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Private Schools for the Poor – Education Where no one Expects It

Private schools

Author: James Tooley

Education Next Vol. 5 No. 4

Fall 2005

Abstract:  The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school. The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

The full research piece can be accessed here.

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Education vouchers are filling private schools

Private schools, Vouchers


Indy Star

FORT WAYNE — Private schools across Indiana are nearing capacity under the state’s 3-year-old voucher program, and the space crunch could force lawmakers to consider providing money to expand buildings.

The voucher program launched in 2011, when a survey showed there were about 22,000 open seats in private schools across the state. But the program has grown to 19,809 students this year, and there are no limits on the number of students who can apply for vouchers.

That could force lawmakers to rethink how voucher money is allocated as they head into a budget-writing year in 2015.

Currently, vouchers cover the costs of salaries and operating expenses, but they don’t help pay for renovations or construction. Public schools also get operating money from the state, but they rely on property taxes for capital needs.

Tosha Salyers, spokeswoman for the Institute for Quality Education, said it’s inevitable that lawmakers will face new questions about funding.

“There is a general consensus that there will be schools interested in expanding soon. They will have to start making that decision in the next few years,” Salyers said.

Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, agreed.

“We want an equal playing field. We have to have that conversation about facilities and voucher amount,” he said.

Enlow’s group is participating in a survey on capacity that is expected to come out this month. So far, about 200 private schools have reported having 13,000 available seats. But Indiana has more than 900 private schools, 300 of which accept vouchers.

Enlow said the survey will look at whether schools already have expanded or plan to in the near future.

Expansion is a possibility at Blackhawk Christian School in Fort Wayne, where more than 200 of the school’s 867 students receive state-paid vouchers.

Lead administrator Linda Pearson said the school is running tight on space.

“We have been fortunate for a long time that we have had good, full classes. But now kindergarten through sixth is full. So is seventh and eighth. We keep a waiting list, but people tend to just choose another school,” Pearson said.

“Could we expand in the future? Possibly,” Pearson said. “Even before vouchers, we talked about adding a class or two in elementary.”

Krista Nagy, lead administrator of Lutheran South Unity School in Fort Wayne, said her school has about 125 voucher recipients among the 200 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade. She said the school can add two classrooms through a reconfiguration that would affect class sizes. But it will need to add modular classrooms or partner with another organization that has available space to reach an enrollment of 250 to 260.

Nagy said she doesn’t expect the state to cover the costs of expansion.

“I would never expect the state to get involved. It would be something we would do internal fundraising for. It’s a local issue,” she said.

House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said he expects voucher advocates to seek more funding next year. But he appeared skeptical that money would be allocated for capital projects.

“We will have to consider the whole picture,” he said. “Lots of people in the House and Senate would likely be reluctant to take that next step. Private schools have the ability to spread some costs in other ways.”


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Comparing Public, Private and Market Schools: The International Evidence

Competition, Private schools, Public Schools

Andrew J. Coulson

Journal of School Choice 3:31-54


Would large-scale, free-market reforms improve educational outcomes for American children?  This question cannot be reliably answered by looking exclusively at domestic evidence, much less by looking exclusively at existing “school choice” programs.  Though many such programs have been implemented around the United States, none has created a truly free and competitive education marketplace, being too small, too restriction laden, or both.  To understand how genuine market forces affect school performance, we must cast a wider net, surveying education systems from all over the globe.  The present paper undertakes such a review, assessing the results of decades of international research comparing market and government provision of education and explaining why these international experiences are relevant to the United States.

The full paper can be accessed here.

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Education: Bill to regulate private schools yet to be tabled

Private schools


The Express Tribune with the International New York Times

LAHORE: Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan told The Express Tribune that the government now intends to bring forth a regulatory bill for private schools in April. Senior education department officers had earlier claimed it would be tabled in March. Khan said the delay was due to “legislative processes”.

