Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Private Schools for the Poorest of the Poor

The E.G. West Centre for Choice, Education, and Entrepreneurship in Education, http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/, has a research project that studies private education in the slums of developing education.

The results are astounding and inspiring. When their research teams talk to government officials, they are told: "There are no private schools there. And if there are, they are dark, dirty, and smelly places." When the research team that goes into these ghettoes, they discover an illegal private school virtually on every street corner.

In fact, there is a proliferation of illegal private schools in developing world ghettoes. This research team marks off specific regions and goes block to block to count them. In one zone of approximately 10 sq. kms in India, they found 320 government schools, 214 legal (registered) private schools, and 335 illegal private schools. Both the legal and illegal private schools result in dramatically better academic performance than do the government private schools, with better facilities, lower teacher:student ratios, and higher test scores. What is remarkable is that these kind of results seem to be robust across very different countries, including India, Nigeria, and China.

In the poorest neighborhoods, even when free public schools are available, there are parents finding a way to send their kids to private schools. And even in these small, private, proprietary schools run by a struggling entrepreneur, 9% of the students are given free tuition.

For more detail see their paper: "Serving the Needs of the Poor: The Private Education Sector in Developing Countries," http://tinyurl.com/4b2bd

There is a fabulous feature-length documentary to be made on this (I saw a short documentary presented by one of the lead researchers, Dr. Pauline Dixon, who is idealistically passionate about the findings of her work.)

Relatedly, see the following article on "The Hole in the Wall Project," where researchers put a computer terminal in a hole in the wall in the street of a poor neighborhood, and with no instruction kids learned quite a lot:



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