Help parents help their children
This article in this week's Economist outlines the problems faced by the governments in developing countries when they try to provide universal schooling - incompetent or absentee or ghost teachers, powerful teachers' unions, demand that outstrips supply, and more. Into this void have come private schools - not perfect but tons better than most government schools - for which parents pay as little as $1 a week. Because $1 is a very significant portion of their total income, however, these parents choose their children's schools judiciously and monitor them carefully, and they certainly don't keep sending their kids to a private school unless they are satisfied with its service.
Naturally, educationists and politicians deplore these private schools - never mind that the children are better off. The article concludes as follows.
"Governments should therefore be asking not how to discourage private education, but how to boost it. Ideally, they would subsidise private schools, preferably through a voucher which parents could spend at the school of their choice and top up; they would regulate schools to ensure quality; they would run public exams to help parents make informed choices. But governments that cannot run decent public schools may not be able to do these things well; and doing them badly may be worse than not doing them at all. Such governments would do better to hand parents cash and leave schools alone. Where public exams are corrupt, donors and NGOs should consider offering reliable tests that will help parents make well-informed choices and thus drive up standards. The growth of private schools is a manifestation of the healthiest of instincts: parents’ desire to do the best for their children. Governments that are too disorganised or corrupt to foster this trend should get out of the way."
H/T TB, MB