Education Department officials said progress had been obstructed because the department feared a backlash from the private sector, particularly large school chains. “Both the low-fee and high-end schools have their reasons for resisting regulation. The pressure is immense, at times even political”, an education department officer said.

Additional Secretary General Ahmed Ali Kamboh told The Express Tribune that all stakeholders, both low-fee and high-end private schools, had been taken on board during the formulation of the bill. He said the bill was now undergoing another review. He said a regulatory commission mandated under the proposed bill and not a government department would regulate the schools.

Qamar-ul-Islam Raja, chairman of the standing committee on education, said a regulatory mechanism for private schools was in place at the district level. He said “comprehensive regulation” especially for registration, under the district government, was in progress.

The proposed bill, he said, would be put before the committee for its recommendations after it was tabled in the assembly. Raja said the bill would add factors like fee structure to the regulation of private schools.

“The government should bring workable solutions and an effective mechanism into place, instead of policies and legislations that fail to be of practical use”, said Sufyan Jabbar, who was associated with the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aaaghi for over five years, and has been Annual Status of Education Report programme manager in the past.

He said any legislation involving regulation of the private sector would be resisted.  He said 30 years after the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance of 1984 was promulgated there were still private schools operating in the province without registration. During Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s previous term, the Task Force on Education had been mandated to prepare a draft for regulating the private sector.

The task force, led by Raja Muhammad Anwar, had said in 2010 that a school regulatory authority would be established. Anwar said the authority would primarily monitor fee structures and ensure the registration of private schools. No legislation followed.

Ahmed Ali, a research fellow at the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences who has worked with the government on education policy in the past, said the government’s commitment to bringing leading private school chains under the same regulations as low-fee schools was doubtful. Ali said regulation should cover acceptable standards, curricula, fee structure, teachers’ salaries and enrollment.

“What will be the private sector’s approach to out of school children?” Ali asked. He doubted that the government would be able to convince private schools to enroll children for free schooling.

Ali said an important factor in the acceptability of the legislations would be the benefits it promised to private schools. “One cannot expect effective implementation if there is a weak legislation that is dismissed by the private sector. It is important that they be approve of it.”

All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association (APPSMA) central president Adeeb Jawadani said that he feared the legislation would ‘victimise’ low-fee private schools. He said representatives from low-fee schools had been consulted during deliberations for a bill in 2010, but not this time.

“Laws apply to everyone. When enforcement leaves out a segment of the sector, the purpose of law has to be questioned”. Jawadani worried that regulation would deal strictly with low-fee schools, leaving out what he called the ‘big fish’.

According to a survey sponsored by the APPSMA, approximately 98 per cent of schools in the Punjab charge a monthly fee between Rs50 and Rs1,000. Jawadani said the remaining 2 per cent charged more than Rs5,000 per month. He said he feared that these schools would largely be ‘exempt’ from the regulation due to political pressure and the owners’ influence.

He said given that the 1984 regulatory ordinance was still in place, there was no reason to bring another law. According to the 2011-2012 Private Schools Census and Collection of Geographic Coordinates in Punjab by the School Education Department in collaboration with the Federal Ministry for Economic Development and cooperation and German International Cooperation, 25 per cent of private schools in the province are unregistered.

“No one wants to be brought under regulation by the government, especially when they have been left unchecked for so long. The challenge for the government is to strike the right balance, so that they get to regulate without the private sector feeling threatened” said Jabbar.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2014.

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Ideo’s Sandy Speicher Reimagines Education in Peru

Curriculum Development, Private schools


Bloomberg Businessweek

Billionaire Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor wanted to reform education in Peru, his native country. While Peru’s economy has grown and stabilized, its education system remains one of the world’s worst. Rodriguez-Pastor, the chairman of financial services and retail conglomerate Intercorp, envisioned a new kind of school he could build into a larger network across Peru—while keeping tuition at just $100 a month. In 2010 he bought three private schools in Lima to get started, but how do you create a school system from scratch?

