Lahore, April 17, 2008 – A new report released today by the World Bank calls for a reevaluation of education policies in the context of a dramatic increase in private schools for primary education in Pakistan. The report presents facts and findings from a survey of all public and private primary schools in 112 villages in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and lays out important policy options based on detailed data to facilitate evidence-based policymaking.
The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS), the result of collaboration between the World Bank and researchers from Harvard University and Pomona College, says for-profit private schools have become a widespread presence in both urban and rural areas, providing parents another option for investing in their children’s education. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of private schools increased from 32,000 to 47,000, and by the end of 2005, one-third of enrolled children at the primary level was studying in a private school.
The report says a large fraction of rural Pakistani households no longer lives in a village with one or two government schools. Half the population of rural Punjab lives in villages where parents can choose from 7 or 8 schools.
While overall enrollments increased by 10 percent between 2001 and 2005, the report says quality of education is lagging and children perform significantly below curricular standards for common subjects and concepts at their grade-level. Children in private schools score significantly higher than those in government schools, even when they are from the same village. In fact, it will take children in government schools 1.5 – 2.5 years of additional schooling to catch up to where private school children are in Class 3. Better learning results in private schools do not arise from higher costs — it costs half as much to educate a child in a private school (Rs.1000 per year) compared to a government school (Rs.2000 per year).