Viewpoint: Emerging markets should welcome low-cost private schools
MORE than 250m children in developing countries are not in school. Those who do attend often fail to learn anything. According to one study of seven African countries, primary-school pupils receive less than two-and-a-half hours of teaching each day; teachers are absent from class about half of the time. Even when they show up, theirs is a Potemkin pedagogy, lecturing to nonplussed pupils. Only about a quarter of secondary-school pupils in poor countries would reach the basic level of attainment on standardised international tests.
Into this void have stepped low-cost private schools. For a few dollars each month, they give parents an alternative to the public sector. Such schools are common—about 1m of them are scattered across developing countries—but until recently this has been a chaotic cottage industry of tiny, unregulated providers. Only now are private chains emerging, offering the promise of innovative education at scale. The prospect of change ought to be embraced. Instead, it is being fought.