Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, and Jishnu Das. 2016. “Delivering Education: A Pragmatic Framework For Improving Education In Low-Income Countries”. In Handbook Of International Education.
Even as primary school enrollments have increased in most low income countries levels of learning remain low and highly unequal. Responding to greater parental demand for quality, low cost private schools have emerged as one of the fastest growing schooling options, challenging the monopoly of state provided education and broadening the set of educational providers. Historically, the rise of private schooling is always deeply intertwined with debates around who chooses what schooling is about and who represents the interests of children. We believe that this time is no different. But rather than first resolve the question of how child welfare is to be adjudicated, we argue instead for a `pragmatic framework’. In our pragmatic framework, policy takes into account the full schooling environment which includes public, private and other types of providers and is actively concerned with first alleviating constraints that prohibit parents and schools from fulfilling their own stated objectives. Using policy actionable experiments as examples, we show that the pragmatic approach can lead to better schooling for children: Alleviating constraints by providing better information, better access to finance or greater access to skilled teachers brings in more children into school and increases test scores in language and Mathematics. These areas of improvement are very similar to those where there is already abroad societal consensus that improvement is required.