Rethinking accountability and performativity culture of publicly audited private schools in Uttar Pradesh, India

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In India, low-cost private schools (LCPS) are a popular choice for poor parents because they provide better learning outcomes and are cost effective relative to free government schools (Day Ashley et al., 2014). Notwithstanding their popularity, these schools have come under threat due to the regulatory landscape enforced by the Right to Education Act RTE (2009). Although well intentioned, the Act focuses on ‘schooling inputs’ rather than ‘learning outcomes’ – mandating providers to redevelop infrastructurally incurring large unsustainable costs, inter alia (Iyer & Counihan, 2018). As such, many schools have since closed or continue to receive threats through sanctions and penalties (Kingdon, 2017). The Northwest region of Uttar Pradesh reacts to the regulatory landscape with estimates of 1.4 million children failing Board examinations (UP Board, 2019); continuous low reading performance in primary year groups (ASER, 2019) and as per the data from DISE school buildings not conducive for teaching and learning. This study is work-in-progress with the aim to investigate the performance of low-cost and government schools operating in Districts of Uttar Pradesh - post RTE Act (2009) implementation. Our work is situated within a vehement debate on the role of LCPS functioning in a post RTE (2009) world (Kingdon, 2017). To date, knowledge of their adaptability and survival is unknown. Therefore, using an explanatory mix-method framework (Creswell, 2011), the study is twofold. Firstly, we aim to analyse school access and learning quality gathered from publicly available performance databases. These data will help to form an online index – providing a publicly available dashboard allowing for comparison of schools and greater scrutiny of performance. The dashboard shall facilitate the measurement of key educational drivers to assess the learning outcomes of children in the most deprived areas of UP. In doing so, it shall outline the gap between policy and practice and this in turn shall uncover trends of learning across different areas of the state. Second, using the same District data, N = 45 private school proprietors will be sampled from low-to-high performing schools to take part in semi-structured interviews. Our aim is to understand how the intended and unintended regulatory landscape has impacted access, equity and quality in their schools. For this purpose, we adopt the definitions of technical efficiency and pedagogic indicators as suggested by Urwick & Junaidu (1991).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining Better Education 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2020


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