Private Schools in the Desh

On a more positive note…. City Journal has a review of a fantastic new book chronicling the untold education successes in the 3rd world – “The Beautiful Tree“.

University of Newcastle professor James Tooley journeyed to Hyderabad, India in early 2000 at the behest of the World Bank, to study private schools there. Or, more specifically, to study familiar private schools–that is, those that served the children of middle-class and wealthy families.

But while on a sightseeing excursion to the city’s teeming slums, Tooley observed something peculiar: private schools were just as prevalent in these struggling areas as in the nicer neighborhoods. Everywhere he spotted hand-painted signs advertising locally run educational enterprises. “Why,” he wondered, “had no one I’d worked with in India told me about them?”

The reason no one had “told him about them” was because these private schools were non-chartered, private enterprises operating under the government’s radar — aka “unrecognized institutions.” Instead of the sometimes hundreds of dollars charged by yuppy private schools, these unrecognized institutions often charged as little as $1-$2 per child per month.

I suppose before we get into any other details about these schools, question #1 is – “so how good are they?” And it turns out they are astonishly good -

The results from Delhi were typical. In mathematics, mean scores of children in government schools were 24.5 percent, whereas they were 42.1 percent in private unrecognized schools and 43.9 percent in private recognized. That is, children in unrecognized private schools scored nearly 18 percentage points more in math than children in government schools (a 72 percent advantage!), while children in recognized private schools scored over 19 percentage points more than children in government schools (a 79 percent advantage).

One of my regular themes on SM is how, when it comes to capitalism, the poor often have a thing or 2 to teach the rich. Similarly, there’s a Western conventional wisdom about what education reform looks like that goes a little sumthin’ like this –

“Development experts,” as Tooley calls them, have long believed that if citizens of developing countries are to be educated, their governments, helped by heaps of money from rich nations, must invest in free and universal public schooling. If the resultant public education is lousy–as it is in India, for instance–then it must simply be reformed through more money and more regulation.

The real difference, Tooley notes, isn’t in $$ spent (the private schools are often cheaper per student than Indian govt school spending) or top-down regulation but rather in bottoms-up involvement. Parents hold teachers & administrators far more accountable when it’s their money being distributed & spent within their neighborhood school. Teachers in these institutions have far more flexibility to tailor local programs to deliver results. And the whole thing is free from the Indian education bureaucracy whose goal often seems to be the biggest possible intermediary between parent and school. Perhaps these lessons from abroad will lend weight to our own experiments in private education such as the Harlem Childrens Zone or KIPP.

[previous SM coverage on private schools]

45 thoughts on “Private Schools in the Desh

  1. Parents hold teachers & administrators far more accountable when it’s their money being distributed & spent within their neighborhood school.

    Fascinating conclusion. Debatable, but fascinating.

    One fault I will find in this hypothesis is the relatively poor output from the privatized healthcare system in the United States. Despite greater per capita spend, the results are modest when compared to the public healthcare systems in Canada and Cuba. What are the parameters to be considered here? Is the education system fundamentally different from the healthcare system in the service expectations? Or are India and the US fundamentally different ecosystems?

  2. I suppose one has to read this exclusively in the Indian context

    Tooley notes, isn’t in $$ spent (the private schools are often cheaper per student than Indian govt school spending) or top-down regulation but rather in bottoms-up involvement. Parents hold teachers & administrators far more accountable when it’s their money being distributed & spent within their neighborhood school. Teachers in these institutions have far more flexibility to tailor local programs to deliver results. And the whole thing is free from the Indian education bureaucracy.

    ergo… I would be leery of extrapolating these resutls to the US unless somebody draws clear societal parallels in justification

    Perhaps these lessons from abroad will lend weight to our own experiments in private education such as the Harlem Childrens Zone or KIPP.
  3. One fault I will find in this hypothesis is the relatively poor output from the privatized healthcare system in the United States. Despite greater per capita spend, the results are modest when compared to the public healthcare systems in Canada and Cuba.

    FWIW, US Healthcare today is about 50% socialized ($$ spent by govt directly/indirectly), 40% 3rd party ($$ spent by employer insurance) and only ~10% fully private (patient directly involved in payment)….From there, it’s sorta political w.r.t how you want to parcel out blame / credit for diff aspects of US healthcare to each party. You can guess how I’d do it.

  4. ergo… I would be leery of extrapolating these results to the US unless somebody draws clear societal parallels in justification

    Word. Can’t really make general comparisons between a country where education is thought of as a right with one where it is thought of as a privilege.

    Also, before moving away from public education, it always helps to remember that private education will not meet many of the societal goals that publicly run education does.