“You don’t want to mess this up,” says Sandy Speicher, the head of education practice at Ideo, a design and innovation firm founded in Palo Alto that works with both public- and private-sector clients. It’s “about understanding what design can do to help education systems progress.”

Ideo is best known for developing tech products, including Apple’s (AAPL) first production mouse and Wells Fargo’s (WFC) most recent ATM interface. Ideo also has a growing portfolio of education programs. After meeting someone from the firm at the World Economic Forum in Latin America in the spring of 2010, Rodriguez-Pastor enlisted the company’s assistance. A few months later, the financier met Speicher and challenged her to develop a high-quality, low-tuition, scalable system.

Speicher, 39, grew up in Freeport, N.Y., and studied visual communications at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2004 she enrolled in the Learning, Design and Technology master’s program at Stanford University. She landed an internship at Ideo and has been there ever since. In 2013 she and others from Ideo were hired to help San Francisco’s public school system revamp its meals program. They sought to improve students’ eating habits, get them to buy more lunches, and enhance learning. Ideo’s recommendations focused on how, rather than what, children eat by offering varying seating options and technology-driven features, such as a menu app for students to plan their meals. The school district is looking to test the suggestions over the next year.

For Innova Schools (Rodriguez-Pastor’s name for the private equity-funded system), Speicher and her team of about a dozen designers were charged with developing a curriculum, designing physical spaces, and drafting a business model. The designers traveled to Peru in October 2011 to start their research, interviewing more than 90 teachers, administrators, parents, students, and investors. A big part of the Ideo process is to ask lots of questions and help clients come up with as many ideas as the designers themselves.

“They pushed us to think about everything from how desks are set and class size to methods of teaching and even business objectives,” says Rolando Núñez-Baza, Innova’s innovation director, who worked as the liaison to Ideo. “They  are able to pick up on the things that you’re not seeing because you’re in the middle of it.”

There were many heated discussions, Núñez-Baza says, given the mix of people involved—academics, investors, and the Ideo team. Speicher is “very principled and the sort of person who would come into a discussion, listen to what we were saying, and somehow elevate it,” he says. “She’s great at connecting dots.”

Rather than offer a traditional setting, with students sitting in a classroom under a teacher’s instruction, the schools take a blended learning approach. Students spend a certain number of days as part of a group but also have time on their own, to develop skills or conduct research. The physical spaces are flexible: Walls can be adjusted to accommodate more students or to break up spaces, and there are outdoor classrooms. Ideo also learned that curriculum was a challenge for the teachers, so Speicher’s team developed a database of about 18,000 lesson plans.

It took six months for Ideo to form a plan. Innova has since grown to 23 schools with 13,500 students and 725 teachers, and the number of schools is expected to double over the next three years. The tuition remains at $100 a month.

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Economic growth must precede education growth

Education, Private schools


The Financial Express

Christopher Lingle is currently visiting professor of economics at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala; adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney; and research fellow at the Centre for Civil Society in New Delhi. He also operates an independent consultancy advising clients on economic and political risk in emerging market economies. During his recent India visit, he discussed with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary the education scenario in the sub-continent and why economic growth must precede education growth. Excerpts:

What should be a government’s role as far as providing education is concerned?

Let’s understand that providing education in-the-name-of-the-poor is nothing but public-sector waste. Private education providers can serve the poor much better than government. The government should turn to, say, a voucher system to allow private providers compete with public schools. Believe it or not, formal education is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for economic success. People are not poor because they are uneducated, people are poor because they do not have jobs. There are not enough jobs being created because there is not ‘enough’ fresh capital investment and investment in infrastructure that can allow incomes to rise. The fault lies with the government that has been unwilling to undertake economic reform that would encourage more investment.

