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Compensating Policies for Small Schools: Addressing Schooling Inequalities in Rural India

Jun 2012
Policy Brief
By  Anjini Kochar
India, along with other countries, has long wrestled with considerable schooling inequalities, with children from wealthier families residing in more developed regions and performing significantly better than those from less privileged backgrounds. These differences, widely attributed to family characteristics that shape learning from very early stages, have proved difficult to reduce even through policies specifically designed to redress schooling inequalities. In this brief I suggest that the failure may lie in the policy design. All too frequently, policies are based on assumptions regarding the underlying constraints that determine schooling outcomes, assumptions that may not be valid. Additionally, the corrective measures put in place generally identify low-quality schools on the basis of a common set of indices. Because of the extensive variation in socioeconomic conditions across the country, even within a state, a common set of indices may result in the mis-targeting of funds, with more resources going to academically strong schools rather than to those in backward regions.