The last decade has seen high growth of low cost-private schools in many developing countries. In India, between 2006 and 2012, the proportion of children in rural areas enrolled in private schools increased from 19% to 29% (the proportion enrolled in private schools in urban areas is higher). The strongest growth was in the large states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra where rural enrolment in private schools doubled. With more children enrolled in private schools than government schools in some states, and almost a third of rural enrolment overall, they have become a major part of the education landscape.

Most research indicates that low-cost private schools outperform government schools on a wide range of measures, though in some cases the difference is relatively small. A recent randomized evaluation in Andhra Pradesh found that the private schools had higher learning levels in most subjects (English, Science and Hindi, but not Math or Telugu). The schools allocated more time to teaching English, Hindi and science, but less to Math and Telugu (despite having less instruction time in these subjects, the students performed just as well in tests).

The private schools performed better on a range of other measures. They had:

  • A longer school day and school year
  • Smaller class sizes
  • Better discipline in classrooms
  • Better basic facilities (drinking water, toilets, electricity, computers)
  • Higher teacher attendance and time on task

Teachers in the private schools were younger (by 12 years), more likely to be female (75% vs. 56%), and more likely to come from the same village as the school (46% vs. 14%). They also had less experience teaching (6 years vs. 15 years) and were less likely to have a degree (69% vs. 86%). On average, the private schools in the study cost 200 Indian Rupees each month (around $3).

The graphics show the proportion of children enrolled in private schools in rural areas by state in 2006 and 2012, and the results of the Andhra Pradesh study.

Muralidharan, K., Sundararaman, V., The Aggregate Effect of School Choice: Evidence from a two-stage experiment in India, 2013,