In my last blog I wrote about how empowering parents helps increase accountability in schools in rural Mexico. Although I said evidence was sparse, it is accumulating. In Africa, a number of rigorous impact evaluations are underway and starting to report findings.
Many have argued this past week for an increased financial boost to achieve the education Millennium Development Goals -- universal primary completion and gender parity in education. But what should spending focus on, and how can we get the best from both public and private financing?
Not only are we missing the mark in terms of the MDGs for education – currently 69 million children of primary age are out of school, but this is only part of the story. Millions of children drop out early every year, and many of those who do graduate are still not mastering the basic skills in reading and math that are necessary to help them find gainful employment. As we scale up efforts, we must leverage the resources and participation of all, including private and non-state actors, to help reach these goals.
The following piece appeared as a guest blog in the UK's Guardian this past week.
A good public education system means public spending – but not necessarily public provision.
In OECD countries, more than 20% of public education expenditure goes to private institutions – communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations, trade unions, private companies, small informal providers and individual practitioners – and about 12% is spent on privately-managed institutions.
But does private participation mean higher quality education? Does it bring better exam results? Can it encourage greater equality?
Alternatives to the traditional public school system are actively being sought and radical approaches for expanding school accountability are being widely touted. For example, in the award-winning documentary, Waiting for Superman.
While radical approaches are needed – given the desperate state of most public education systems; just see the poor results of most middle income countries in international assessments such as PISA and TIMSS – there are more mundane approaches, already in practice, that could be made to offer so much more. Giving public schools adequate resources, the right to make appropriate decisions, and holding them accountable through the publication of school results – in short, school autonomy – has been used in countries around the world since the mid-1960s. The school autonomy approach – be it known as school-based management, whole school development, comprehensive school reform, or parental and community participation – has been tried, evaluated, and proven successful at achieving a range of education goals in many different contexts.