The nickel and dime route to ruin

In recent decades, there has been an upsurge of private sector or non-state schooling in Pakistan. Due to the state’s failing school system, private schools for the poor are increasingly seen as possible means of achieving universal education coverage. Furthermore, within developing countries a perception of social and economic development is increasingly linked with the promotion of private schools. This paper attempts to highlight and critique the pursuit of providing education through single solution means of privatization, which tend to ignore contextual concerns of equity and social justice .This paper hopes to stimulate a constructive conversation in this respect by reviewing two recent publications highlighting the ways in which these debates are interlinked and by directing attention to the different historical contexts in which they are shaped.

It analyzes the market-driven neo-liberal approach to education and the equally strong view of the preservation of the public education sector, and in conversation with James Tooley’s The Beautiful Tree and Daine Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System, this paper suggests that Pakistan’s increasingly privatized schools exacerbate social inequalities. Evidence suggests these schools tend to exclude children from very poor backgrounds, and in terms of quality, only seem relatively superior when compared with already poorly-performing public schools and do little to mitigate social and economic deprivation. The paper concludes with the recommendations that both public and private sectors should be accountable towards achieving desired education quality.

Irfan Muzaffar
Sponsor(s):Open Society Foundations