November 15, 2002
More Colcloughing

Once again I typed "Education" into google, and what was hit number one? That's right. Professor Christopher Colclough of UNESCO. I told you this stuff wouldn't go away.

LONDON: Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and India, home to 61 per cent of world's illiterate's adults, will not be able to achieve 'Education For All' (EFA) by 2015 unless special efforts are made, said a Global Monitoring Report here on Wednesday.

The 2002 "Education For All Global Monitoring Report: Is the World on Track" was launched at a press conference by Prof. Christopher Colclough, an eminent British education expert at UN Information Centre here today. It is prepared by an independent, international team based at UNESCO in Paris as part of the follow-up to the Dakar Forum and is funded jointly by UNESCO, unilateral and bilateral agencies.

Prof. Christopher Colclough explained the salient features of the report which has set six EFA goals at the Dakar Forum a few years back which are, to ensure that all children of primary school age would have access to and complete free schooling of acceptable quality, the gender disparities in schooling to be eliminated. Its aims include that levels of adult literacy would be halved, early childhood care and education would be expanded, learning opportunities for youth and adults would be greatly increased and all aspects of education quality would be improved.

Spot the deliberate mistake. "Its aims include that levels of adult literacy would be halved …"

As I said in my first report on all this, the temptation is to find the silliest thing being said (as I just did), to have a laugh and then to forget about it. But what we are witnessing here is the attempt to create a worldwide Ministry of Education. The effect of that, if it happened, would be to crowd out the efforts of more effective and more directly accountable freelance local educators who would provide a better education system at a fraction of the cost that UNESCO will incur. This is no joke.

With luck, UNESCO will be ignored by all those "donor countries" whom Colclough is now berating, and what money is donated will be pocketed by corrupt Third World politicians and bureaucrats. This will leave the field free for the voluntary and free market operators to do their stuff.

Education in Britain first started to be seriously nationalised in 1870. By then mass literacy was pretty much an accomplished fact, and although the effect of nationalised and ever more compulsory education was gradually to slow down rather than to accelerate educational development, state educators took the credit for the momentum that had already been established by the private sector.

But Britain, in contrast with the Third World now, was cursed (for these purposes) with an honest civil service. Money collected for education was money spent on education, and thus the serious educational damage could begin. So there is hope that the Third World education story may also turn out okay, despite Professor Colclough's worst efforts to mess things up. As I have also reported before, the Indian education story enables us to be optimistic.

Something tells me that BEdBlog readers have not heard the last of this Colclough character.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:12 PM
Category: Politics