So you mean economic growth must precede education growth…

Of course, consider the Industrial Revolution—imagine the factory-owners in England telling the workers, “No, you must be educated before you enter the factory gates!” The Revolution would have simply died down. Poor countries, many opine, must grow richer so that they can afford to educate their people.

What role can the private sector play in educating the poor?

Many observers do believe that the private sector has little to offer in terms of reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal of ‘education for all’ by 2015. Often, unregistered or unrecognised private schools are thought to be of low quality. But James Tooley, the professor of education policy at the University of Newcastle, found from a two-year study in India and some African countries that these assumptions are not entirely correct. Private schools, Tooley argued in his paper that he published with Pauline Dixon of Newcastle, can play and are playing an important, if unsung, role in reaching the poor and satisfying their educational needs. They note that there is considerably higher student achievement in private schools than in government schools. In fact, they studied schools in Hyderabad and found that mean scores in mathematics were more than 20 percentage points higher in private unrecognised and recognised schools than in government schools. Similar was the case as far as the students’ knowledge of the English language was concerned.

What are your views on the Foreign Education Providers Bill that has been hanging for quite some time now?

Why do you need foreign universities to come to India, set up campuses and start teaching Indian students? First, make it easier for the Indian private sector to provide education within the country. Let the foreigners come later.

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HC overturns order on private school fees

Fees, Private schools


The Times of India

NEW DELHI: In a relief to schools, Delhi high court on Thursday reversed its earlier order which had held that private unaided schools cannot take fees on a quarterly basis.

A bench of acting chief justice B D Ahmed and justice V Kameswar Rao sent the matter back to a single judge, asking him to hear it afresh, since certain points were not considered by him earlier. The HC’s order came on an appeal filed by the Action Committee of Unaided Recognized Private Schools which had challenged the order passed by the single judge in April last year.

The school association argued before the division bench that the power under Delhi School Education Act 1973, which allows the government administration to make rules with respect to fees and other charges, is confined to aided institutions and not unaided ones.

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Five years after RTE, private schools still to be reimbursed

Private schools, Right to Education


The Hindustan Times

In clear violation of provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, private unaided schools in the union territory continue to await reimbursement for admissions done under the Act for the past three years.

Even as private schools were reimbursed to the tune of ` 825 per child and ` 860 per child for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic sessions respectively, the education department is yet to reimburse them for 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The department’s liability has further increased by the fact that the process of admissions for the next academic session is already over and schools are set to begin their new session in April.

The RTE Act mandates private schools that enrol 25% of its students from economically weaker sections and underprivileged communities will be reimbursed for admission to entry-level classes by the education department in accordance with the prevailing reimbursement rate.

While there was confusion over the amount to be reimbursed, the matter was settled last year after the Punjab & Haryana High Court ruled that the reimbursement must be made for only 10% of the students belonging to the above mentioned categories as schools are bound to admit the rest of the 15% candidates free of cost under the UT administration’s subsidised land allotment policy.

“How can the administration expect private schools to implement the RTE provisions in their true spirit when the education department is not ready to reimburse schools on time?” asked Chandigarh Independent School Association president HS Mamik.

According to him, though most schools in the city implement the provisions in their admission process the department continues to ignore its obligations.

“If the current academic session is taken into account, the reimbursement is now due for the three years but the department seems to be in no hurry to reimburse us. It appears to flouting the rules much more than the private schools,” he said.

Stating that private schools get no external funding and may therefore need the funds, DAV School, Sector 15 principal Rakesh Sachdeva said the department must reimburse the schools on time.

Meanwhile, the reimbursement file has been stuck at the UT finance department for the last five months after the education department sent it the file last September for its approval of the per child reimbursement rate for 2012-13.

“We are however hopeful of its approval at the earliest,” said a senior education department official.
However with the election model code of conduct now in place, insiders in the department believe the matter is likely to get delayed further.

