on 4 May 2016
Peter tries to break the taboo that the poor cannot pay for education as that would disqualify them from being called poor. He attempts to show that free schooling for all is a great idea but one that in reality is happening too slowly for those who need it the most. And it is these poor that find a way to pay for the children’s education.
I got Peters point way before he finished making it. I got it at the end of the first chapter, understood it fully by the end of the second and probably could recited the next few chapters without reading the text until he finished making his point – which was at least half way through the book. And then we piled into statistics; great stuff for the academic but not so good for the lay reader interested in the motivations, arguments and politics behind the findings.
It is ironic that Peter, in my view, takes the long route of telling this story. Maybe this is due to his frustration that his argument that poor people do pay for their children to be educated, as being dismissed, or from governments and NGOs wishing to take the long route to free education for all and leaving a legacy gap while this is organised.
I wish those who would rage against him could look closer at what he is saying; and those who through formal structures provide free schooling seek to understand how they could become better in their provision. I had hoped his conclusion would have been stronger.
on 18 July 2010
Don't be fooled by the author's description of his "journey". This is not some soft focus third world tourism, but an examination of the waste in public education, and the virtue in private education. Tooley finds schools in the poorest slums where noone thought it was possible for parents to spare the cash to pay for them. And often they prefer to pay cash than to get public education for free. Why? Because public education is wasteful, remote and managed for the benefit of the producer not the consumer. (Teacher absenteeism is as rife in the South as it is in the inner city.)
So the bien pensant Gordon Brown / Guardian / International aid & charity types will hate this book. If you think that playgrounds are more important than blackboards, that quality comes from raising wages, that the poor are too stupid to make wise choices, that children rarely remember a teacher but give daily thanks for an inspiring classroom, then you'll hate it too.
Sadly for those of us who agree instinctively with Tooley, he is a clumsy writer and some of his argumentation is long winded and repetitive, which detracts from the pleasure of reading how even the poorest help themselves and each other. The book only occasionally succeeds in its aim of tugging the heart strings.
The publisher (despite Tooley's laughable claim to be non ideological) is the Cato Institute, a right wing American think tank. Education remains as politically and ideologically divisive as ever. You can however now contribute to private education in the third world through the foundation they have set up to provide loans and scholarships. Of course, the slum schools were already providing bursaries to their poorest pupils long before Tooley came along, but every little helps.