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Category archive: India

Saturday October 01 2016

The Evolution of Everything, pp. 181-184:

Evolutionary reform of education is happening. James Tooley, Professor of Education at Newcastle University, has catalogued - ‘discovered’ might be a better word - the fact that the poorest slums of cities, and the remotest villages, in countries such as India, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and even China abound in low-cost private schools. He first began studying this phenomenon for the World Bank in 2000 in Hyderabad in India, and has more recently followed it through Africa. In the cramped and sewage-infested slums of the old city of Hyderabad he stumbled upon an association of five hundred private schools catering to the poor. In one of them, the Peace High School, he found doorless classrooms with unglazed windows and stained walls, where children of rickshaw-pullers and day labourers paid sixty to a hundred rupees a month (about 90p-£1.50), depending on age, for their education. Yet the quality of the education was impressive. In another, St Maaz High School, he found a charismatic head teacher with mathematical flair who in twenty years had built up a school with nearly a thousand students, taught by a group of largely unqualified (but often graduate) teachers, on three rented sites, from which he made a reasonable profit. State schools existed, with state-certificated teachers in them, but many of Hyderabad’s parents were exasperated by the poor quality of the education they provided, and many of the private-school teachers were exasperated by the poor quality of the teacher training. ‘Government teacher training,’ one told Tooley, ‘is like learning to swim without ever going near a swimming pool.’

When Tooley told these stories to his colleagues at the World Bank, he was told that he had uncovered examples of businessmen ripping off the poor, or that most of the private schools were creaming off the wealthier parents in a district, which was bad for those left behind. But this proved demonstrably untrue: the Peace High School in Hyderabad gave concessions, or even free tuition, to the children of extremely poor and illiterate people: one parent was a cleaner in a mosque earning less than £10 a month. Why would such people send their children to private schools rather than to the free state schools, which provided uniforms, books and even some free food? Because, Tooley was told by parents, in the state schools teachers did not show up, or taught badly when they did. He visited some state schools and confirmed the truth of these allegations.

Tooley soon realised that the existence of these low-cost private schools in poor neighbourhoods was not unknown, but that it was largely ignored by the establishment, which continued to argue that only an expansion of state education could help the poor. The inadequate state of public education in low-income countries is well recognised; but the answer that everybody agrees on is more money, rather than a different approach. Amartya Sen, for instance, called for more government spending and dismissed private education as the preserve of the elite, while elsewhere in the same paper admitting that the poor were increasingly sending their children to private schools, ‘especially in areas where public schools are in bad shape’. This bad shape, he thought, was due to the siphoning off of the vocal middle classes by private schools - rather than the fact that teachers were accountable to bureaucrats, and not to parents. Yet the poor were deserting the state sector at least as much as the middle class. The lesson that schooling can be encouraged to emerge from below was ignored in favour of the theory that it must be imposed from above.

India was just the start for Tooley. He visited country after country, always being assured that there were no low-cost private schools there, always finding the opposite. In Ghana he found a teacher who had built up a school with four branches teaching 3,400 children, charging $50 a term, with scholarships for those who could not afford it. In Somaliland he found a city with no water supply, paved roads or street lights, but two private schools for every state one. In Lagos, where government officials and the representatives of Western aid agencies all but denied the existence of low-cost private schools, he found that 75 per cent of all schoolchildren in the poor areas of Lagos state were in private schools, many not registered with the government. In all the areas he visited, both urban and rural, in India and Africa, Tooley found that low-cost private schools enrolled more students than state schools, and that people were spending 5-10 per cent of their earnings on educating their children. When he asked a British government aid agency official why his agency could not consider supporting these schools with loans instead of pouring money into the official educational bureaucracy in Ghana, he was told that money could not go to for-profit institutions.

Suppose you are the parent of a child in a Lagos slum. The teacher at the school she attends is often absent, frequently asleep during lessons, and provides a poor standard when awake. This being a public-sector school, however, withdrawing your child goes unnoticed. Your only other redress is to complain to the teacher’s boss, who is a distant official in a part of the city you do not often visit; or you can wait for the next election and vote for a politician who will appoint officials who will do a better job of sending inspectors to check on the attendance and quality of teachers, and then do something about it. Good luck with that. A World Bank report cited by Tooley states despairingly that pay-for-performance cannot work in public-sector schools, and ‘dysfunctional bureaucracies cascade into a morass of corruption, as upward payments from those at lower levels buy good assignments or ratings from superiors’.

If your teacher is in a private, for-profit school, however, and you withdraw your child, then the owner of the school will quickly feel the effect in his pocket, and the bad teacher will be fired. In a free system the parent, the consumer, is the boss. Tooley found that private-school proprietors constantly monitor their teachers and follow up parents’ complaints. His team visited classrooms in various parts of India and Africa, and found teachers actually teaching in fewer of the government classrooms they visited than in private classrooms – sometimes little more than half as many.  Despite having no public funds or aid money, the unrecognised private schools had better facilities such as toilets, electricity and blackboards.  Their pupils also get better results, especially in English and mathematics.

