Discussion of Private Schooling in India Abhijit V. Banerjee

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<p>Discussion of Private Schooling in India</p> <p>Discussion of Private Schooling in IndiaAbhijit V. BanerjeeAn important policy question This paper takes on a key policy questiondo private schools work better than public schools?Very important both for determining the regulatory stance of the government and for deciding on vouchers etc.And not obvious.Public school teachers are much better paid (often by a factor of 4) and, as a result, might be better educated and trained.On the other hand there is the now very well-known problem of incentives in the public sectorA hard problemWe cannot use judgment of parents: parents have a hard time estimating the benefit of private schooling for their childZhang (2008) shows that parents in China queue up to try to get their children into more expensive schools, but except for the highest performing children everyone actually does worse as a result.But then there is an identification problemAre children who are sent to private school more motivated/gifted on average?Selection could operate within a family, within a neighborhood, within a district3The eternal search for an instrumentWhat we want is something that influences private school participation but not performance Not easy to find--they use:Presence of a private school: but dont private schools where education is a priority /where public schools are bad: could lead to upward bias because of prioritizationDownward bias because bad public school quality. Early English in Govt. school/English language instruction: Does it vary at the State level? If so what determines where you set up these special schools? Probably leads to upward bias. </p> <p>More instrumentsSocial networks: Even they are skepticalMysterious missing scheduleCook in government school: Very intriguing reduced form: villages where there is a cook in the local government school systematically under-perform other villagesWorth investigating---is the school meal program actually hurting children because parents value the wrong thingsWe do not know the direction of bias: upward because more privileged village or downward because more backward village?Worth investigating government policy for allocating cookAnother approach: Family fixed effectsProblem: who would you send to school if you had to send one child to school?The good news is that the two approaches and indeed the OLS, give very similar results.At least the family fixed effect and the IV approaches use very different types of variationThe effects are not small: .3-.4 standard deviations is substantial by 1st world standards though dwarfed by state effects.Probably will not convince the skeptics</p> <p>What else can you do?Randomized trials: randomly allocate vouchersAngrist et al.However how do you deal with equilibrium effects: what happens to school quality as demand goes up?Kremer and Muralidharan try to deal with this by randomly choosing voucher villages in APThey also randomly allocate vouchers, so will get an estimate of the supply elasticity.But villages are also small. Another approachIn a number of papers Jishnu Das and his co-authors have studied public versus private education in PakistanAs in India private education is much cheaper Their results make a strong case for private education based on the following observation:In English, the difference between children in private and government schools is twelve times as large as the difference between children from poor and non-poor households after controlling for observed differences between children.Put differently, a huge part of the variation in performance is explained by school differences within the same village.Can un-observables do so much heavy lifting?Why do people with the same observables choose differently?What would be the effect of an information campaign?Still it may be worth tryingTo see whether we see the same patterns in IndiaHow does the school effect within a village compare with the effect of wealth?They do not present school effect regressions with village fixed effectWealth effects are hard to interpret because the scale is not shown (and why are there 25% in the top quintile)However the OLS effect of private school is the same size as the OLS effect of college educated parents! (why are control effects in the IV identical to the OLS?)On balance All the evidence looks favorable to private education but there is no smoking gun..But even if we find the smoking gun we will need to think aboutWhether this model (educated unemployed set up schools for want of anything better to do) will remain sustainable if growth continues?Whether this can be a means of delivering post primary education?</p>