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Private Secondary Education in Uganda: Implications for Planning


by W. James Jacob, Donald B. Holsinger & Christopher B Mugimu — 2008

Purpose of Study: A fundamental question for educational planners and policy makers is which secondary school providers are most efficient in raising student learning for the most youth, given an available level of resources. Considerable attention has been devoted in recent years to the proposition that private providers offer efficient alternatives to government-financed and administered secondary schools. This study examines the rise of private secondary schools in Uganda and calculates a unit cost estimate for representative samples of secondary schools, both private and government.

Setting: A unit cost analysis was conducted among 28 randomly selected secondary schools in Uganda.

Research Design: A national sample of secondary schools was stratified in three ways. First, schools were selected according to the type of school, allowing half of the sample to be government schools and the other half private schools. A second stratification involved urbanicity, so both urban and rural schools were included in adequate numbers to allow subsequent comparison. Finally, the school sample was stratified by the four primary geographic regions in Uganda: Central (n = 10), Eastern (n = 6), Northern (n = 6), and Western (n = 6) Regions. All findings are based on analysis of sample survey data derived from randomly selected administrators, teachers, and parents of students. Using secondary school leaving examinations as the measure of effect, the article examines the relative cost effectiveness of private and government schools.

Results: Private schools in Uganda appear to be attractive, low-cost alternatives to government secondary schools. Per-pupil spending is significantly related to learning achievement, regardless of whether a student attends a private or government school. Thus, if higher performance is the desired ultimate student outcome, additional spending will be required. For their per-pupil cost, this article shows that private schools produce good learning gains—better, in fact, on a dollar basis, than government schools.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Unit cost data, when combined with reliable and valid measures of student learning achievement, are helpful to policy analysts and policy makers in determining the most efficient use of money. Although the comparatively high unit costs of government schools in this study are affected by the inclusion of capital costs, there is strong evidence to support the contention that private schools are a cost-effective alternative to government schools in the provision of general secondary education. Recommendations for future research include extending the analysis beyond the comparison of costs and examination scores by also considering the intangible component gains of schooling experiences in both private and government schools.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 4, 2008, p. 867-893
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14626, Date Accessed: 10/23/2017 11:16:53 AM

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About the Author
  • W. James Jacob
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    W. JAMES JACOB is associate director, Institute for International Studies in Education (IISE). He is Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Administrative and Policy Studies at University of Pittsburgh's School of Education. His primary scholarly focus is on the planning, development, and evaluation of international organizations and programs with geographic emphasis in sub-Saharan Africa, China, and the Pacific Rim. His most active current research interests involve HIV/AIDS organizations; higher education institutional change; social change and development; organizational development; and organizational effectiveness. Recent publications include Overcoming AIDS: Lessons Learned From Uganda (Information Age Publishing) and a 2006 article titled, “Social Justice in Chinese Higher Education: Issues of Equity and Access” (International Review of Education).
  • Donald Holsinger
    Brigham Young University
    DONALD B. HOLSINGER is professor of education and development at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He has recently returned from spending 18 months in Cairo, Egypt, for USAID, where he was senior education advisor on leave of absence from BYU. Holsinger has served as a senior education specialist with the World Bank in Washington, D.C., where he was for a period of years responsible for that institution’s secondary education policy research program. Professor Holsinger has served as president and on the board of directors of the Comparative and International Education Society. He has held two Fulbright Research Fellowships to Brazil and Vietnam and has a long record of publications in leading education and development journals, as well as several books. Holsinger was a student of Alex Inkeles at Stanford University, where he received his PhD in 1972.
  • Christopher Mugimu
    Makerere University
    CHRISTOPHER B. MUGIMU is a lecturer at Makerere University’s Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Media.
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