Low-cost schools in poor nations seek investors

Monday, September 18, 2006

My recent research has shown that private schools for the poor are superior to government schools ? teachers were much more likely to be teaching when we called unannounced in their classrooms. Private schools were, in general, better equipped with drinking water and toilets. Testing about 24,000 children we found academic achievement was much higher in private than government schools. All of this was accomplished for a fraction of the per-pupil teacher cost. William Easterly dedicates his recent book The White Man?s Burden to 10-year-old Amaretch, an Ethiopian girl whose name means ?beautiful one?, and the millions of children like her. Her days are spent collecting branches to sell for a pittance. She wants to go to school but her parents cannot afford it. ?Could one of you,? he asks, of entrepreneurs of all kinds, ?discover a way to put a firewood-laden Ethiopian pre-teen girl named Amaretch in school??

There are entrepreneurs across the developing world already showing the way. The accepted wisdom says children such as Amaretch need billions more dollars in aid for state education. But the poor must ?be patient?, say the development experts, because state education needs first to be reformed to rid it of corruption and inefficiencies.

The accepted wisdom is wrong. It ignores the reality that poor parents are abandoning public schools en??masse, to send their children to ?budget? private schools that charge low fees ? perhaps one or two dollars per month, affordable even to parents on poverty-line wages.

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Source: Financial Times (link opens in a new window)