The main argument used in explaining the increasing popularity of private schooling in an era of fee-free public education in developing countries relates to the perception of better quality education in the private sector. In Ghana, however, to the extent that it exists, the evidence for better quality is derived mainly from schools located in urban or peri-urban settings. As a result, little is known about the relative quality of public and private schools in poor rural areas. Using primary data derived from questionnaires and interviews and secondary data on BECE (Basic Education Certificate Examination) results, this paper contributes to the school choice debate by examining the school inputs and outcomes (exam/test results) of public and low-fee private schools in poor rural areas of Mfantseman district in southern Ghana. The paper argues that while the quality of private schools in urban settings may often be better than public schools in similar environments, at least in terms of measured outcomes, the same is not the case for the sampled schools in poor rural Mfantseman. It further contends that the simple perceptions of higher quality of low-fee private compared to public schools in rural settings are based on beliefs rather than realities. These perceptions, in addition to poor household heads? high aspirations for their children, fuel interest in private education. The paper suggests that for public schools to redeem their image the GES (Ghana Education Service) should consider working to make rural public schools more responsive and accountable to the communities they serve.
Akaguri, L. Quality Low-Fee Private Schools for the Rural Poor: Perception or reality? Evidence from Southern Ghana. CREATE Pathways to Access Series, Research Monograph Number 69. Centre for International Education, Department of Education, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK (2011) 44 pp. ISBN 0-901881-82-1