Public–private partnerships in education: do they offer an equitable solution to education in India and Pakistan?

Monazza Aslam and Geeta Gandhi Kingdon1

In a global context where world leaders have adopted ambitious plans to ensure ‘inclusive and equitable quality education and (promoting) lifelong learning opportunities for all’ (Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4),2 it is noticeable that large numbers of children in many countries continue to face numerous challenges in accessing education. Despite expansion of access, some children continue to be denied access to school and, for those who do, large numbers of children face substandard teaching and poorly provisioned classrooms. As a result, more than half the children and adolescents worldwide (58%) are failing to meet the minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.3

The South Asia region houses a large number of out-of-school children. King- don (2017), for example, notes in India that, whilst the percentage of out-of- school 6-10-year-olds has declined from 3.7% in 2009 to 2.8% in 2014, these India-wide percentages mask wide disparities across regions in access to schooling. Whilst there have been large declines in out-of-school children in Uttar Pradesh, for example, 3.8% of all 6-10-year-olds continued to be out of school in 2014. The various Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) surveys in Pakistan conducted annually by a focal NGO4 since 2009 also consistently report striking numbers of out-of-school children.

Some children are more vulnerable than others: in the South Asia region these tend to include girls, children with disabilities, those living in more remote or rural geographies or children belonging to more disadvantaged backgrounds (i.e. from lower socio-economic status or from lower castes or from religious and ethnic minorities). ASER Pakistan (2018) findings, for instance, show that more than 16% of the children aged 6-16 years across rural Pakistan are out of school or have dropped out. Amongst these children, 10.8% of those aged 6-10 years have never enrolled in school. The largest number of out-of-school girls are reportedly in rural Balochistan and newly merged districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where 16.8% and 17.4% of girls aged 6-16 years are out of school. Data also reveal that almost a quarter of all children aged 6-16 years reporting some form of disability in Pakistan have either never been enrolled in school or have dropped out. These large inequalities in access, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised children, continue to pose huge challenges to these two countries.

The ultimate responsibility for ensuring that children - from all socio-economic backgrounds, from all religious or ethnic denominations, of all genders and ability groups and whether they are from rural or urban locations - have access to education lies with national governments. However, financially constrained governments faced with ever-increasing school-age populations have faced numerous challenges in achieving these goals.5 The simultaneous rise of the private sector as well as the emergence of numerous non-state providers in many parts of the world, including in South Asia, has presented an opportunity to severely constrained governments to partner with these providers to reach more students, often at substantially lower costs. Amongst the various types of providers, market- oriented (for profit) schools tend to be dependent on user fees for some or all of their running costs and tend to have a degree of independence from the state. Their business models, therefore, rely on successfully attracting and retaining feepaying students. Arguably, such models can engender more efficiency with many low-fee private schools keeping their operational costs substantially lower (by paying very low teacher salaries and using other resources frugally). At the same time, the evidence from a range of different contexts appears to suggest that they can provide the same levels of learning outcomes, if not better, than those offered by government schools (see summary of evidence in Day Ashley et al. 2014). However, critics of private provision argue that as profit is a key motive for the provision of this type of education, partnership models (in which governments partner with private providers) may result in ‘non-profitable’ students, typically those who are the most marginalised and served only by the government sector to be further excluded. This so-called cream-skimming of more able students in partnership models may further exacerbate existing inequalities in education systems.

In light of these issues, a key question this chapter aims to answer is whether government partnerships with private providers in some form of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to improve access to education or to achieve better quality education is reinforcing or even exacerbating inequalities that exist in the system.

Colclough’s (1996) research exploring education and the market was a seminal piece that brought the aforementioned questions to the forefront of discussion and debate. In exploring the role of the market and specifically the role of the private sector (and user fees) in education - the neoliberal solution - Colclough came to the conclusion that private schooling can provide a solution for financially constrained governments but only under tightly defined circumstances. However, in the two and a half decades since this work was published, the debate has certainly progressed. The objective of this chapter is to shed fight on some of these new pieces of evidence using India and Pakistan as case studies.

Our aim in this chapter6 is to provide first a critical exploration of key evidence on the nature and evolution of private and non-state provision and PPP arrangements between governments and different types of non-state and private providers. We do this in the section that follows. This section seeks more insight into the national and international debates associated with such governments partnering with private and non-state actors. It also discusses the roles and responsibilities of various actors entering partnerships and the extent to which the provision of an enabling environment for such arrangements is needed for the arrangements to work. After this, we use exemplary evidence from India and Pakistan to discuss the evolution of the private sector and various types of PPP arrangements in these two countries. The subsequent section summarises key pieces of evidence from these two countries to discuss whether PPP arrangements offer an equitable solution to the countries’ education problems. The final section reflects on what we learn about PPPs in relation to equity in school education, the contested role of private schools and PPPs and the factors which affect the effectiveness of PPPs in education.

