Educating on a budget: The subsistence model of low-fee private schooling in Peru


  • María Balarin Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE)
  • Clara Fontdevila Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  • Paola Marius
  • María Fernanda Rodríguez Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE)



Perú, escuelas privadas de bajo coste, mercados de subsistencia, análisis organizacional


Over the last decades, Peru has experienced an extraordinary rise of low-fee private schools (LFPSs). While global debates on the quality of this modality of schooling have been gaining currency, research on the organizational practices of LFPSs remains comparatively underdeveloped. This paper aims at identifying and describing the managerial, business and organizational practices exhibited by Peruvian LFPSs– and at understanding them in relation to the social norms and institutional arrangements specific to the context in which they operate. The study draws on a combination of archival analysis, interviews with decision-makers, and interviews with school owners and principals. The results of our research show that the specificities of the socioeconomic, cultural and regulative environments in which Peruvian LFPSs operate have led to the consolidation of a particular subsistence model of LFPS where profit-making appears to play a limited role. This model is also characterized by the low formalization of management routines, the impossibility to generate economies of scale, and the reliance on interpersonal trust as a means to reduce risk – in a context of low bureaucratization and limited regulatory oversight. We argue that, in view of the distinctly low achievement levels of Peruvian LFPSs, gaining a fine-grained understanding of their organizational practices (and the incentives they respond to) remains a relevant task, and a necessary step to devise effective policy strategies.


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Author Biographies

María Balarin, Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE)

María Balarin is a Senior Researcher at the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE) where she has a broad portfolio of both applied and academic research. Her applied work focuses on the analysis and qualitative evaluation of educational and social policies, and her academic work has mostly focused on the field of education, where she has been concerned with understanding how educational processes mediate relations between the state and society. Her recent work focuses on the impact of educational markets on patterns of social segregation; and on vulnerable youth transition processes in the context of exclusionary citizenship regimes. She holds a PhD in Education Policy from the University of Bath, an MA in Psychoanalytic Studies from the University of Essex.

Clara Fontdevila, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Clara Fontdevila is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, with a thesis focusing on the negotiation of the Education 2030 agenda - with an emphasis on the development of learning metrics and quality indicators. She graduated with a BA in Sociology in the same university. Over recent years she has collaborated as a consultant with Open Societies Foundation, Education International and UNESCO. Her areas of interest are education markets, the global governance of education, and international development.

Paola Marius

Paola Marius Vásquez Paola Marius holds an Erasmus Mundus Master's degree in Education Policies for Global Development by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, University of Oslo and University of Malta. She graduated in Political Science and Government in the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. She has experience in the design, management and monitoring of partnerships and cooperation projects with international organizations, both in the private and the public sector and has collaborated extensively with the Ministry of Education of Peru.

María Fernanda Rodríguez, Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE)

María Fernanda Rodíguez holds a Bachelor in Sociology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. She has collaborated with GRADE as a research assistant, and she is currently professionally engaged with the Ministry of Education of Peru. Her areas of interest include education, youth, urban sociology, and policy design and implementation.




How to Cite

Balarin, M., Fontdevila, C., Marius, P., & Rodríguez, M. F. (2019). Educating on a budget: The subsistence model of low-fee private schooling in Peru. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 132.



Globalization, Privatization, Marginalization