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Turkey passes law to shut schools run by Erdogan arch-rival Gulen

Minority Education, Private schools


Live Mint & The Wall Street Journal

Ankara: Turkey’s parliament has passed a Bill to close down thousands of private schools, many of which are run by an influential Muslim cleric locked in a bitter feud with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The move will strike a blow to Erdogan’s ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen, for whom the schools are a major source of income, as he stands accused of seeking to topple the government with a damaging corruption scandal.

The Bill, which was approved late on Friday, sets 1 September 2015 as the deadline to close down the network of schools.

There are around 4,000 private schools in Turkey, including an unknown number of preparatory schools run by Gulen’s movement.

Tensions have long simmered between Erdogan and Gulen, who once worked hand-in-hand as the conservative pro-business middle class rose at the expense of the military and former secular elite.

But they reached breaking point in November when Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government first floated the idea of shutting down the schools, which aim to help students prepare for high school and university.

Erdogan said at the time he wanted to abolish an unfair education system.

“Those who benefit from these courses are the kids of rich families in big cities,” said the premier, who himself hails from humble roots and has tried to cultivate an image as a man of the people during his time in office.

Eyup Kilci, deputy principal of the Gulen-affiliated Guvender school network in Ankara, condemned the new legislation, telling AFP it gives Turkey the unenviable distinction of being “the only country which bans education activities”.

Protests against corruption

Erdogan’s feud with Gulen escalated in mid-December, when dozens of the premier’s political and business allies were detained in police raids on allegations of bribery in construction projects, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with Iran.

Erdogan accused so-called Gulenists implanted in Turkey’s police and judiciary of instigating the corruption probe in a bid to undermine his government ahead of local elections on 30 March and presidential elections in August.

He retaliated by sacking hundreds of police and prosecutors believed to be linked to Gulen.

The scandal, which brought down four ministers and prompted a cabinet reshuffle, has evolved into the most serious challenge yet to Erdogan since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002.

This week, the graft controversy widened to directly implicate Erdogan himself, after recordings were leaked online in which the premier can allegedly be heard discussing hiding large sums of cash and conspiring to extort a bribe from a business associate.

The incriminating tapes have prompted the opposition to call for Erdogan’s resignation, while angry residents have staged protests against government corruption.

In a fresh rally on Saturday, some 600 protesters took to the streets in Ankara, shouting “They are thieves” and “Government, resign!”.

Some demonstrators were seen handing out fake euros in a mocking reference to the leaked audio tapes, which the government insists were fabricated.

At an election rally in the northwestern city of Kirklareli, Erdogan accused Gulen loyalists of “espionage” that threatened national security and warned that they would pay a “heavy price”.

“They wiretapped Turkey’s very confidential and very strategic conversations, and disclosed them to other (enemies),” he said. “Can there be such treachery and lowness?”

Observers say Gulen’s Hizmet (Service) movement risks losing millions of dollars in revenue once its Turkish educational institutions are closed down under the new legislation.

In other attempts to contain the political crisis, Erdogan’s government has recently also pushed through legislation tightening state control over the Internet and the judiciary, raising questions at home and abroad about the state of democracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has been living in the United States since 1999 to escape charges of plotting against the secular state by the then-government, has denied any involvement in the corruption probe.

The Hizmet movement also runs an estimated number of 500 private schools around the world. AFP


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Private School Chains in Chile: Do Better Schools Scale Up?

Private Franchises, Private schools, Public Schools

Gregory Elacqua, Dante Contreras, Felipe Salazar & Humberto Santos

Cato Institute

August 16, 2011

There is a persistent debate over the role of scale of operations in education. Some argue that school franchises offer educational services more effectively than do small independent schools. Skeptics counter that large, centralized operations create hard-to-manage bureaucracies and foster diseconomies of scale and that small schools are more effective at promoting higher-quality education.  If there are policies that would make it easier to replicate the most effective schools, systemwide educational quality could be improved substantially.

Access the complete policy analysis here.

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