Private provision and PPP arrangements globally: the state of the evidence

Education provision by private and non-state actors has shown a dramatic increase in the last few decades. Taken as a whole, of the children enrolled in primary schools in the world, 9.7%were reportedly enrolled in private schools in 1970. This figure had increased to 18% by 2015, a doubling over during this time period.7 Data also suggest that private and non-state actors cater to ever-increasing populations in contexts as varied as South and West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab states (Elac- qua et al. 2018). Therefore, the rise of the private and non-state sector is a worldwide phenomenon and not one limited to Western and more developed economies. For example, the rapid rise of private enrolments across Africa that has most recently been documented noted that 21% of children and youth are currently being educated in the private sector with this predicted to increase to 25% by 2021 (CAERUS 2016).8 These arc not small numbers by any means - millions of children are studying in fee-charging schools or other forms of non-state provision (e.g. those run by NGOs, trusts or religious organisations) across the globe.

Though often collated into an umbrella term of non-state or private, these providers are by no means homogenous. Non-state provision encompasses a variety of models and recent literature has noted that not only are there numerous hybrids of non-state provision but also blurred boundaries across the various categorisations (Day Ashley et al. 2014). In particular, recent reviews of literature summarising the evidence on non-state schooling also agree that there is typically a lack of an agreed set of definitions and limited information on providers (Day Ashley & Wales 2015). Providers differ in terms of their scale and scope of education provision as well as in terms of their management structures, financing arrangements, their relationship with the government and the extent of regulation and independence they face, etc. (Aslant 2017). It is, therefore, fair to say that the term non-state encompasses a wide spectrum of providers with varying modalities, diverse objectives and ultimately with a varied ability to impact on equity in access and learning (ibid.).

This rise of the non-state sector has also been coupled with another phenomenon - the decision by many governments around the world to partner with the non-state sector to deliver education in the form of PPPs. Rising child populations, resource constraints and pressures to provide quality education to all have resulted in the increasing use of such arrangements across the world. These partnerships are premised on the belief that PPPs maximise the advantage offered by each sector and, in doing so, are able to cater to ever-increasing school populations in the most efficient manner possible. It is argued that increasing access, improving quality and delivering education in the most cost-effective manner are among the goals that governments which enter into such relationships aim to achieve (Patrinos et al. 2009). These partnership arrangements, therefore, offer a theoretical opportunity for governments to combine the potential reductions in inequality offered by the public financing of education with the efficiencies of private schooling (Barrera-Osorio & Raju 2015).

The educational space in any given context can range from 100% public provision (with the government providing, financing and regulating education fully) to 100% private provision (i.e. where the private sector provides, finances and regulates education fully). In reality, most education systems in the world combine different types of contractual arrangements, ownership structures and funding arrangements. Table 5.1 summarises the different models of education provision that can theoretically exist in educational spaces including both

Table 5.1 Typologies of state and non-state providers

A Private provision and regulation; private finance

В State provision; private finance - state regulation on varied forms

  • • Private schools
  • • Affordable private schools
  • • Home schooling
  • • Non-subsidised non-governmental organisation schools/learning centre
  • • Non-subsidised community schools
  • • Non-subsidised religious schools
  • • School fees or tuition fees in state schools
  • • Individual philanthropy to support state schools
  • s • Corporate social responsibility
  • • Private sponsorship of state schools

C Private provision; public finance - state regulation in varied forms

D State provision and regulation; public finance

  • • Vouchers lor private schools
  • • State subsidies or scholarships for private schools
  • • Education service contracts/charter schools
  • • Private management of public schoo
  • • State-subsidised non-governmental organisation schools/learning centre
  • • State-subsidised community schools
  • • State-subsidised religious schools

• State schools, without fees s

Source: Aslam (2017, p. 4) public only and private/non-state provision only as extremes but also different types of PPP arrangement that might emerge as a result of partnership between the state and the private sector. Amongst the most emblematic of PPPs are perhaps the education voucher schemes, loans and scholarships that aim to provide funding directly to children in order to increase their choice of schooling. Alternative PPP models exist in the form of contract or charter schools (schools that are owned and funded by the public sector but managed by the private sector). Another partnership arrangement can take the form of a government subsidy to a private or non-state provider with the expectation that this might take differing forms depending on the programme. This latter arrangement can also differ in whether the government provides a per-student subsidy or an unconditional grant (e.g. a block grant which remains flat and constant irrespective of changes in enrolment).

