Thursday, February 25, 2010

Successes: Private Education in Africa

The assumption among education and aid professionals has been that these private schools for the poor can't possibly be any good, that they're exploiting the poor. There is finally a long study of them now by James Tooley, and the results are very encouraging. Laura Freschi at Aid Watch reports:

Parents living in abject poverty were willing to pay between $1.50 and $7 per month to send their children to private schools even when public ones were available. The places varied pretty widely: India, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and China. Why?
Most reasons that the parents gave for their choice had to do with what the World Bank calls the “short route” to accountability (as opposed to the “long route” which works through the political process). Because school owners’ profits and reputations in the community depend directly on whether parents are happy with their children’s schooling, they paid attention to parents’ complaints. Because teachers in private schools can be fired, they were less likely to be late, idle or absent. ...

Not that the private schools were perfect—far from it: many of the schools Tooley visited were tucked away in poorly lit, dilapidated, smelly buildings without toilets, and teachers there did lack government training certificates, and were paid less than in the public system. But Tooley found that in low-cost private schools, across the board, classroom sizes were smaller, and teachers were much more likely to be found teaching during an unannounced visit. They are also achieving better results: the students in private schools outperformed their public school peers in nearly every subject they were tested in.

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