Handbook of International Development and Education
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Handbook of International Development and Education

Edited by Pauline Dixon, Steve Humble and Chris Counihan

This Handbook considers the myths and untruths that currently exist in international development and education. Using historic and contemporary evidence, this compendium redefines the international development narrative through a new understanding of 'what works', drawn from pragmatic ideas and approaches.
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Chapter 8: The private schools revolution in Patna, Bihar, India

James Tooley and Baladevan Rangaraju


In 2010, one of us (Tooley) travelled to Bihar as the World Bank nominee for the review mission of India’s flagship education programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). In fact, he had asked specifically if he could go to Bihar, because apparently it was the state in India with the lowest enrolment in private education; he wanted to know why. Spending time in various districts of Bihar, however, he kept coming across low cost private schools in poor urban and rural areas. They were completely off the government’s radar, however, unregistered and so unacknowledged. This suggested a deeper study into what was going on in Bihar was required. It is now widely accepted that low cost private schools exist in large numbers across developing countries, in both poor urban and rural settings. From tentative initial reports on the sector (e.g. Tooley, 2000a, b), there is now a burgeoning literature on low cost private schools, including several major books (e.g. Srivastava and Walford, 2007; Tooley, 2009; Dixon, 2013; Srivastava, 2013; Macpherson et al., 2014). The literature reveals a hugely polarised debate about the significance of low cost private schools, their potential role and impact.

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