The evidence now confirms that PPPs are widespread across Southern and Northern contexts (see Aslant et al. 2017). The most common forms of educational PPPs have ranged from contracts relating to infrastructure, construction and management of schools to the provision of educational services and operations as a whole, for example, through voucher schemes or charter schools. These contracts typically outline how the government will fund non-state providers to supply an educational service of a defined quantity and quality for a specific period of time. The terms share the risk across the two sectors and also tend to include specified performance targets as well as sanctions for non- or poor performance (ibid.).

Theoretically, the state partnering with the private sector offers the potential for increases in enrolment, greater equity of access to quality education as well as improvements in learning outcomes. In reality, these partnerships are complex, require important enabling conditions to be in place for them to be effective and have, sometimes, generated unintended consequences. The extent to which any partnership scheme will deliver on its theoretical promise is also limited by the availability of places as well as the quality of instruction within the schools (Patrinos et al. 2009). Proponents nevertheless note that different types of PPP arrangements offer the potential for reducing education inequalities at substantially lower costs, provided they are well targeted and well designed (ibid.).

The rise of private schooling and government partnerships with the private sector globally has generated intense debate on the extent to which the private/ non-state sector offers an equitable solution to growing enrolment numbers as well as better quality education than purely government provision. The more recent evidence has been usefully summarised by Day Ashley et al. (2014) (on private schools), Wales et al. (2015) (on religious and philanthropic schools), Aslam et al. (2017) (on PPP arrangements globally) and Aslant and Rawal (2018) (on private schooling and PPP arrangements in sub-Saharan Africa at the secondary level). A review of the evidence by Results for Development (R4D) (2017) focuses specifically on the role of the non-state and private sector in conflict and crisis settings.

Overall, the evidence is indicative of improvements in learning outcomes in certain types of non-state provision, but this is caveated by the very low overall learning outcomes across education systems and, therefore, questions being raised about whether the so-called better learning outcomes amongst certain types of non-state providers mean much when the threshold of learning is so low (Day Ashley et al. 2014). Concerns have also been raised about the rise of non-state provision crippling the idea that education is a basic human right and in increasing marginalisation and inequality, the entire idea of privatisation (and any resultant partnering of the government with this sector) runs counter to all notions of human rights law (ibid.). There is evidence of certain types of nonstate education providers being able to reach the marginalised and disadvantaged more effectively but questions exist with regard to their sustainability (Wales et al. 2015). There is also evidence of certain types of non-state actors being able to achieve better learning outcomes than their state school counterparts (moderate evidence9 for low-fee private schools and philanthropic schools) and of certain types of arrangements with governments (subsidies to non-state actors) broadly suggestive of the positive relationship these arrangements have on educational quality (also see Day Ashley et al. 2014).

The evidence on equity in access to quality education is, however, more ambiguous and mixed and differs depending on the type of non-state provider. Whilst there is some evidence that girls are less likely to access fee-charging private schools across a variety of contexts (Day Ashley et al. 2014; Datta & Kingdon 2019), the evidence is more ambiguous on fee-charging private schools being able to reach the poor and on the poor’s ability to pay for them (ibid.). The evidence of philanthropic schools (and to some extent religious schools) reaching the poor and marginalised is strong, with the evidence being more moderate with respect to their ability to target girls and achieve gender parity. Evidence on the affordability of these providers for parents is weaker and more inconclusive (Wales et al. 2015). Whilst different types of arrangements may work in different contexts, the critical factor remains the government’s ability both to foster an enabling environment and also combine it with effective legislation, monitoring and regulation to ensure quality education provision that reaches the most marginalised (e.g. the disabled, street children, etc.).

The evidence globally on different types of PPP arrangements which are intended to improve access and learning outcomes across developing contexts has been reviewed by Aslam et al. (2017) and by Aslam and Rawal (2018) focusing specifically on secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa. The former review found mixed evidence on the ability of one type of PPP arrangement - charter schools (which combine private management with public funding) - to improve learning outcomes with only emerging evidence that they are able to reach the more disadvantaged in the contexts in which there are robust studies evaluating such arrangements. However, the review suggests that there are:

[s]ome indications of the advantages of this type of arrangement, not only in terms of improved learning outcomes but also with respect to other educational aspects, such as increased enrolment and better management practices. Robust evidence on whether these schools directly benefit the poorer quintiles is very limited, but emerging evidence appears to suggest that contract schools may be able to reach the more disadvantaged in certain contexts (e.g. Colombia).