Sunday April 03 2016

Which meant he did it with two whole balls to spare and scored five runs more than necessary.  Here.  West Indies swept the board.  Under 19s, Ladies, and now the Gents.

The name of the four-sixes man begins with “Br” and towards the end there’s “thwait”.  So, this blog can feel some comfort.  It’s only a game.  Which is BMdotcom speak for: My side lost.

Sunday March 27 2016

Or: Spoughts thoughts?  You choose.

Sport (spought) has been good to me of late.  Last summer, England won the Ashes.  My local cricket team, Surrey, got promoted to division one, and also got to the final of the fifty overs county knock-out tournament.  England then defeated South Africa in South Africa.  England (a different England but still England) won the Six Nations rugby Grand Slam.  And now (back to cricket again) England have got to the last four of the twenty overs slog competition, alongside the Windies, India and New Zealand.  Few expect England to win this.  But then, few expected England to get to the last four.  No South Africa (beaten amazingly by England).  No Australia (beaten today by India (aka Virat Kholi)).  No Pakistan or Sri Lanka.  But: England still involved.

Concerning the Grand Slam, the best thing about it was England winning all its games, but otherwise it was … a bit crap.  The recently concluded World Cup, in which England did rather less well loomed too large over it.  The World Cup featured no Six Nations sides in its last four, and when watching our local lads stressing and straining against each other you couldn’t help (a) thinking that the Southern Hemispherians would murder them, and (b) that a lot of the best Six Nations players seemed to be Southern Hemispherians themselves.  I mean, what kind of rugby world are we living in when the most threatening French back is called Scott Spedding and was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa?

The Six Nations was worth it just to hear Jonathan Davies, a man whose commentating I have had reason to criticise in the past, say that a certain game is “crucial”, and that Wales have “matured”:



As for the twenty-twenty slogfest now in full slog, well, I have been rooting for England (England’s best batsman being a bloke called Root), but also for Afghanistan.  You might think that as a devout anti-Islamist, which I definitely am, I would be rooting for the Muslim teams to lose.  But actually, I think sport is one of the leading antidotes to Islamo-nuttery, and it is my understanding that the Islamo-nutters regard sport and sports-nuttery not as an expression of Islamo-nuttery, but rather, as a threat to it.  Sports nuttery ultimately causes fellowship with the infidels rather than hatred of them, underneath all the youthful antagonisms which it does indeed inflame.  It’s hard not to get pally with people when you play or follow games with them and against them, especially as you get older, and remember previous hostilities with fondness rather than anger.

So, in short: go Afghanistan!  The Afghanistan twenty-twenty cricket team, I mean.  Afghanistan gave England a hell of a fright and nearly beat them.  And yesterday, they actually did beat the West Indies, even though it didn’t count for so much because the Windies had already got through to the semis and the Afghans would be going home now no matter what.  But, even so, beating the Windies was a big deal, and the cricket world will have noticed, big time.

Here is Cricinfo, at the moment of Afghan triumph:


I love it when a T20 game really boils up, and they put “dot ball” in bold letters, the way they usually only write “OUT” and “FOUR” and “SIX” and “dropped”, or, as in this case, “an amazing, brave, brilliant running catch!”

And soon after that climax to the game, came this:


Chris Gayle is quite a character.  Having scored a brilliant century against England that won the Windies that match and put England in the position of having to win everything from then on, his commitment to the West Indian cause is not in doubt, as it might have been had he celebrated like this with the Afghans without having done any other notable things in this tournament.  He has quarrelled with West Indian cricket bureaucrats over the years, and has definitely seemed to have like playing for the Bangalore Royal Challengers more than for the West Indies.

His demeanour after today’s Afghan game is in sharp contrast to his lordly impassivity after taking the wicket of David Miller of South Africa, which reduced South Africa to 47-5, a predicament from which they failed to recover


One of the delights of virtually following this tournament is that it has been possible to watch little videos of dramatic moments, like the one of Gayle taking this wicket and then not celebrating very much.  The graphic additions to this posting are merely screen captures.  Clicking on them accomplishes nothing.  But if you go to the original commentary from which I took my graphics, you can click on the little black video prompts, and get a little video of the drama just described.

Also: Happy Easter.

Thursday August 27 2015

This combines two interests of mine, the use of containers to make buildings, and the use of colour, to make buildings look more colourful:


It a proposal for a bunch of skyscrapers in MumbaiFrank Gehry‘s influence is starting to spread.

But is it serious?  It shouldn’t be.  Making a skyscraper by piling containers on top of each other makes no sense, because the ones at the bottom have to be able to support the ones at the top.  And the ones at the top have to be very light.  The idea of having all the containers of the same structural strength and hence the same weight is foolishness containerised.  The ones at the top will be far too heavy for what they are doing and the ones at the bottom will be squashed flat.

And if you are not piling containers on top of each other, but are merely slotting them into an already constructed structure, then here’s a plan.  Why not save bother by not using big, heavy, lumpy old containers.  The simple fact is, containers are only useful for making regular old buildings of the sort of height that buildings used to be before they invented mechanical lifts and structural steel (even though containers are themselves made of structural steel) and reinforced concrete.