  5. Also, before moving away from public education, it always helps to remember that private education will not meet many of the societal goals that publicly run education does.

    What goals are those?

  6. The real difference, Tooley notes, isn’t in $$ spent (the private schools are often cheaper per student than Indian govt school spending) or top-down regulation but rather in bottoms-up involvement

    Involvement is key, but when you do a study like then with poor people the only ones who would be willing to shell out the necessary cash will be the families who value education highly. So it makes sense that we would see astonishingly good results. Given some very basic tools a smart and motivated child can thrive in any situation.

    Getting the tools to them is hard, but in the American context where we have universal public education the trouble is making people who don’t give a damn start giving a damn. If people are only going to school because it is required by law then any learning that goes on will be by accident. If you want an example worth copying for America I think it would behoove us to look more closely at countries that have succeeded in integrating vast numbers of disadvantaged minorities into their education systems. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any such countries.

  7. Parents hold teachers & administrators far more accountable when it’s their money being distributed & spent within their neighborhood school.

    How did he adjust for the confounding effects resulting from self-selection (bias) of families investing in school education?

    I am a product of a semi-private school (albeit one that catered to a higher socio-economic class). I know that movement across schools is very, very difficult in urban areas in India. Once you get in (usually in nursery or kindergarten), you stay there no matter what, because ‘admission seats’ are hard to come by. Whether the school delivers or not, whether the teachers innovate or not, it is your duty as the student and as the vehicle of your parents’ dream to study, study, study. Families instill homework time and distill discipline during exam months (“wake up at 5 a.m. to study because that is when the mind is fresh”; after-school tuitions are scheduled (4-5 p.m. Chemistry; 5-6 p.m. Math) throughout the year. And despite all this extra-school effort and learning–all accolades, if any, go directly to the school because you sit for a board/public exam (terminology varies by region fo the country) only through the school in which you are registered. You are a product of that school’s brand whether they actually deserve it or not.

    My tuition-master inspired me to aim for my 100% in Math but my school got the credit for it. Personally, I went to school to have fun, raise my social status, meet guys, go to inter-school culturals, be invited to parties, make plans for the weekend movie outing with friends, exchange comics–generally socialize. My parents paid the school a small fortune. I went to my tuition-master to study and get ready for my ‘+2 boards’. My parents paid him pittance (comparatively speaking) but gave him a lot of respect.

    Some might call this an upper middle-class urban girl’s life. But my lower-middle class cousins led somewhat of a similar life and held somewhat of a similar attitude to formal 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. school and learning (i.e., the two may occassionally meet but if they didn’t, best to pursue alternatives which includes self-discipline and hours of individual after-school work even if your family cannot afford to pay for special coaching classes).

    What my school was good at doing was covering the ‘portions’ (syllabus) 4 months ahead of schedule and holding model exams after model exams (five sets, to be precise, before the real thing). It gave us good practice at exam-taking.

    But then again, my tuition-master gave me short exams, section by section of the year’s syllabus, every weekend. And I respected, feared and loved him more than anyone else in my life that year.

    Question is, how do I apportion the credit that is due to him? In some ways, he actually ran a parallel unrecognized (in more ways than one) private school without all the bells and whistles of an establishment. And his kind is only growing.

    And another point that may be overlooked is this: within the same family, the child that shows potential and promises returns may be sent to a private school charging a whopping dollar or two but another who is not ‘bookish’ may be sent to the free government school or to learn a trade.

  8. Matriculation: What goals are those?

    There are several, here are some that come to my mind immediately, I do not have the time to add more, but I am sure other commentators can add dozens more:

    Equal opportunity: Most Private Schools (in India at least) owe their success due to the background of students coming in. Private schools offer a huge barrier to people from lower income backgrounds. On the other hand even the rotten NYC school system has been able to develop some incredible people from modest backgrounds, and has been often been able to provide the deserving among them a first class education in magnet schools such as the Bronx High School of science.

    Access: Private schools do not have incentive to allow people to admit people in the middle of the term or even into a middle class (after all it is easier to plan for known class sizes). They also do not have an incentive to provide a minimum level of standardization across a curriculum across a country. This creates a barrier for children of people in mobile jobs. On the other hand, public schools often accommodate them despite the disruption it causes, allowing the parents to take up jobs that are often vital to the Nation’s well being.. (the Kendralya Vidhyalayas / KVs come to mind)

    Compassion: Private Schools are harsh on special needs students – there is a greater expense in accepting a handicapped student, and they usually try to push them off, no matter how hard the student works and how much sacrifice the family is willing to go through.