(Aslant et al. 2017, p. 20)

The evidence of PPP arrangements where the government subsidises a private or faith-based organisation is more ‘weakly positive’ with suggestions of ‘potential benefits in a government subsidising private schools to improve outcomes and reach the more disadvantaged’ (Aslant et al. 2017, p. 24). However, the authors acknowledge the methodological drawbacks of many studies that form the basis for this conclusion. Aslant et al. (2017) also note the important role that subsidised schools can often play in providing education in contexts of conflict and crisis. This is particularly true in contexts of acute crisis and armed conflict where basic needs are not met and where non-state schools have been found to play an important role by filling gaps in education provision (R4D 2017). The authors’ key conclusion of their review is that state-subsidised schools which tend to serve more disadvantaged children and focus on poor rural areas, since they have a large market at the primary education level, tend to perform at least as well as government schools (in terms of learning outcomes) in such contexts. Hence, there is a strong rationale for this form of partnership arrangement (Aslant et al. 2017).

Voucher arrangements provide an alternative PPP model which typically involves a government-funded tuition coupon being provided directly to students’ parents. In voucher schemes, a student’s parents receive a government- funded tuition coupon which can be redeemed at eligible public or private schools of their own choice. In theory, these schemes have the potential significantly to improve enrolment by expanding private choice, especially to those who might otherwise not be able to afford these spaces - and so are sometimes argued to be a means to tackle inequities that have been observed in who gains access to private schools. In reality, some have argued that voucher schemes may simply result in a reallocation of enrolment between private and public sector spaces with little gain in overall enrolment for the disadvantaged (Patrinos et al. 2009, p. 32). The dominant rationale for voucher schemes is their supposed impact on improving learning outcomes through the creation of competition between schools to attract and retain children and their greater accountability towards parents (since voucher parents in essence behave like fee-paying parents). Voucher programmes have been used across various contexts. Chile presents an example of a context where a universal voucher programme at the elementary and secondary levels of education has been operational since 1981 and has been extensively researched. Aslant et al.’s (2017) review, for example, notes that much of the evidence of voucher programmes comes from this Chilean context and this evidence on whether vouchers improve learning outcomes remains mixed and controversial. In some instances, the Chilean evidence has shown these schemes to have increased social stratification and inequities in the education system. Evidence from Pakistan and India on the impact of voucher schemes is also mostly mixed and only weakly positive in terms of measured improvements in learning outcomes (see the following section). In summary, the evidence on the role of private schools and non-state providers in improving outcomes and doing so in an equitable manner is mixed.

The evolution of private schooling and PPPs in India and Pakistan

Having reviewed the global trends, we now focus in more detail on the experience in India and Pakistan. These are important countries because of their size. The non-state sectors in India and Pakistan are both large and seem to be here to stay. To illustrate, evidence from India’s official data from the District Information System on Education (DISE) shows that over the short six-year period from 2010-11 to 2016-17, enrolment in public schools fell by 18.3 million students and enrolment in private unaided schools rose by 17 million students (Kingdon 2017). The remaining 1.3 million students who left government schools but did not join the recognised private unaided schools could have joined either the unrecognised private unaided schools which are mostly not captured in DISE data, or they could conceivably have gone to private aided schools, though the latter is unlikely as their enrolments have not changed significantly. In several Indian states, nearly 50% or more of the elementary school-age children are attending private unaided schools (Kingdon 2017). Pakistan has seen a similar expansion of the non-state sector, particularly the rise of low-fee private schools (Andrabi et al. 2008; ASER reports 2010-2018). It is clear that the non-state schooling sector is not an urban elite phenomenon; data support the view that these schools exist also in rural, often even remote, areas in both countries.

In examining the size of the private schooling sector in India, Kingdon (2017) has shown a steep growth in private schooling and a rapid shrinkage in the size of the government school sector, something she terms ‘parental abandonment’ of government schools. Her analysis of the latest India data shows that a large majority of private schools in most states are ‘low-fee’ when judged in relation to state per capita income, per-pupil expenditure in government schools and the officially stipulated minimum wage for daily wage labour. She argues that this suggests that affordability is an important factor behind the migration of children from government to private schools - the apparent exodus from government schools and the dash to private schools might be partly to do with increasing affluence and partly to do with the desire for ‘English-medium’ education, but it may also reflect parental perception that the private schooling sector provides better quality education. Such a perception may be based on the observation that private school teachers display higher effort (lower teacher absence rate) than in public schools and the observation that they apparently produce higher learning levels. This is borne out in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) surveys. In both India and Pakistan, these have consistently shown that the raw learning achievement levels of children are substantially higher in private schools and that the learning gap between private and public schools has grown over time. Controlling for the generally superior home backgrounds of private school attendees (which could otherwise be biasing the results and generating the higher achievement levels) greatly reduces the raw achievement gap between private and public school students. Nevertheless, in several studies about one-third of the raw achievement gap remains even after statistically controlling for student background (c.g. Kingdon 1996 in India; Aslarn 2009 in Pakistan). From an equity perspective this is an important consideration. For example, using ASER data from India and Pakistan, Alcott and Rose (2015) demonstrate that socio-economic status and gender are both important determinants of whether children are in school, the type of school they attend and whether or not they are learning. In particular, they note that whilst learning varies across the type of school a child attends, socio-economic disparities prevail with more disadvantaged children in private schools learning less than the more advantaged children in government schools. They also note that gender disparities in Pakistan are more pronounced amongst the more socio-economically disadvantaged.

