Publicly subsidized private schools in developing countries: Lessons from Colombia




educational public-private partnerships, public subsidies, student achievement, disadvantaged students, education access, privatization


Educational public-private partnerships (EPPPs) promise to increase education access and quality in developing countries, provided they have an adequate design that restricts the distribution of subsidies including targeted programs, centralized controlled enrolment, and accountability. This study investigates the effects of publicly subsidized private schools (PSPS) in Colombia—a type of EPPP program that follows all of these recommendations. We use propensity score and regression techniques to identify PSPS effects on student achievement, measured by national standardized tests. Our results show that Colombian PSPS serve vulnerable students, who are fairly similar to those attending traditional public schools (TPS). Nevertheless, students at PSPS underperform compared to TPS students. Our conclusion suggests that design restrictions may prevent student selection and self-selection, but do not guarantee quality improvement for disadvantaged students at subsidized schools. We also argue that design restrictions for PSPS may not be enough when private providers are scarce or difficult to attract for serving the most disadvantaged population.



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Author Biographies

Claudia Diaz Rios, University of Toronto

Claudia Díaz Ríos is Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education on the Ontario Institute for Studies on Education at the University of Toronto where she specializes in comparative education, education policy, decentralization, and privatization. She has published on the politics of the governance of secondary education and the effects of education policy in Latin America.

Nathalia Urbano Canal, Universidad del Rosario

Nathalia Urbano Canal is Associate Professor at the Social Science and Humanities School, Universidad del Rosario. She studies education policy in Colombia and has conducted several projects to improve the quality of public secondary education in Bogota.




How to Cite

Diaz Rios, C., & Urbano Canal, N. (2021). Publicly subsidized private schools in developing countries: Lessons from Colombia. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(January - July), 34.