Study debunks pvt schools' superiority over govt ones

No systematic benefits from pvt institutions: US varsity research

Contrary to popular perception, students of private schools do not outperform their counterparts in government schools, reveals a study.

The study, conducted by Michigan State University, has challenged the supposed superiority of private schools over government schools – a matter of debate in urban and semi-urban India where private schools continue to attract the increasing number of primary, middle and high school students. During the past decade, 40 million children have entered India’s education system, giving rise to a massive growth in privately-run schools.

A major contributory factor for the mushrooming of private schools – particularly a new class of schools with lower tuition fee compared to elite schools – is the parental dissatisfaction with government schools. In certain parts of urban India, such schools may even outnumber the public schools. But there is little evidence on their performance.

The study, however, suggests that merely attending a private school does not mean students will learn better than those studying in public-funded schools.

Published in the October issue of the journal, “Economics of Education Review,” the study found that private school attendance is not associated with any systematic and specific benefit in terms of student achievement. The results hold for rural and urban areas of India, and for both expensive private schools and low-fee private schools.

Home environment vital

“This is not to say that schools don’t make a difference, they absolutely do, but the challenge is being able to systematically account for separate roles of home and schooling to improve learning levels,” lead author Amita Chudgar, assistant professor at the university’s College of Education, told Deccan Herald.

“While it might be true that children who attend private schools were overall much better off than those who did not, it was not straightforward to conclude if they did well only because of the school they are attending,” she said.  

The researchers analysed the reading, writing and math performance of 10,000 Indian students – 7,000 from rural India and 3,000 from cities and towns – in the age group of 8 to 11. The data was picked up from India Human Development Survey-2005, a nationally representative survey of 41,554 households.

“Our study finds no systematic benefit in attending a private school,” she said. She, however, pointed out that “the main implication is to recognise that the debate is not settled regarding public and private schools” because private-school students generally come from families with higher income and education levels. She said the research sample was narrowed down to private and public school students with similar backgrounds.

There are only a handful of studies on the burgeoning Indian educational system and those studies have favoured private schools.

The study, Chudgar admitted, had several limitations, including absence of nationally representative data sets on student performance. But its achievement is being able to account for the subtle, pervasive and systematic differences in the home backgrounds of children who enrol in private and public schools.

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