Within this burgeoning and thriving private sector, both countries have also seen the evolution of several innovative public-private partnership arrangements in the education sector. India has two dominant forms of public-private partnerships in education. The first of these has historically taken the form of grant-in-aid schools (generally referred to as aided schools) which were inherited from the British at Independence in 1947. These schools cater to a substantial portion of children in the country, especially at the middle and secondary levels of education. Second, India has recently converted every private unaided school into a PPP via its Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009, which necessitates by law that every private school give 25% of its seats to designated children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds in return for reimbursement from the government. Aslam et al. (2017, p. 92) note that:

Unlike the British system that went through multiple reforms, over time the aided schools of India became ossified in the same state as at the time of Independence; indeed, the environment for their running became more hostile in the early 1970s when the aided schools’ autonomy was seriously reduced through centralising legislation such as the Direct Payment Agreement of 1972 in Kerala and the Salary Disbursement Act of Uttar Pradesh in 1971, and in other states of India, which mandated that the salaries of aided school teachers would be paid directly into their bank accounts from the government treasury, rather than going as a grant to the private managers of their schools.

This, the authors note, has proved to be ‘counterthetical to effectiveness and increased accountability’ (Aslam et al. 2017, p. 92) because it removed a key element from the private model - the need for teachers to be locally accountable to the private management of the school - and this, in turn, altered the incentives within the local educational structures.

This PPP model functions increasingly like a government school - the aided school teachers are now recruited by the government’s Education Public Service Commission (exactly like their government school counterparts) and aided schools arc mandated to charge no fees from their pupils (exactly like government schools). This loss of autonomy in important respects has ensured that the outcomes of aided school children are no better than those of children from government schools (Kingdon 1996). This model of aided schools in India has also evolved in an environment that has not enabled the PPP to thrive. Aslam et al. (2017) note that, by receiving a block grant (a flat amount of government subsidy which does not vary with changes in enrolled students), the incentives for efficiency are not built into the grant formula adopted by the government. There is anecdotal evidence that whilst student enrolment in these schools has declined, the number of teachers appointed in the schools has remained unchanged because teachers remain established in emptying schools as they are supported by power- fill unions and teacher politicians (ibid., p. 92).

Moreover, the 2009 RTE Act has created the largest PPP in the country by making it legally binding for all private schools to give at least 25% of their seats to children from disadvantaged backgrounds for which the government is required to reimburse them. However, not all agree that this form of PPP has created the relevant enabling environment for such a partnership to flourish. India also has a rich tradition of experimenting with other forms of PPP arrangements such as the provision of school vouchers to children.

Like India, Pakistan also has a rich heritage of PPPs in education, inherited from the British in the form of grant-in-aid schools. Unlike India, these were temporarily stopped in 1972 due to the nationalisation of the entire country’s education system. It was resumed in the 1990s largely indirectly through the education foundations (such as the Punjab Education Foundation in Punjab) through the formation of semi-autonomous bodies and also directly through the department and ministries in order to achieve the universal education targets set by the international community. Since 2001-02, the country has embarked on a formal mission to embrace PPPs as a public policy strategy' aiming to address resource and quality constraints identified by stakeholders within the country and partners in the international community and overcome through partnerships. Aslam et al. (2017, p. 84) note that:

The year 2010 was a landmark year for education and PPPs in Pakistan, in which, on the one hand, education was elevated as a fundamental constitutional right under Article 25a for all children aged five to 16 years of age, and, on the other, the provinces of Punjab and Sindh passed their provincial PPP Acts, which were largely infrastructure-focused. Subsequently both provinces issued new acts and amendments called the Punjab PPP Partnership Act 2014 and the Sindh PPP (Amendment) Act 2015 to include services beyond infrastructure across all sectors and providing a cover for the public financing of services through transparently procured partnerships.

Various PPP models have evolved in Pakistan over the years and have taken diverse forms with different modes of engagement and varying types of financing arrangements. Table 5.2 illustrates the variety of current PPP models in existence

Table 5.2 Typologies of PPP arrangements in Pakistan

Type I

Type III

On public sector government-owned sites and schools initiated by the education departments in provinces.

