Sunday, July 5, 2009

Unlicensed and unregulated private schools in the Third World

In the City Journal (one of today's most underappreciated publications, in my opinion), Liam Julian has a quick book review of The Beautiful Tree, a book by James Tooley (published by Cato) about unlicensed, unrecognized, and unregulated private schooling among the world's poorest children. Here's an excerpt from the book that stood out to the reviewer, where the book's authors did a study to determine how well these private schools actually taught:

The results from Delhi were typical. In mathematics, mean scores of children in government schools were 24.5 percent, whereas they were 42.1 percent in private unrecognized schools and 43.9 percent in private recognized. That is, children in unrecognized private schools scored nearly 18 percentage points more in math than children in government schools (a 72 percent advantage!), while children in recognized private schools scored over 19 percentage points more than children in government schools (a 79 percent advantage).

And it's not just those without access to free public schooling who are taking advantage of the private schools – even many of those entitled to free public schools don't trust them. It sure makes you wonder about the UN (and pretty much everyone else in the development community) putting so much emphasis on free, universal primary and secondary schooling.

Like most book reviews, this one is little more than a summary, but here's an interesting bit of criticism from reviewer D. W. MacKenzie:

The one nit I have to pick with the Cato crowd is on vouchers. Entitlements to education, like vouchers, can produce the same results that the author of this book decries- corruption and waste. But this disagreement does not detract from the general value of this book. Read it and learn more about learning.

I'd like to see some figures on the breakdown of where the world's poorest parents choose to send their children to school, and how many of those sending them to private schools have access to public schools.

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