5:1, 1-39, DOI: 10.1080/15582159.2011.54823

Posted: 27 Feb 2016

See all articles by James Tooley

James Tooley

University of Newcastle - E.G. West Centre

Yong Bao

Purdue University

Pauline Dixon

University of Newcastle - School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

John D. Merrifield

University of Texas at San Antonio

Date Written: February 25, 2011

Abstract

There is widespread concern about differences in the quality of state-run and private schooling. The concerns are especially severe in the numerous developing countries where much of the population has left state-provided schooling for private schooling, including many private schools not recognized by the government. The fees charged by the private schools serving the poor are quite low and they seem to yield better results, but many analysts dispute and insist that private sector quality is unacceptable, and that the only route to universal access to quality schooling is increased investment in state-run provision. Because those claims and counterclaims have seen little scientifically rigorous evidence to support them, this article analyzes data from schools serving the very poor in randomly selected schools in Lagos, Nigeria; Delhi, India; and Hyderabad, India to compare the performance of unrecognized private schools, state-recognized private schools, and zero-tuition, state-run schools. The authors' econometric analysis, which controls for socioeconomic factors and selection bias, shows that children enrolled in private schools significantly outperform children enrolled in the state-run schools despite much greater teacher salary expenditures in the latter. The recognized schools do not consistently fare better than the unrecognized schools. Given those results, and chronic frustration with efforts to improve state-run schools, reform advocates should consider shifting their focus to improvement of private schools, and expand access to them.

Keywords: private schools, state-run schools, selection bias

Suggested Citation

Tooley, James and Bao, Yong and Dixon, Pauline and Merrifield, John D., School Choice and Academic Performance: Some Evidence from Developing Countries (February 25, 2011). Journal of School Choice, 2011, 5:1, 1-39, DOI: 10.1080/15582159.2011.54823, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2738131

James Tooley

University of Newcastle - E.G. West Centre ( email )

England, NE1 7RU
United Kingdom
0191 222 6374 (Phone)
07976 403113 (Fax)

Yong Bao

Purdue University ( email )

Department of Economics
West Lafayette, IN 47907
United States

Pauline Dixon

University of Newcastle - School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences ( email )

Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU
United Kingdom

John D. Merrifield (Contact Author)

University of Texas at San Antonio ( email )

One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, TX 78249
United States

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