Redistributing Educational Attainment: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment in India

49 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2005

See all articles by Joydeep Roy

Joydeep Roy

Economic Policy Institute; Georgetown University

Date Written: February 2004


In 1983 the ruling communists in the Indian state of West Bengal, with the avowed objective of making education more accessible, abolished the teaching of English at the primary level from public schools. I argue that the abolition can be looked upon as a lowering of academic standards, and that the reform is essentially redistributive in nature. Using two large cross-sectional data sets from India I investigate how it affected educational outcomes in West Bengal. Somewhat surprisingly, I find no evidence of a positive effect of the reform, even on the poorest income quartiles. Moreover, private school attendance went up in the rural areas, and there was a large increase in expenditure on private coaching. Both of these indicate that those who can afford to do so were supplementing the education of their children by private purchases, since a knowledge of English has significant benefits later in life. Ironically, the program may have increased the gap between the poorer classes and the others, something it was designed to close.

Keywords: Education Policy, Academic Standards, Inequality and Redistribution

JEL Classification: H4, I2, O1

Suggested Citation

Roy, Joydeep, Redistributing Educational Attainment: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment in India (February 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Joydeep Roy (Contact Author)

Economic Policy Institute ( email )

1660 L Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20036
United States
617 832 5626 (Phone)
703 465 0992 (Fax)

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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