Financing-, mixed; some government or user charges and fees. Governing body examples are cadet and public schools.

Schemes under semi-autonomous bodies, Education foundation programmes on private owners’ sites and schools and sometimes failed or underperforming public sector school sites managed by non-state partners.

Financing: vouchers, subsidies per child for targeted schools and agreed outcomes or key performance indicators.

Type II

Type IV

On public sector government- owned sites initiated by private sector philanthropy - Corporate Social Responsibility-Civil Society Organisations through memorandums of understanding.

Financing: public sector resources, supplemented by CSR, philanthropy and donors’ funds through CSOs (Type II may be switched to Types 1 and IV).

Procured through PPPs or advertised under PPP Acts 2010 (Punjab and Sindh).

Financing: majority public sector finance that may be topped up by private sector resources.

Source: Aslam et al. (2017, p. 85)

in Pakistan and shows that they range from demand-side ones that offer vouchers to parents for attendance in private schools of choice to supply-side efforts that subsidise low-fee private schools and those that privately manage state schools (Partnership for management models).

This section has highlighted the various forms and types of arrangements that exist across both India and Pakistan in which governments partner with the pri- vate/non-state sector to reach education goals. The following section discusses some of the key evidence across both countries to ask whether different types of partnership arrangements offer equitable solutions to the countries’ educational challenges.

PPP arrangements in India and Pakistan - do they offer an equitable solution to educational woes?

There is emerging evidence across both India and Pakistan on various forms of PPP arrangements and the extent to which they provide educational opportunities to students from various backgrounds and improve learning outcomes. This section builds on evidence that has been presented by Aslant et al. (2017) on different types of PPP arrangements in India and Pakistan by introducing new evidence that has emerged in 2018 and 2019. As discussed earlier, the PPP arrangements existing in the two countries have taken various forms - ranging from contract schools to state subsidies to non-state providers to the provision of vouchers directly to students. Some high-quality evidence is beginning to emerge from both contexts that explore these different types of arrangements.

Having said that, only one study looking at charter schools in Pakistan has evaluated the Partnership for Management arrangement in which the state contracts private providers to manage government schools, in that the private provider ‘adopts’ a government school. Malik et al. (2015) found that, whilst in Punjab adopted government schools arc associated with better learning outcomes, the impact of such adoption on pupils’ learning outcomes in Sindh appears to be more ambiguous. The evidence on subsidy-type PPP arrangements in Pakistan includes two studies which evaluate the Foundation Assisted Schools programme initiated by the Punjab Education Foundation. This programme provided financial and technical support to low-cost private schools for each child enrolled in the programme (a per-student subsidy of Rs. 350, equivalent to USD 4, per month per enrolled child). Malik (2010) and Barrera-Osorio and Raju (2015) and another study of the Sindh Education Foundation’s Promoting Low-Cost Private Schooling in Rural Sindh programme (Barerra-Osorio et al. 2017a, 2017b) also generally tended to find positive outcomes in terms of increased enrolments especially for the more disadvantaged, as well as improved learning outcomes. For example, Barerra-Osorio et al. (2017a, 2017b), specifically evaluated the delivery of education to underserved children (i.e. those residing in marginalised areas and particularly girls) using a PPP arrangement. For local private entrepreneurs who were qualified to participate, the programme offered a number of benefits (including a per-student subsidy, school leadership and teacher training and teaching and learning materials) to establish and run fee-free, coeducational primary schools in villages that were especially underserved in rural Sindh. Under this arrangement, the provincial government provided the School Education Foundation with full discretion over the regulation of programme schools, and programme-school operators enjoyed some flexibility to decide how to structure and run schools around the guidelines provided by SEF (ibid., p. 1). In their analysis of this programme, Barerra-Osorio et al. (2017b) found that when programme schools (i.e. those which formed part of the PPP arrangement) were provided with a per-student subsidy to provide tuition-free primary education (with half of the treated villages receiving a higher subsidy for female students), enrolment increased by 30 percentage points and test scores improved by 0.63 standard deviations. There was also evidence of improved aspirations for marginalised boys and girls studying in programme schools.

