Pakistan’s education indicators are abysmally low, especially when it comes to learning outcomes. Almost everyone you speak with has strong views on why the situation is what it is, and what should be done about it. Some advocate spending more money on public schools; others, improving accountability in the system; others, regulating private schools; and still others allowing private schools to flourish. Much of this debate occurs without much hard evidence on which proposal might improve education in Pakistan.
A four-year-long research project by some colleagues and friends, launched today in Lahore, seeks to fill this gap. The report documents the remarkable rise in private schools in Punjab, the quality differential between public and private schools, the relationship between outcomes and parental background, what makes teachers better teachers, and more. This painstaking analysis will continue to serve researchers, policymakers and the general public for a long time. Some people say it could be “the new Matlab,” a health and socio-economic survey of a region in Bangladesh that proved to be a mother lode of research and policy applications on health in poor countries.