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Submitted by Bob Prouty on
Shanta, You posit that African schools have poor results because teachers' unions support enrollment efforts but oppose efforts to improve learning. As evidence, you cite Merilee Grindle's work about teacher unions in Latin America. But her book says no such thing (and even if it did, I know of no credible scholar who would suggest that teacher unions in Latin America are functional equivalents to teacher unions in Africa, or that Latin America faces a choice between enrollment and learning in any way similar to that in Africa). Grindle says (p.119, 120)that the education reforms in the countries she describes failed because teacher unions weren't involved in the design of the reforms, and because the education reformers 'systematically ignored' the teacher unions. So...you cite no evidence to support the hypothesis that teacher unions in Africa oppose reforms to increase learning. You cite no evidence to support your hypothesis of a conflict between access and learning. And then you go on to state the breathtakingly regressive notion that Africa should forget the enrolment goals and focus 'exclusively' on learning. Which of course would mean that the kids currently excluded from access would be written off entirely until the more privileged kids already in school attain high learning standards. What disturbs me even more about this lazy line of reasoning, is that it flies in the face of the experience of those of us who have been working for decades on education reform in Africa. Improvements in access and learning can, and generally do, go hand in hand. And I'd like to see the evidence that teachers' unions are opposed to efforts to improve learning. The Global Partnership for Education, where I work, supports more than half of the low-income countries in Africa with programs to improve learning outcomes. Teacher unions are enthusiastic partners for these programs, and they are beginning to turn the tables. Politics, ignorance, neglect? No mention of poverty, war? ...Really, it's time to put these tired old tropes about teacher unions to rest. And I hope those who are working in the education sector at the World Bank will make it abundantly clear that you are not speaking for them.