    Achieving minimum progressive standards: The customers of Private Schools often have interests / prejudices that run contrary to the ideals of the state and the good of society. For example, certain communities are hostile to science and evolution. Private schools depend too much on their customers to confront these prejudices. Public Schools depend on various communities, so they need to need to take all their communities into consideration, and act as a moderating influence.

    (I know that public school systems have some huge flaws, some of which Vinod has touched on, and private schools have a lot to offer, but that is not what this comment is about, so I did not talk of it)

  9. If you want an example worth copying for America I think it would behoove us to look more closely at countries that have succeeded in integrating vast numbers of disadvantaged minorities into their education systems. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any such countries.

    I saw some data recently, presented by a Scottish scientist, that showed a weak positive correlation or no correlation between (1) father’s socioeconomic status and child’s math scores; (2) father’s socioeconomic status and grown child’s socioeconomic status, for the following countries: Canada, Sweden and UK (not necessarily in that order; I forget the order). Stronger positive correlation was observed for U.S. and India.

    (I forget what other countries were studied but these above stayed in my memory.)

    In other words, father’s socioeconomic status was less likely to explain the variability in offspring’s achievements in Canada, Sweden and UK than in US and India. There are other factors (presumably one among them is the education system) that play a bigger role in the former countries.

  10. accounts of tooley’s study have been doing the rounds of the indian blogs for quite a while now- in the hands of certain organizations like the ‘center for civil society’ (http://www.ccsindia.org/ccsindia/index.asp) they’ve become effective tools for lobbying with the indian government to withdraw further from primary education. the problem in india is still access. if the govt withdraws from the schools, in favor of efficient private players- there won’t be any functioning schools in rural india in a few years. yes, the cities and towns might attract some private schools, but the cities aren’t the problem.

    i wish you’d done more background study on the subject before serving up afresh tooley’s stale research. i wish you’d tried to see the politics behind it- how many americans support the school choice program?

  11. Sounds like a really interesting book.. I will have to read it.

    I do agree that it is really difficult to measure the success of private schools versus public schools because the investment in education/background of family/ability to procure tuitions/money needed for school…

    Let’s not forget, some people in India make so little that even buying the uniforms and books for a government school is beyond their means.

  12. in the hands of certain organizations like the ‘center for civil society’ (http://www.ccsindia.org/ccsindia/index.asp) they’ve become effective tools for lobbying with the indian government to withdraw further from primary education

    I am a quantitative methods health researcher, who, for the last 1-2 years, has been doing some research in medical education.

    With respect to this example of research and data collection on private vs . govt schools in India–I believe that the closest to a gold standard to research methodology would be if schools randomly select their admission candidates in nursery/kindergarten/first grade years, from the entire city. There should be none of that selection bias that happens either on the part of the school, in the name of maintaining the school brand*, or on the part of the parents, in the name of self-censorship due to financial limitations or social conditioning. Then if we compare the outcomes 1-year, 5-years or 10-years down the road, we will be making meaningful comparisons. That would be the closest to an ideal program evaluation. Such a methodology is an impossibility in the real-world within the existing multitude of school systems in India.

    • Private schools, anywhere in the world, are the kings of brand building. Mac, Abercrombie Fitch, Ben & Jerry’s, Marlboro, Amul butter, _____ (fill in your favorite label or product company) pale in comparison to how seasoned private schools are in building their image.
  13. of course these schools have people self-selecting and so on…so its difficult to compare their results to the govt schools…

    But how apalling are the govt schools in india!…somehow the conversation here is so genteel and up in the sky..get real folks…a govt school in india is usually a large and dirty shed…in it are packed, sitting on the dirt floor, lots of kids…a teacher yells at them to keep quiet while she/he attends to personal chores…in one state they had to explicitly ban knitting for teachers…

    The f*cking indian politicians spend a lot of time “banning” private schools…because they are unfair to other poor people and teach english…usually this means a shakedown for money to the local politicos…

    The lack of basic education in india is one thing that is really infuriating and could so easily changed!!!!

  14. Achieving minimum progressive standards: The customers of Private Schools often have interests / prejudices that run contrary to the ideals of the state and the good of society.

    I would go a step further.

    I would describe the fundametal difference as such: Private schools have an unspoken pact with the parents of their wards, to make leaders and to create the cream-of-the-society effect (illusion?) out of the students entrusted in their care–whether these students show a natural inclination to or interest in these roles or not.

    Public schools have a mandate to level the playing field for all its players irrespective of the background of the players. Ideally, schools should be raising the bar. What they end up doing in practice depends on which historic period and which part of the world or society we live in. Sometimes, if we are lucky, all it takes is one passionate, visionary local leader (like a compassionate, strong school principal or an inspiring class teacher).

