Education & Health

Private versus Public Schooling Choice at the Household Level

Project members:
Hamna Ahmad, Lahore School of Economics
Sahar Amjad, Lahore School of Economics 
Masooma Habib, Lahore School of Economics

Economists at CREB undertook a study titled “Determinants of School Choice: Evidence from rural Punjab” funded by the Open Society Institute (OSI) Privatization in Education Initiative (PERI) on why do poor parents choose to send their children to low cost private schools in the presence of free public schools. The main emphasis in answering this question was on the factors that parents perceive as instrumental when deciding between public and private school for their child, while controlling for a range of child, household and school specific characteristics. The study also looked at school choices beyond the primary level as parents’ expectations from educational investment in children may differ across schooling levels.

The study sample was selected from 1024 rural households in 64 clusters spanning 8 tehsils in 7 districts in Punjab with similar access to both private and public schools. The share of private sector school enrollments is seen to rise with the level of schooling, especially for girls. Private enrollments account for a fourth of all enrollments at the primary and middle school level and this proportion increases to a third of all enrolled children at the high school level. Thus it appears that the private sector has a much broader outreach even in rural areas. While the wealthiest families are four times more likely to send their children to private schools, even among the poorest 20% of households 9% of children are enrolled in private schools.

Our findings suggest that safety concerns for daughters are an important reason for choosing private schools for girls. Parents expressed characteristics of private schools such as shorter walk from home, presence of teacher and presence of boundary walls to be prominent factors in sending girls to private schools. It was seen that the better the academic standards and quality of teacher instruction in all subjects at the high school level, the more parents are willing to spend on private schools. For poorer families, additional expenditure required for higher standard private education, especially at the high school level was more likely to be incurred for sons rather than daughters and for children with greater academic ability. Another important motivation for choosing private schools is linked to employment opportunities in the area. Government and other professions such as teaching (especially for females) were perceived to require a certain level of education and investing in private education would give children a better chance of obtaining these jobs. The study was completed in January 2012. (Published as a book chapter:  and the report and working paper are available here:; The Privatization in Education Research Initiative (PERI) School Choice Survey is available here: