Essays on the Economics of Education in Developing Countries

Lee Crawfurd
University of Sussex

This thesis is comprised of three essays on the economics of education in developing countries, focused on the analysis of public financing of schools operated by non-state actors.

Chapter One focuses on publicly subsidised private secondary schools in Uganda. Student value-added is higher in these schools than in government schools. The chapter explores the role of the quality of school management as a mediating factor in the performance differential, finding that private schools are on average no better managed than government schools, with the exception of those managed by an international charity.

Chapter Two evaluates a five-year private school voucher lottery programme in Delhi. This lottery was designed as a test of India’s national Right to Education Act Section 12(1)(c), which reserves 25 percent of places at private schools nationwide for students from “economically weaker sections”, with funding coming from government. Students who won the lottery and attended low-cost private schools performed slightly worse in Hindi and no different in Maths and English, or on various non-cognitive skills.

Chapter Three evaluates a large-scale contracting out of public schools to private management in Punjab, Pakistan. Using a difference-in-difference framework, I estimate that failing government schools that are contracted out to private operators dramatically increase their enrolment, but that the effect on student learning is ambiguous.

Overall these three studies highlight the variability in forms of public financing for independently operated schools, and the variability in quality. In all three policies, financing for non-state schools costs significantly less than equivalent spending in government schools.