The evidence on vouchers (another form of PPP arrangement) in Pakistan is more limited. Malik’s (2010) mainly descriptive study explores the Education Voucher Scheme which aimed to promote choice, efficiency, equity and social cohesion in slums in Punjab. Through the Education Voucher Scheme, the Punjab Education Foundation aimed to deliver education vouchers (redeemable against tuition payments at participating private schools) to every household with children aged 5-13 years. Starting in 2006 as a pilot in Lahore, the Education Voucher Scheme has since expanded significantly across the province of Punjab (reaching almost 500,000 students aged 5-16 years across over 1,600 partner schools across the province).10 Malik’s (2010) early, mainly descriptive study, held positive views about the scheme from an equity perspective (noting that it allowed individuals from low-income backgrounds to send their children to school in the first instance and to choose the type of school in the second). Ansari’s (2012) study of the Education Voucher Scheme in Lahore also notes that it is associated with greater choice for families as they move from little or no schooling to having options in schooling choice. He also notes that this scheme has improved equity by providing lower-income families access to private schools. However, the author notes that student achievement data on children enrolled in this scheme is limited, but the sample on the whole is indicative of this voucher scheme’s students doing no worse than their non-voucher peers.

As we have seen, India has converted every single private school into a PPP through the 2009 Right to Education Act which necessitates that every private school give 25% of its seats to designated poor and disadvantaged children in return for reimbursement from the government. If the Right to Education Act were to be implemented as planned, it would result in India having probably the largest number of children attending private schools through public funding as well as the largest attempts at school integration anywhere in the world (Aslant et al. 2017). However, there is some scepticism in the literature about the capability of the 25% reservation to target the most disadvantaged mainly because of financial barriers experienced by more disadvantaged families. There is also concern that several criteria have to be met for a poor child to be eligible for studying for free in a private school within this 25% provision under the RTE Act, and many applicants do not meet the eligibility criteria. In these cases, poor children may be excluded. Conversely, due to corruption in the system, well-off children who are ineligible may take up the places reserved for socio-economically disadvantaged children (Srivastava Sc Noronha 2016; Sucharita 8c Sujatha 2018; and the evidence summarised in Day Ashley et al. 2019).

The potential of voucher programmes

Empirical studies of voucher programmes in India have noted the potential for such PPPs to improve student retention and provide access to more disadvantaged children (Crawfurd et al. 2019; Wolf et al. 2015; Muralidharan Sc Sundararaman 2015). Kumari (2016) studied a contract school arrangement - the Rashtriya Adarsh Vidyalaya schools programme - where private entities are responsible for providing infrastructure and managing the schools and the government supports 1,000 selected deprived students who will be charged nominal fees (and an additional 1,500 students may be enrolled and charged fees by the private entity). However, Kumari was critical of the high anticipated costs to the more disadvantaged students of this particular model (see Day Ashley et al. 2019).

The evidence on whether these PPP school models offer a higher quality schooling experience to children in India is mixed. Muralidharan and Sundararaman’s (2015) study of the voucher experiment in primary schools in Andhra Pradesh found that students who won the lottery/voucher to attend private schools had better outcomes in Hindi (only taught in private schools) and similar outcomes in other subjects, despite the fact that private schools are found to spend a third less funds per student than the government sector. This, according to the authors, was indicative of a more productive private sector that is able to achieve similar results with significantly less instructional time and significantly lower per student cost (mainly due to substantially lower teacher salaries). Wolf et al.’s (2015) study of another voucher programme, this time in a Delhi urban slum, also offers similar findings - children who won vouchers to attend private schools had better learning outcomes, particularly girls. Three years later however when Crawfurd et al. (2019) re-examined the same voucher scheme, they found no evidence that access to private schooling had generated improvements in learning outcomes. These contradictory findings of the same programme raise questions about the ability of the voucher programme PPP to improve learning of children from disadvantaged background (Day Ashley et al. 2019).

Discussion and conclusion

Clearly, PPPs do not provide a total solution to all efficiency and equity problems in school education. It has been suggested by their advocates that PPPs can enhance both efficiency and equity. With regard to equity, PPPs which involve the public funding of private production of education do ease the financial constraint for poor families by permitting them to attend a private school without paying fees, via for example a government-given voucher, direct benefit transfer or scholarship. In these ways, PPPs in school education do improve equity in access to private schooling which, otherwise, would be accessible only to the rich. If the private schools are deemed to offer higher quality education than public schools in a country, then by enabling some poor children access to private schools, PPPs can promote equity in access to good quality schools.

It is important to recognise that while some types of PPPs can result in some disadvantaged individuals accessing private schooling, they will not bring complete equality in access to good quality education. The reason is that the better- off children can supplement the value of the government-given voucher or direct benefit transfer and thus can attend the higher fee private schools compared to the lower fee private schools that the voucher amount will permit the poorer children to attend. Whilst in theory it is possible to design vouchers to get perfect equality of access to education by making the voucher value inversely proportional to family income (Nechyba 2004), in practice, this requires accurate information on family incomes, which is not available. Thus, we can conclude that PPP arrangements can improve on the equity situation by easing the economic constraint for the poor and enabling them to access fee-charging private schools that are often perceived to be of higher quality.

