Professor James Tooley criticized the United Nations proposals to eliminate all fees in state primary schools globally to meet its universal education goal by 2015. Dr. Tooley says the UN, which is placing a particular emphasis on those regions doing worse at moving towards ‘education for all’ namely sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, is “backing the wrong horse”.1
In his extensive research in the world’s poorest countries, such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, India, and China, Dr. Tooley found that private unaided schools in the slum areas outperform their public counterparts. A large majority of school children came from unrecognized schools, and children from such schools outperform similar students in government schools in key school subjects.2 Private schools for the poor are counterparts for private schools for the elite. While elite private schools cater to the needs of the privileged classes, there come the non-elite private schools, which, as the entrepreneurs claimed, were set up in a mixture of philanthropy and commerce from scarce resources. The private sector aims to serve people experiencing poverty by offering the best quality they can while charging affordable fees.
Thus, Dr. Tooley concluded that private education could be available for all. He suggested that the quality of private education, especially the private unaided schools, can be raised through International Aid. If the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) could find ways to invest in private schools, then genuine education could result. 4 Offering loans to help schools improve their infrastructure or worthwhile teacher training or creating partial vouchers to help even more people experiencing poverty gain access to private schools are other strategies to be considered. Dr. Tooley holds that since many poor parents use private and not state schools, “Education for All is going to be much easier to achieve than is currently believed.”
Hurdles in Achieving the MED
Teachers are the key factor in the learning phenomenon. They must now become the centerpiece of national efforts to achieve the dream that every child can have an education of good quality by 2015. Yet 18 million more teachers are needed for every child to receive a quality education. One hundred million children are still denied the opportunity to go to school. Millions are sitting in overcrowded classrooms for only a few hours a day.5 Too many excellent teachers who make learning exciting will change professions for higher paid opportunities while less productive teachers will retire on the job and coast toward their pension.6 How can we provide millions of more teachers?
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Discrimination in girls’ access to education persists in many areas, owing to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies, inadequate and gender-biased teaching and educational materials, sexual harassment, and lack of adequate and physically and otherwise accessible schooling facilities. 7
Child labor is common among third-world countries. Too many children undertake heavy domestic work at an early age and are expected to manage heavy responsibilities. Numerous children rarely enjoy proper nutrition and are forced to do laborious toils.
Peace and economic struggles are other things to consider. For example, the Bhutan country has to overcome high population growth (3%), vast mountainous areas with low population density, a limited resource base, and unemployment. Sri Lanka reported an impressive record, yet civil war affects its ability to mobilize funds since spending on defense eats up a quarter of the national budget.8
Putting children into school may not be enough. Bangladesh’s Education Minister, A. S. H. Sadique, announced a 65% literacy rate, a 3% increase since Dakar, and a 30% rise since 1990. While basic education and literacy had improved in his country, he said quality had been sacrificed to pursue a number.9 According to Nigel Fisher of UNICEF Kathmandu, “fewer children in his country survive to Grade 5 than in any region of the world. Repetition was a gross wastage of resources”.
Furthermore, other challenges in meeting the goal include: (1) How to reach out with education to HIV/AIDS orphans in regions such as Africa when the pandemic is wreaking havoc. (2) How to offer education to the ever-increasing number of refugees and displaced people. (3) How to help teachers acquire a new understanding of their role and harness the new technologies to benefit people experiencing poverty. And (4), in a world with 700 million people living in forty-two highly indebted countries – how can education help overcome poverty and give millions of children a chance to realize their full potential?10
Education for All: How?
The goal is simple: Get the 100 million kids missing an education into school.
The question: How?
The most essential problem in education is the lack of teachers, which must be addressed first. Teacher corps should be improved through better recruitment strategies, mentoring, and enhancing training academies. 11 Assistant teachers could be trained. Through mentoring, assistant teachers will develop the skills to become good teachers. To build a higher quality teacher workforce, selective hiring, a lengthy apprenticeship with comprehensive evaluation, and follow-ups with regular and rigorous personnel evaluations with pay-for-performance rewards should be considered.12. Remuneration of teaching staff will motivate good teachers to stay and the unfruitful ones to do better.
Problems regarding sex discrimination and child labor should be eliminated. The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), for example, addressed the issue of gender inequality. BPFA calls on governments and relevant sectors to create an education and social environment in which women and men, girls and boys, are treated equally and provide access for and retention of girls and women at all levels of education.13 The Global Task Force on Child Labor and Education and its proposed role for advocacy, coordination, and research were endorsed by Beijing’s participants. The UN added that incentives should be provided to the poorest families to support their children’s education.14
Highly indebted countries complain about the lack of resources. Most of these countries spend on education and health as much as debt repayments. If these countries have pro-poor programs with a strong bias for basic education, will debt cancellation help them? Should these regions be a lobby for debt relief?
This partly explains the lack of progress; the rich countries, by paying themselves a peace dividend at the end of the Cold War, had reduced their international development assistance. In 2000, aid flows’ real value was only about 80% of their 1990 levels. Furthermore, the share of aid going to education fell by 30% between 1990 and 2000, representing 7% of bilateral aid by that time. 15 Given this case, what is the chance of the United Nations’ call to the donors to double the billions of dollars of aid? According to John Daniel, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO (2001-04), at present, 97% of the resources devoted to education in developing countries come from the countries themselves and only 3% from the international resources.
The key principle is that the primary responsibility for achieving ‘education for all’ lies with the national governments. International and bilateral agencies can help, but the drive has to come from the country itself. These countries are advised to chart a sustainable strategy for achieving education for all. This could mean the reallocation of resources to education from other expenditures. It often means reallocating resources within the education budget to basic education and away from different levels. 16
A Closer Look: Private and Public Schools
Some of the most disadvantaged people on this planet vote with their feet: exit the public schools and move their children to private schools. Why are private schools better than state schools?
Teachers in private schools are more accountable. There are more classroom activities and levels of teachers’ dedication. The teachers are responsible to the manager, who can fire them whenever they are seen with incompetence. The manager is responsible to the parents who can withdraw their children.17 Thus, basically, the private schools are driven by negative reinforcements. These drives, however, bear positive results. Private schools can carry quality education better than state schools. The new research found that private schools for the poor exist in slum areas, aiming to help the disadvantaged have access to quality education. The poor subsidized the most destitute.