Low-cost Private Education: Impacts on Achieving Universal Primary Education

Author(s) Ian Smith, Subir Shukla, Priti Joshi, Abdurrahman Umar, Simon Kisira
Publisher Commonwealth Secretariat
Published 2008
Pages 232
Price £20.00
ISBN 9780850928808
Reviewed by Mrs Margaret Simms
Review published 13 February 2009

The book is based on a study of low-cost private schools in India, Nigeria and Uganda. Its aims are to investigate the ‘low-cost private education sector and its impact of achieving universal primary education’ in the three countries. Schools providing low-cost private schools are set up and owned by entrepreneurs who have identified a need.

Methodological challenges facing the study clearly identified, for example, the differences in categorisation of low-cost private schools, and inconsistencies in reporting of data by schools to the government in each country. In an international context the issue of under-reporting low-cost private education is heightened, and in some cases ‘different data sources tell different stories’.

Consideration is given in chapter three to a range of issues integral to the impact of low-cost schooling including, but not limited to, market stability, teacher supply, hidden costs of attending government schools, quality, freedom of choice and others.

The complexities of the study in each country are detailed in Chapters 4, 5 and 6 respectively India, Nigeria and Uganda. These chapters are thoroughly informative and may be taken independently or collectively by educationally minded persons with an interest in international schooling. There is more at stake here than teaching and learning. The book presents a graphic picture of conditions endured by the children in their pursuit of education. In India for example, not all have drinking water, although more privately managed than government schools were found to have drinking water. Not all had toilets, yet privately managed schools had significantly more.

Readers most interested in research methodology will not be disappointed. Studies are written up in each chapter by different authors, the writing styles are different and the content of the chapters vary also. Each though, is consistent in its illumination of the study through methodology, methods of data collection and analysis.

Missing from the book, in my opinion only, is chapter 7, a chapter that reflects on the impact of learning from the study as a whole, a discussion between authors of Chapter 3, 4, and 5, or maybe a summary of progress made towards achieving universal primary education. Nonetheless this comment should not detract from the skilful way in which this book has drawn together one study of low-cost private education in three different countries.

An excellent book! It comes highly recommended for education researchers and teachers at the primary education stage.

For a broader picture of the Achieving Universal Primary Education agenda it should be read in conjunction with 'Early Childhood Education: Good Practice in Achieving Universal Primary Education', written and edited by Angela Burke-Davies and Roli Degazon-Johnson (2005; Commonwealth Secretariat).