PRIVATE schools are better than public schools. This is an established fact in the urban areas of Pakistan. Now this trend is also seen taking place among the rural population, as the demand for private schools is increasing. The main reason is the belief that the quality of education and facilities in these schools is better than that of their public-sector counterparts.
But is that really the case? Recent studies show that there definitely is a difference in the quality of education between the two sectors, measured by the difference in the learning-level outcomes of the students.
Students studying in privately-owned schools in the rural areas perform better at every level of schooling as compared to the students from the same grade levels in government schools.
However, the alarming feature that needs to be noted is that the difference between the two education providers is negligible at best.
Using the information from a survey of 32 districts across the country by ASER 2010, it was seen that any child going to a private school has less than four per cent probability of having better learning levels as compared to a child going to a government school. The difference is minute.
This is the case because private schools have no incentive to improve any further than the bare minimum that is required for them to attract demand.
The quality of government schools is the benchmark for the private sector education providers, above which they have no incentive to further improve their facilities or other quality indicators.
The pre-conceived notion of private schools being always better than government schools is contradicted by the evidence from ASER 2010 facilities’ statistics where other than the availability of water and toilet facilities, private schools have no edge over government schools.
In case of the number of classrooms, availability of playgrounds, boundary wall and the attendance of teachers, private schools are not only at similar levels but are even worse off than government schools in some provinces.
The poor quality of education and facilities is not just an issue in government schools but for the whole educational system. There is not only a need to alter the popular notion that private schools are always better than government schools but also to work on improving the quality of learning in both types of school.
Improving quality in government schools, and regulating and setting standards for the private sector is the need of the hour.
AYAZ HUSSAIN ABBASI Larkana