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Can Non-formal Education Keep Working Children in School? A Case Study from Punjab, India

Education and Skills

This paper analyzes the effectiveness of non-formal schools for working children in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, in mainstreaming child laborers into the formal education system through incentivised, informal schooling. Using a family fixed effects model and sibling data as an equivalent population comparison group, I find that the non-formal schools effectively provide an alternative to formal primary education and also show high success rates of mainstreaming and maintaining children into post-primary education relative to the control group. I find that the children within the non-formal schools are 40.47-50.07% more likely to still be studying relative to the sibling-inclusive control group, and have on average a 3.45 years less of a gap in educational attainment.

I conclude that the child labor schools are serving a useful function in helping poor children attend school, regardless of their labor status. The policy implications explored suggest that aspects of the techniques used in the non-formal schools should be applied more broadly to the formal schooling system, including eliminating hidden costs of schooling, accommodating to poor and working children, and increasing teacher accountability.

357wp.pdf (287.25 KB)
Pamela Sud
Publication Date
June, 2008