  15. We should distinguish between primary, secondary and tertiary education. Returns on investing in primary education are social and long-term. Public funding for primary education is necessary in order to scale() nationally, but government should not be involved in provisioning. Government should provide financial assistance for secondary education on a need basis, and should get out of tertiary education entirely. [Atanu Dey] () Tooley’s paper [link] at Hoover/Stanford site has some numbers, and does hint at the scale issue. In urban slum areas of Hyderabad they surveyed, 37% of all schools were private unrecognized, but they served only 24% of all students, indicating they are smaller than government and recognized private schools. And India is hardly urbanized.

  16. Public schools have a mandate to level the playing field for all its players irrespective of the background of the players.

    That should read “… for most of society’s players…” to better reflect what I was thinking. I think public schools cannot turn away anybody; so the pool going to them is diverse and teacher-student ratio is not a given.

    …a govt school in india is usually a large and dirty shed…in it are packed, sitting on the dirt floor, lots of kids…

    Al beruni, I don’t think any of us are forgetting the conditions. I think physical conditions in private schools, catering to lower socioeconomic strata of India, are not perfect either. There are several in Chennai that would not pass building inspection codes. Thatched roofs, two or three unlicensed floors, narrow staircases–if there is a fire, there will be several victims.

    The question we are attempting to answer is this: after we identify and control for several confounding factors, what proportion of the measurable success of private schools in India can be attributed solely to them? Implicit in that is the notion, if they are doing something right–what exactly is that and how much credit can they take? What are the implications for future policy or politics?

  17. The real difference, Tooley notes, isn’t in $$ spent (the private schools are often cheaper per student than Indian govt school spending) or top-down regulation but rather in bottoms-up involvement. Parents hold teachers & administrators far more accountable when it’s their money being distributed & spent within their neighborhood school. Teachers in these institutions have far more flexibility to tailor local programs to deliver results. And the whole thing is free from the Indian education bureaucracy whose goal often seems to be the biggest possible intermediary between parent and school.

    This is the most important point, namely accountability. Now this is not necessarily an either/or issue with private and public. Everyone can agree that private schools by their very nature will be held accountable due to the fees paid. But the question is why can’t we hold public education accountable with a mix of PTA and local school board membership? This is what is lacking in Indian government (public) schools. We will always have a mix od public and private schools, it is not either/or, but the private schools dominate in India because the public schools failed, whie they did not in the US.

  18. I would be extremely cautious before I draw any real conclusions from these statistics or even reading the entire book. This work was published by CATO, a libertarian think-tank that advocates radical free-market policies, including the privatization of school education (in the US). Naturally, all the data and statistics used in their analysis and research would be cherry-picked to support the belief that government intervention is unhealthy and markets have natural solution to all the requirements and problems in society.
    Even otherwise, do you really believe that there can be schools that offer a reasonably good education with the only revenue coming from fees of about $2 for each student. If that were the case, schools could open up in every small village in the country and everyone would be guaranteed solid education for a pittance. Of course, this is not the case and there is reason to believe that the exact opposite is true. The state of highest literacy, Kerala, has a strong government school system that receives relatively enormous amount of funding, and, (I believe) there are incentives for children to enroll into these institutions. There are centers for adult education too and there is a culture of encouragement and drive towards literacy and learning.

    The review also mentions that the author discovered a similar system existing in many other third world countries, some of which are failed states. Libertarians have no limits in terms of how far they would go in finding “evidence” for their staunch belief in the power of unfettered economic freedom.

  19. I saw some data recently, presented by a Scottish scientist, that showed a weak positive correlation or no correlation between (1) father’s socioeconomic status and child’s math scores; (2) father’s socioeconomic status and grown child’s socioeconomic status, for the following countries: Canada, Sweden and UK (not necessarily in that order; I forget the order). Stronger positive correlation was observed for U.S. and India.

    I’d be willing to believe that to an extent. But socioeconomic status can also be picking up some variation from certain sociological or cultural norms prevalent among people who are lower on the socioeconomic ladder. At risk of being accused of racism, I am specifically referring to there being something fundamentally dysfunctional about the environment in which a lot of inner-city kids are being raised. It could be a lack of positive role-models or the transmission of norms that encourage negligent parenting or some combination of other intangible factors. These are hard to parse out and I think quantitative studies can tend to obfuscate them.

    I still maintain that bright kids with an involved “village” (in the Hillary Clinton sense) can succeed with minimal resources. So even a really crappy environment will still yield a few remarkable figures. But the less bright they are and the less involved their communities are the more you will have to invest in getting through to them.

    I’d wager that a combination of more generous welfare benefits and vacation time can make it easier for parents to be involved and more resources in school can make them more capable of reaching the kids, but at the core there is the need for the families and the communities to value the education they’re being given.

