A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Clive Woodward makes the most of Jim Greenwood and of Loughborough University
Previous entry: Polish deputy education minister says the British should learn Polish
Monday February 04 2008

James Tooley on the educational free market in Africa:

An estimated 40 million primary-school age children in sub-Saharan Africa are not in school and in half of the countries less than 60% finish the full course of schooling. But staying the course isn’t such a great idea either. The United Nations recently reported that, “Most poor children who attend primary school in the developing world learn shockingly little.”

A common response to these problems is to call for billions more in aid for public education. The poor must “be patient,” the development experts opine, because public education needs first to be reformed to rid it of corruption and inefficiencies.

But there is another way of solving this problem and it is being illuminated by, of all people, some of the poorest parents on earth. These parents are abandoning public schools en masse to send their children to budget private schools that charge low fees of a few dollars per month, affordable even to families living on poverty-line wages. In the shantytowns of Lagos, Nigeria, for instance, or the poor rural areas surrounding Accra, Ghana, or in Africa’s largest slum, Kibera, Kenya, the majority of schoolchildren – up to 75% – are enrolled in private schools.

Recent research has shown these budget private schools are superior to government schools because teachers were much more likely to be teaching when researchers checked in on classrooms unannounced, facilities were often better equipped with drinking water and toilets, and academic achievement was much higher, even after controlling for background variables. All of this was accomplished for a fraction of the per-pupil teacher cost.

Here in Britain we can, sort of, afford to waste billions every year on our crappy state sector, so we do.  In Africa, they can’t afford such nonsense, and in way, they’re lucky.  The people there know that either they solve the problem, or it doesn’t get solved by anybody.