It is increasingly recognized that there is a global learning crisis. This article investigates this learning crisis through a comparative analysis of rural India and Pakistan. Using data from each country’s Annual Status of Education Report, it demonstrates that socioeconomic status and gender are important determinants of whether children are in school, the type of school they attend, and whether they are learning. While learning varies across schools, socioeconomic disparities predominate: disadvantaged children in private schools are learning less than more advantaged children in government schools. Gender also plays an important role, with disparities between boys and girls most pronounced among poorer children in Pakistan. In addition, while private tuition improves learning for all children, it does not resolve socioeconomic and gender disparities. The study indicates that policymakers need to focus on government schools since that is where most of the poorest children study and where learning levels are lowest. The fact that more advantaged children are learning in government schools indicates the role that such schools can play in education.
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We are grateful to ASER Centre and the Pratham Educational Foundation for providing the ASER data. In particular, Rukmini Banerji and Manjistha Banerji at ASER Centre and Baela Raza Jamil and Sehar Saeed at ASER Pakistan helped in accessing and interpreting the data. We also thank Sonia Ilie and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on an earlier draft.
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Alcott, B., Rose, P. Schools and learning in rural India and Pakistan: Who goes where, and how much are they learning?. Prospects 45, 345–363 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-015-9350-5
- Rural education
- Private schools