    Among the low achieving segments of my peer group in school I just didn’t see it. A lot of them were just sent to school so that the parent could have a free babysitter.

  20. Linzi

    Let’s not forget, some people in India make so little that even buying the uniforms and books for a government school is beyond their means.

    This problem is being tackled: In various states this cost is reimbursed. example: see linky-- and this is in a BIMARU state

    A big plus, the govt schools in India universally already have a commitment to feed the students – this handles a major expense. (t

  21. Dizzy Desi: “Linzi

    Let's not forget, some people in India make so little that even buying the uniforms and books for a government school is beyond their means.
    

    This problem is being tackled: In various states this cost is reimbursed. example: see linky– and this is in a BIMARU state

    A big plus, the govt schools in India universally already have a commitment to feed the students – this handles a major expense. (the midday meal scheme)”

    Having a commitment to something and doing it are a bit different. There are a lot of programs that try to alleviate the costs of uniforms, and provide midday meals to kids in government schools… but they don’t exist in many places, and in many more places they have trouble carrying out programs… (And in some places, like where I was in Bihar, have government schools that ‘exist’ on paper only– in reality they are just not there)

    For example, the midday meal has been fraught with problems… be it the poor quality of rice and daal provided to the schools (it make take up precious time to sort the stones out of the rice, for example!), corruption with some/all of the midday meal money being spirited away, the lack of time and facilities to cook the meals.. in some cases, teachers would have to take time out of when they were supposed to be teaching to make the lunch for the children.

    On positive fronts, some schools has been provided with proper cooking facilities and given jobs to people in the community to cook the lunches. In other places, non-profit organizations such as Akshaya Patra (http://www.akshayapatra.org/) have taken the lead in creating facilities, delivery methods, and bringing the food to the govt schools. (Some of their videos are pretty impressive! I love the kitchens they created to create mass quantities of healthy food at once)

    Yes, they have made a commitment to providing these things, but the Indian government has also made a commitment to ending child labor and creating a universal education system in (if I remember correctly) almost all their 5-year plans since Independence… I always think it is important to distinguish between commitments/intentions and taking action. Commitment is step one, now we just need to look for/encourage follow through.

  22. At risk of being accused of racism, I am specifically referring to there being something fundamentally dysfunctional about the environment in which a lot of inner-city kids are being raised. It could be a lack of positive role-models or the transmission of norms that encourage negligent parenting or some combination of other intangible factors. These are hard to parse out and I think quantitative studies can tend to obfuscate them. I still maintain that bright kids with an involved “village” (in the Hillary Clinton sense) can succeed with minimal resources. So even a really crappy environment will still yield a few remarkable figures. But the less bright they are and the less involved their communities are the more you will have to invest in getting through to them.

    That’s not racist at all. Its a fact. And its a generational thing. Kids raising kids, decade after decade.

    But then there’s that homeless girl who’s at Harvard now. However, she’s an exception that proves the rule.

    One of the factors why Asians do so well in their academic careers is because of intact families. No baby’s daddy and baby’s mama drama to distract them. That goes a long way. A very long way.

  23. Yoga Fire,

    You lost me. I don’t understand what your point is.

    You said you didn’t know of any countries that have succeeded in integrating vast numbers of disadvantaged minorities into their education systems. I responded with some country-level data that were shared at a talk by a scientist (a physician doing social science research) that indicated that Canada, Sweden and UK have succeeded better than the US in de-linking offspring’s success from parent’s success or lack thereof. One of the outcome measures studied were offsprings’ high school math scores–to me that points to (even if it is only hypothesis-generating) something positive about the pre-school, primary-school, middle-school and high-school systems in these countries, overall.

    To me that is a good thing: irrespective of parent’s degree of understanding of the role of education, paying capacity, raising capability or intentions (i.e., whether he wanted a free baby sitter or not), the average child, once he or she comes to school, has a fresh start in life–a clean slate. Isn’t that what you were interested in knowing in the first place–which country manages to give as clean a start as possible to each generation?

    Maybe I didn’t understand you in the first place. Or maybe I didn’t express my thoughts well enough.

  24. One of the factors why Asians do so well in their academic careers is because of intact families. No baby’s daddy and baby’s mama drama to distract them. That goes a long way. A very long way.

    ‘Intact families’ is one thing. Age of child-bearing parent is another. Don’t confuse the two.

    There are millions of intact Indian families, even today, where the bride is 15, 16 or 18 and groom is 16, 18 or 21 (never mind what the marriage laws stipulate) and they have their first child within a year of marriage. Plenty of immaturity there too.

