School Choice in Lagos State - Final Summary Report


This report summarises research commissioned by DFID Nigeria in 2012 to investigate issues of poverty and school choice in Lagos. Its objective was to provide background information for the design of a DFID programme in the private education sector. The programme is particularly focused on addressing existing constraints in the low-cost private education market, to improve the quality of education provided to all children, and especially to poor children.

The results reveal almost universal education across the state of Lagos, with over 98% of school-age children in the school system and an almost equal number of girls and boys. This is a success story for Lagos State in meeting MDG targets for primary education and gender disparities.

Income poverty and perceived higher standards in private schools are found to be major factors influencing school choice across households from all income groups. The results also reveal that among low-income households, a further key factor influencing school choice is the local supply of schools.

A strong positive relationship was found between household income and school choice, with high levels of enrolment in both government and low-cost private schools below the poverty line, and a sharp rise in enrolment in high-cost private schools after the poverty line is crossed. The majority of children from ultra-poor households are also in private schools although at a lower rate than higher-income groups. Ultra-poor households are also out of school at a rate five times that of children from higher-income households.

Private schools are favoured over government schools on almost all quality criteria. Parents’ perceptions of overcrowding and poor child welfare appear as proxies for poor quality in government schools, whereas policy-makers’ proxies for school quality are the numbers of teachers who are trained. Parents are aware that teacher qualifications are higher in government schools than private schools but still believe government schools are of lower quality, irrespective of teacher qualifications.

Low‐income urban settlements in Lagos appear to offer a range of affordable private primary schools from which most low-income households can choose one close to their home. This appears to be less the case for government primary schools. However, the higher numbers of children in private schools in Lagos are not explained by the poor supply of government schools. While some households do appear to select private schools because there are no government schools near their homes, all indications are that most parents would rather send their children to private schools because they perceive them to be better.

Some areas of Lagos offer no affordable private primary schools for low-income households; here low-income parents are more likely to select nearby government schools for primary age children, rather than private schools in other neighbourhoods. The age of the child is clearly a key factor in choosing a school close to their homes owing to the difficulty of getting smaller children to school safely.

Further evidence suggests that the ultra-poor are most affected when there is a limited supply of both government and low-cost private schools in their areas. Preliminary findings indicate that ultra-poor households there are likely to seek low-cost alternatives to private school or keep children out of school altogether. These findings are, however, limited and further research would be required to confirm if this applies elsewhere across the city.


Tooley, J.; Yngstrom, I. School Choice in Lagos State - Final Summary Report. I. Yngstrom, Melbourne, Australia (2014) 29 pp.

School Choice in Lagos State - Final Summary Report

Published 1 January 2014