Does abolishing fees reduce school quality? Evidence from Kenya

Author(s): Mwabu, Germano; Bold, Tessa; Kimenyi, Mwangi; Sandefur, Justin

Organisation(s): University of Oxford (UK). Centre for the Study of African Economies

Date: 2010

Pages: 47 p.


In 2003 Kenya abolished user fees in all government primary schools. We find that this Free Primary Education (FPE) policy resulted in a decline in public school quality and increased demand for private schooling. However, the former did not reflect a decline in value added by public schools - as anticipated if fees contribute to local accountability - but rather the selection of weaker pupils into free education. In contrast, affluent children who exited to the private sector in response to FPE benefited from a strong, causal effect on their exam performance which is robust to selection on unobserved ability.

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