    Anyway, I am uncomfortable with assertions such as Asians do well, etc. You must mean Asians in the US. Let’s see what happens with 4th generation Indian-Americans who will have figured out there are more ways than one to earn a living.

  25. I responded with some country-level data that were shared at a talk by a scientist (a physician doing social science research) that indicated that Canada, Sweden and UK have succeeded better than the US in de-linking offspring’s success from parent’s success or lack thereof.

    I don’t think any of those countries have the same level pervasive neglect and discrimination as the US did (pre-civil rights). No other European country had chattel slavery at the level we did and that has long term consequences on people that go beyond just their socioeconomic status. It has an effect on norms about parenthood and undermines familial ties as well. Add on top of that the fact that the people who are successful always leave the poor part of town and the poor people who are left will now have neither the positive examples of successful people to look up to nor the social connections that will help them know what kinds of skills they will need if they want good jobs.

    We have cities with actual empty spaces in them because the government wanted to avoid being on the hook for providing public services to the Black part of town. So my point wasn’t about how rich or successful the parents were, it was the fact that people who are poor in the US are probably transmitting behaviors that will guarantee that their offspring live in poverty too. You can try to gear up schools to deprogram that but it’s no easy task and I just don’t think the minority profile in Canada or Europe makes an appropriate comparison.

    If you consider the US’ non-Black immigrant groups they have historically tended to climb the socioeconomic ladder pretty effectively. Italians, Irish, and Eastern Europeans have and Hispanic families tend to move up within a generation or two as well. But none of them were descended from slaves.

  26. There are millions of intact Indian families, even today, where the bride is 15, 16 or 18 and groom is 16, 18 or 21 (never mind what the marriage laws stipulate) and they have their first child within a year of marriage. Plenty of immaturity there too.

    Joint family arrangements bring a great deal more maturity and parenting expertise to the table in those cases, so it’s not a perfect parallel to teen pregnancies in the US.

    Beyond that, economic opportunities in the kinds of areas where such young marriages are common are also such that the returns to anything past a primary or secondary school education are slim anyway.

  27. Vinod says, FWIW, US Healthcare today is about 50% socialized ($$ spent by govt directly/indirectly), 40% 3rd party ($$ spent by employer insurance) and only ~10% fully private (patient directly involved in payment)….From there, it’s sorta political w.r.t how you want to parcel out blame / credit for diff aspects of US healthcare to each party. You can guess how I’d do it.

    Vinod the OECD per capita numbers adjusted for cost of living, latest are as follows, before which we shall dismiss your minor dodge of classifying spending. Private = Total spend-Government Spend.

    The US spends the maximum per capita on Healthcare – OK old news – $6202/year against an OECD media of $2461. Government spend is also the highest in the US although at 41% it is the lowest in proportion. Out-of-pocket spend is the highest at $903 and pretty high at 15% in ratio. In contrast in the UK OPE is zero. The US spends twice as much as the next OECD country on healthcare – Canada – and almost thrice as much as the OECD median. So that’s too large a gap to be explained away by rhetoric aka Miltonomics/CATOnomics/AEInomics aka junk economics. Thanks to Bush the one decent healthcare system we have had Medicare, has now seen sharply rising administrative costs and decreasing reimbursements because of subcontracting to cronies. The recent horror stories from the UK too are entirely due to creeping privatization. Check out George Monbiot for real story behind this scandal. The inefficient/bloated/wasteful/avaricious health insurance sector in the US requires a separate blog, way beyond this post. Given the pathetic and dishonest record of the health insurance industry in this country, no sane citizen should be expected to support the status quo. It is amusing to hear the old geezer – Chris Hitchens’s caricature – Ronald Reagan – on Medicare in 1960s!

    Now as for schooling, we should compare the record of private schools with that of charter schools. The former are free to pursue a selective admission policy, while the latter are not. Private schools of course do very well because they filter non-performers, while the record of charter schools is spotty and in states like Ohio is almost scandalous. They are almost as bad as the many private engineering colleges in India. Private schools in the US also have a unsavory past about them as many of them grew in response to the need of families that sought to escape desegregation and busing. There are also many academies that have picked out talent and nurtured it – like in the case of Deval Patrick. And of course today private schools fill another gap as well, providing a refuge to parents who don’t want their children to be exposed to evolutionary biology, secular ideals, Howard Zinn, and the Democratic Party! Extreme ones go further locking their children up into homeschooling, producing some prize automatons like that kid who talked at the GOP hatefest in February this year. Further school funding is such a complicated process and differs so widely from state to state that there can be no single or simplistic solution for the problem. In Ohio despite the state Supreme Court declaring the property-tax funded school system unconstitutional, nothing is being done about it. In contrast states where resources are aggregated at the level of the county, school funding is less sensitive an issue as also the quality of schools itself.