Public-private partnerships in education 93 The contested role of private schools and ofPPPs

Whilst both India and Pakistan have adopted PPPs in education, there is a notable tension in the literature and rhetorie about such arrangements in both countries. On the one hand, their emergence is testament to their high public demand and the need for highly resource-constrained governments to provide schooling to all through partnerships, but, on the other hand, in public discourse the ‘privatisation of education’ tends to be lamented in both countries. While there has been public concern in recent years in both India and Pakistan about elite private schools’ fee levels and fee hikes (leading to new legislation to regulate fees in several Indian states and similar rhetorie in Pakistan), at the same time there has also been a recent upsurge in the government-mandated closure of low-fee private schools in several Indian states as a result of their not fulfilling the numerous conditions of government recognition.

The evidence based on different types of PPP arrangements is sparse but emerging. However, the experience of India and Pakistan appears to suggest that PPP arrangements may be able to improve access and enrolment though the extent to which they can do so for the very poor and disadvantaged is sometimes questioned. In terms of their ability to improve learning, the evidence is indicative of students in such arrangements not doing worse than students in government schools and given the ability of these arrangements to achieve learning at a substantially lower pcr-pupil cost, this is often offered as a reason why these arrangements arc more cost-effective (an important aspect of promoting education in large population countries experiencing considerable poverty). However, this in turn raises the question of whether marginally better learning outcomes make private schools and PPP arrangements more effective than government schools.

The factors behind the effectiveness ofPPPs in education

It has also been recognised in the literature that the capacity of partnerships to succeed has been held back by the state’s limited recognition of their potential (Malik et al. 2015). Most PPP arrangements in Pakistan have, for example, emerged despite minimal support and in some instances even having to overcome disincentives from the state to work with their private partners (ibid.). A similar point is noted by Aslam ct al. (2017) in their case study in India, namely that generating an enabling environment is crucial for the effectiveness of PPPs and the very first step of that requires consent of the private partner in entering that relationship. The 2009 RTE Act in India offers a counterexample of this - where private partners were forced into this arrangement in India without prior consent, through legislative force. By virtue of this, the PPP relationship does not have the enabling environment that would be conducive to its success.

A key aspect of an enabling environment also relates to transparency and clarity in the policies adopted towards the partner - the private sector actor - and the adoption of a facilitative approach towards them. Another critical element of successful partnerships requires that all parties (private and public) fulfil their end of the agreement. For example, under the Right to Education Act, government is required to reimburse private schools for educating poor children but in many states of India, the governments have delayed payments or substantially reduced reimbursements compared to the mandated levels. Treating the private sector as an equal partner, rather than as a volunteer, is also another crucial aspect of an enabling environment. And finally, adopting a clear policy towards PPPs rather than an ad hoc approach remains important. It is challenging to assess whether a PPP arrangement has succeeded or failed if the conditions in which it was established were not conducive for a transparent, effective and productive partnership.


  • 1 Among other affiliations and memberships, Geeta Gandhi Kingdon is President of the board of a K-12 Registered Society non-profit private school in India and also a member of the Secondary Education Exam Board of the Government of Uttar Pradesh.
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4 ASER surveys have been conducted by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation working on education issues since the early 2000s.^
  • 5 The South Asia region also faces the challenge of increasing populations of school- age children. India, for instance, has witnessed a substantial increase (of 4.3%) in the absolute primary school-age population of 6-10-vear-olds between 2009 and 2014 (IMRB 2014).
  • 6 This chapter draws from various literature reviews that both of the authors or one of the authors has been extensively involved in. These include the following: Day Ashley et al. (2014), Wales et al. (2015), Aslam et al. (2017) and Aslant and Rawal (2018). These reviews were mainly commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) (except Aslam et al. (2018) which was commissioned by the Mastercard Foundation). The reviews by Day Ashley et al. (2014), Wales et al. (2015) and Aslam et al. (2017) mainly focused on primary education in developing countries globally whilst the Aslam and Rawal (2018) review focused on secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa. These were all ‘rigorous reviews’, that is, high-quality literature reviews that scoped extensive databases based on key search terms and identified medium-high quality studies that answered the research questions posed in each review. They closely followed the guidelines described by DFID on assessing the quality and strength of education in the education sector.
  • 7
  • 8 Data sources on private school enrolment, especially from government sources, are often heavily under-reported due to the transitory nature of unregistered schools and weak data systems.
  • 9 This term has been used across various rigorous reviews and evidence syntheses commissioned by DFID in a bid to quantify the strength of existing evidence in education research. See Day Ashley et al. (2014) for further details.
  • 10


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