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Studies from the United States, Latin America, and Asia tend to show no dramatic difference in student performance between private schools and public schools. The situation in Kenya—a poor country with weak public institutions—is different: the authors of this working paper find a large effect of private schooling on test scores, equivalent to one full standard deviation. The effect dwarfs the impact of any rigorously tested intervention to raise performance within public schools.
Nearly two-thirds of private schools operate at lower cost than the median government school, leading the authors to suggest that expanding access to private schools may be a relatively inexpensive way to improve education in low-income countries with weak public school systems.