How Private Schools in Poor Countries are Reshaping Education

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It is widely understood that education is the key answer to freedom and progression. There are two quotes from famous men that I think sum up the importance of education perfectly: Nelson Mandela stated: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And our own Benjamin Franklin said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

In America, even though we face certain problems and debates surrounding education, we are very fortunate to have leaders (such as Michelle Obama and her #ReachHigher campaign) that are concerned with our country and people’s future by weighing heavily on education. But what about countries that do not have the necessary means or support to ensure that their children are receiving the best—or at times, any—education?

Across the poorer regions of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, many rural areas are not getting the necessary funding or support to educate their people. According to the Economist, “Half of the children in South Asia and a third of those in Africa who complete four years of schooling cannot read properly. In India 60% of six- to 14-year-olds cannot read at the level of a child who has finished two years of schooling.”

The Economist also notes that many governments in these regions have promised, over and over again, to revamp primary education and promote secondary education through their public schoolings. But, mostly due to corruption, the public schools are failing. The teachers unions possess extreme power that “milks” the state education budgets—and the governments simply leave them to themselves, fearing them as enemies.

In countries such as Sierra Leone, there can be as many as 6,000 “ghost” teachers. The absenteeism of teachers is roughly 15-25% in Africa. Pakistan is said to have 8,000 non-existent state schools. These corrupt unions are benefitting the teachers only, leaving the pupils, and the future generations of these countries, in jeopardy.

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However, the landscape of education in these countries is swiftly changing. According to the World Bank, instead of the “textbook case of a village with a single public school and parents deciding whether to send their child to that school, the [World Bank Research] team found a surprising picture: Parents can choose from an average of seven public and private schools, each offering an educational package that comes with different quality, prices and instruction materials.”

In Pakistan, for example, private schools have increased from 3,300 in 1987 to 47,000 in 2005. A census of Lagos found 12,000 private schools, and in Nigeria 26% of primary-age children were in private schools in 2010, according to the World Bank and the Economist.

It is important to note, also, that these private schools are not “elitist” the way the term “private school” commonly suggests. These schools cost less than a dime a day, and as The Economist puts it, these are $1-a-week schools.

While these private schools are facing some backlash from the government and educationalists, it is crucial for the development of these countries. First, even though teachers are being paid less, these schools are ensuring that the teachers are showing up and that the children are being educated. Isn’t that the most important thing?

Also, private schools contribute greatly financially. Investors such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are working alongside the International Finance Corporation, putting money towards private school chains such as Bridge International Academies. These investors are ensuring technology is being placed into the schools, connecting these developing countries with the outside world and opening the doors for better education.

The Economist puts it well and bluntly: “Critics of the private sector are right that it has problems. Quality ranges from top-notch international standard to not much more than cheap childcare. But the alternative is often a public school that is worse—or no school at all.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: AMY VAUGHN9d54e19e059511e2a62d1231380fd04a_7

As a Montclair State University graduate with a BA in English, my first love is writing, specifically nonfiction and short stories. International human rights and women’s rights are also strong passions of mine. I hope to someday be able to call myself Chief Editor, human rights advocate, and jewelry designer. I can’t live without Mad Men (er, Netflix), soy chai lattes, or my adorable Wheaten terrier, Pippin. 

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