Information Provision and the Quality of Education in Rural India

This study seeks to understand whether providing information on the absolute and relative quality of schooling to the stakeholders affects the behavior of service providers in both the public and the private sector. The quality of public services offered to the poor, especially in health and education, is dismal in most developing countries. An often cited reason for the poor quality of public education in developing countries is households’ lack of information on the quality of education being provided by public schools. Therefore, disseminating information on the quality of schools is viewed as a mechanism to increase accountability of service providers and improve the quality of services. Bidisha Barooah uses a randomised design to study the effect of providing ‘report cards,’about the quality of education, measured by scores in tests of mathematics and language,in private and public schools in rural Rajasthan to stakeholders in education. This intervention is then varied by recipients of the report cards (parents or schools) and the level at which test scores are reported (absolute or relative to other schools) to identify two broad channels through which information can impact the quality of education namely households and schools. Barooah finds that households resort to switching schools due to the report cards but do not influence learning outcomes of children. Private schools respond to information on relative school scores provided to both schools and households by improving English scores by 0.3 SD within an academic year while public schools do not respond to such information.