    The argument that “something exists so there must be a need for it…” is laughable. Not all hole-in-the-wall schools are the same, and not even all successful ones are a sign of a functional society. Take Ramanujam School of Mathematics that works with poor children in Patna and coaches them for the IIT JEE (that would leave SAT/ACT toppers in cold sweat). It indicates among other things a society that does not have enough of quality engineering seats, has p*** poor primary education, etc.,

  28. I just don’t think the minority profile in Canada or Europe makes an appropriate comparison.

    I lived in the U.S. for 11 years. I now live in Canada. The immigrant profile in Canada is very different from the immigrant profile in the US (immigration policies of the two have been very different).

    But, in general, is there a socioeconomic underclass in both countries? Yes. Their composition may be different but they exist in the context of their respective countries.

    I don’t think any of those countries have the same level pervasive neglect and discrimination as the US did (pre-civil rights).

    Tell that to the aboriginals and the resident school victims here in Canada.

    I still don’t get your multi-layered point. So excuse me as I give up trying to understand.

  29. Tell that to the aboriginals and the resident school victims here in Canada.

    What percentage of the population do they constitute?

    I still don’t get your multi-layered point. So excuse me as I give up trying to understand.

    Short story: contemporary ghetto culture is dysfunctional and sets it up more hurdles in the kids’ ways than we can realistically hope to bring down without bottom up reform and support from their communities.

  30. Mods, last post I promise…need to cut Vinod some slack…

    In India 80% of the health expenditure is paid out of pocket! Do I see Miltonians and Randians rushing to fly out to India?

  31. Private schools in the US also have a unsavory past about them as many of them grew in response to the need of families that sought to escape desegregation and busing.

    Parents have a responsibility to their children. By getting them out of schools which were going to go downhill, they did the right thing. Sometimes what’s good for the society is not good for a community. And sometimes a goal for a society can be wrong, or pushed through in an incorrect fashion. Not following a society’s goal is not always a bad thing.

    Recently visited Michigan. Heard what forced busing has done to the quality of schools. Also saw the effects of Lydon Johnson’s policy in what Detroit has become. It looks like the families took the right decision in escaping.

  32. I would take both the book about the value of privatization with GIGANTIC HEAPS OF GRAINS OF SALT.

    World Bank policies, libertarian and neocon, are for privatization and less government oversight.

    Hoover Institute at Stanford (the link Vinod cited for US health care) is a well known neocon think tank, which has produced some of our most celebrated war mongerers and junk economics of Reagan, etc.

    Numbers (selectively used) can be made to prove any number of things.

    Don’t forget that the IMF push towards privatization caused the 1990s collapse of Asian giants.

    Don’t forget that the lack of gov oversight has us in the banking mess right now.

    Don’t forget that these think tanks that Vinod celebrates started the drum beat for war in the Middle East decades ago and the economic bubble worldwide.

    The fact is that the more India privatizes the more it creates the veneer and illusion of wealth. Many of these private schools which pepper not just India but most of Asia are completely unregulated and function with no oversight.

    I have no problem with private schools, etc., but don’t ignore that Tooley’s study, “at the behest of the World Bank” and funded by a liberatarian think tank is political.

    You cannot compare the “results” from this “study” to that of private schools in America. In America, the Board of Education, of which I am a part of, through standardized tests, accreditation, etc., enforces incredibly hands-on oversight. The education system in America is one of the most tightly controlled entity I have ever experienced.

    There is absolutely nothing equivalent in Indian (or other Asian countries’) private schools. The supposed success of students from private schools is coincidental and, as I have already said, the entire book, based on who is funding the study, etc, is a political enterprise. Not reality.

    Remember, there were WMDs in Iraq…right?

    Don’t let these neocons play with our childrens’ futures.

  33. Also,

    Yoga Fire,

    Your points about the failure of public schools in inner cities and in rural areas as related to lack of community and parental supervision are correct to an extent.

    HOWEVER, even if some public schools are a mess, please don’t underestimate how much public schools accomplish. In fact, I would argue that what we do in them is nothing short of spectacular, considering what kind of mess a vast number of kids comes from. Without public education and the incredible work the teachers and admin do, I shudder to think where our next generation would end up.

    You would be SHOCKED to hear how many of America’s kids would go hungry if we didn’t have public school and summer feeding programs — all supported with gov funds and regulated by the gov.

    Conservatives in America love to cite problems with public schools to further cut our funding, when we need more government support, not less.

    If India wants to privatize, it needs to adopt the strict accreditation guidelines, tenure and program review, and other very strict oversights present in America.

