The Default Privatization of Peruvian Education and the Rise of Low-fee Private Schools: Better or Worse Opportunities for the Poor?

The process of 'privatization by default' has been prolific in the Peruvian education system; this paper explores some of the factors, risks and consequences associated with the process.

Maria Balarin, PhD - Associate Researcher, Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE)
Publication Date:
Wed, 15/07/2015 - 10:45
File Size:
6.06 MB

While privatization often seems to imply a direct policy intention, many low and middle income countries have experienced processes of privatization by default. Though they are often enabled by generous legislation that allows or even actively seeks to promote private investment in education, processes of default privatization often take place behind the scenes. This has been the case in Peru, where the supply and demand for private school education, at both the primary and secondary levels, has almost doubled in the past decade, concentrating 25% of all enrolments in basic education. Many of these are low-fee private schools set up by local entrepreneurs in poor areas where the supply of public schooling is either short or does not meet parents' most basic requirements. The paper explores the extremely weak regulatory framework in which the growth of private education has taken place, and then analyses the way in which a group of families from poor backgrounds in marginal areas of the capital city of Lima make decisions about sending their children to private schools. The paper reflects on the implications that the growth of private education has had for overall levels of educational segregation and questions the extent to which the full and unregulated private school market is capitalizing on the hopes of the poor without offering much in exchange.