Besides which, it surely only makes sense to make a building out of containers if you can get some leftover containers on the cheap.  There’s no way they could get that many containers by just waiting for them to fall off a container ship.

Wednesday April 08 2015


Police in India have a new weapon for controlling unruly protesters in the world’s largest democracy: pepper-spraying drones.

Yashasvi Yadav, police chief of the northern city of Lucknow, said on Tuesday that his officers have successfully test-flown the newly purchased drones with a view to better crowd control.

So, when will BrianMicklethwaitDotCom be linking to a story about how the protesters have their own drones, to attack the police drones with?  Drones are not just the automation of aerial warfare.  They are the potential degovernmentalisation of aerial warfare.  I mean, how the hell will they stop this?  Drones are ridiculously cheap compared to regular airplanes.  It’s only a matter of time before no major political demonstratiion will be complete without a struggle for command of the air.

I wonder if people like Police Chief Yadav realise what they may be starting.

Sunday December 21 2014

Incoming from Michael Jennings:

As of this morning, thirteen successive Australia v India tests have been won by the home side. Seven of these matches have been won (and hosted) by India, and six by Australia. If Australia win the remaining two tests in this series (which may or may not happen) this will be the fourth successive Australia v India series to be a whitewash to the home side.

He was talking about this game.

Cricket has been a bit of a wasteland for me lately, what with county cricket being in hibernation and England playing nothing but one day cricket, which they are rather rubbish at.  They have been preparing for the forthcoming one day World Cup, by losing a one day series in Sri Lanka and then by replacing their captain.  But the feeling among cricket’s chattereres is that sacking Cook will improve England, and one day knock-out tournaments are such a lottery that I will live in hope, for as long as there is any.

Saturday October 18 2014

This funny letter posting got me googling for Viz, which has the best letters page bar none.  I found a clutch of Viz epistolatory masterpieces here, of which this is my favourite:

What is it with vegetarians and their veggie sausages and burgers?  I’m a meat eater, but I don’t go around making carrots and sprouts out of beef.

This is also a good one:

I work in a call centre in Norwich and we’ve just been told our jobs are moving to India.  I’m so excited!  I’ve always wanted to visit India and with the salary they pay me I’ll be able to live like a Maharaja over there.  Well done Aviva, keep up the good work.

Interesting piece about the rise and fall and rise of Viz, here.

Sunday July 20 2014

As of right now, late afternoon, there is rain and wind outside my window, and not long ago there was thunder.  That’s in London SW1.  And yet over in St John’s Wood, there is a test match going on, and there is no mention of any weather getting in the way of things.

Oh, as if to prove me wrong, Nasser Hussain has just talked about how the rain is staying “east of Regent’s Park”, in other words travelling northwards from me.  North east and Lords would be getting a little bit of moisture some time around now.

It’s very tense, with England 62/1 and chasing just over three hundred, with an hour and a bit this evening and then all of tomorrow, weather permitting.  Ballance and Cook have put on fifty, with Cook batting like his life depends on it.  Which it does.  He won’t die if he gets out soon, but how well he does today and tomorrow could have a big impact on how he lives from now on.

NOT MUCH LATER: 80/4.  Cook just got out, for 22.  Ballance and Bell already gone.  England are not playing at all well at the moment.

Yesterday, someone emailed or tweeted Test Match Special, saying that the Notts captain, Chris Read, could be drafted in, to replace Cook as captain and Prior (who is now dropping catches) as wicketkeeper.  It may eventually come to that.  Continuity of selection is all very well, but what if they continuously selected team keeps on continuously losing?

See this earlier piece.

The localness of London’s weather
Capturing moments
0.080519 would still have beaten 0.074163
Cricket news: Surrey win – IPL – The Big Wosname
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
IPL thrills
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
Dream and reality in Mumbai
AB-solutely fabulous!
James Tooley discovers private schools for the poor in the slums of Hyderabad
Thrashing India
Today there is cricket and there is cricket
Friday link dump
Meaning in sport
The fluctuating fortunes of Praveen Kumar and the devastating impact of Lasith Malinga
The most celebrated sporting win ever
Subconscious cricket
Mmmmmm … Asian skyscrapers!
Twenty ten twenty ten
Surrey are now crap at cricket but they are sitting on a gold mine
Watching IPL cricket beats watching England play rugby
Cricket talk tonight
India looking good against Sri Lanka
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
Indian Premier League trumps test cricket
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
Dongling at Michael’s
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Africa is big
Cricket misery
The IPL is a new face for India but Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth is no big deal
News Media Coalition versus Indian Premier League
Flat pictures for flat screens
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
At the dogs
City Cat runs on air
Toy train to Darjeeling
Cricket is ruining the youth of India!
Gandhi on equality for all … except …
Ethereal India photo
Cricket with landmark
At last - the latest mp3 from me and Antoine
Election Watch is postponed
Pauses - Indian accents - English names
Changing the names of cities
Capitalism sermons and Bentley wings