    America can afford to privatize to an extent because we have the governmental bodies to enforce basic standards and guidelines. India’s infrastructure is an absolute joke under most definitions of infrastructure. As LinZi mentioned, even the most basic dal-bhaat program is rife with corruption.

    Privatization in a system that is this corrupt is a disaster in the making.

    World Bank and IMF should be loaning money to India to boost its public schools instead of playing free market economics with our childrens’ future.


    And please take US health care stats from the HOOVER Institute at Stanford or from CATO or Heritage institute, etc., with the laughter and derision they deserve. These neocon think tanks are turning our country, and the world, into a mess.

  34. As long as it works for the Indians, it is good. 1% point less than privilaged schools id very good

  35. Tell that to the aboriginals and the resident school victims here in Canada.
    What percentage of the population do they constitute?

    According to Statistics Canada, 3.8% in 2006.

    Yoga Fire, One way or the other most people, including I, commenting here do not deny family and social support play a role in pushing average children to work towards any and all long-term goals and values, only one of which is the idea of pursuing a livelihood through academic or any other early-life success.

    But the ‘village’ is more than the immediate family (whether in inner cities or in Juhu Beach) and the ‘village’ concept has space for schools. (Perhaps there, we disagree with each other about the potential roles that schools play in preparing the young to be well-adjusted, conscientious, successful citizens in control of their own destinies within their own countries?)

    And among schools, one model does not fit all, be it public vs. private, be it Canadian vs. American, be it urban vs. rural. (Perhaps, there we once again agree with each other?) Yet, I am just curious enough to look at different models and figure out what works and why and where and who defines ‘what works’ and who declares what is success.

    Okay, that is my last.

  36. At risk of being accused of racism, I am specifically referring to there being something fundamentally dysfunctional about the environment in which a lot of inner-city kids are being raised….

    That’s not racist; you didn’t even mention “a” race, just a region . The regional aspect can be dropped when we return to perennial topic , of how some people are screwed over, because of race based, (not regional), affirmative action. Rural kids from S. Dakota never stopped anyone from achieving theirIvy league U of M dreams.

    I think everyone agrees with your points at #20 & #27 , though you have not taken into account time lines/history of political ideology/laws in the US, nor the HS dropout rate of the most recent immigrant group you mention. All of that hot air to recommend M.Gladwell’s latest book; Outliers. In particular the chapter on said inner city regions and education. More precisely the lack of social capital, & engaged informed parenting children in those parts of the country have access to, as well as a proscriptive is discussed

    Summer vacation for children in environments that are not equipped to intellectually stimulate them, lose the gains made in the previous year, while their “suburban” peers are learning in other contexts. He takes data from this study that illustrates the achievement gap by comparing reading scores before and after the summer term. Over the first 5 grades, poor students reading scores (after summer break) increase by less that 1pt. compared to 56pt’s. for their wealthy counterparts [California Achievement Test]

    His contention (the Kipp school in this particular story) is that we, the larger society, will not be able change what goes on outside of the school. But school itself should be re-tooled to address what they can effect via longer school days, less vacation. Also noted was Japan’s/Korea’s average school year of 240/223 vs the American model with an average of 180 days per year.

  37. That’s not racist; you didn’t even mention “a” race, just a region . The regional aspect can be dropped when we return to perennial topic , of how some people are screwed over, because of race based, (not regional), affirmative action. Rural kids from S. Dakota never stopped anyone from achieving theirIvy league U of M dreams.

    Aren’t native americans helped by affirmative action? Because the majority of the people in those poor S. and N. Dakota counties in that list are natives.

  38. Manju on June 26, 2009 05:16 PM · Direct link In India 80% of the health expenditure is paid out of pocket! Do I see Miltonians and Randians rushing to fly out to India? http://www.medical-tourism-india.com/

    Nice try, but not good enough. Healthcare and the practice of medicine is much more than surgery, a lot more. Call me when you get there…

  39. Aren’t native Americans helped by affirmative action? Because the majority of the people in those poor S. and N. Dakota counties in that list are natives.

    No, only African Americans benefit from AA, Native Americans, (white) Women, Hispanics and other minorities do not. In fact it hurts them, At least that’s always how I’ve seen/heard the argument framed. [cf the Ricci case ]

    If you look at the totality of the 100 poorest counties the US, its possible that the majority of that population, will be , umm the majority

  40. only African Americans benefit from AA, Native Americans, (white) Women, Hispanics and other minorities do not. In fact it hurts them

    An outrageous lie. Shame on you, dilettante.

  41. An outrageous lie. Shame on you, dilettante.

    don’t I know it!; meant to be a joke :-)