Popularity of Private Schools Growing in Developing World
Many see education as a path out of poverty, and it definitely can be. But for this idea to be true, real quality education must be administered for children to have any hope of crawling out of destitution. Quality education can sometimes be a rarity in the developing world, but a new trend is changing that.

That trend is private schools. Private schools are quickly rising in popularity in the developing world. In fact, private schools enroll more students in developing countries than they do in richer areas of the globe. About 20 to 25 percent of students in developing countries attend private schools. This number is most likely higher due to the number of unregistered schools. A study conducted in the Nigerian city of Lagos found that there were four times as many private schools as previously thought – around 18,000.

The Nairobi slum of Mathare has 120 private schools but only four public schools. That’s right, four public schools for 500,000 children. This rush of private schools across South Asia, the Middle East and Africa have been caused by the inability of governments in countries like Kenya and Nigeria to provide basic, decent education. Parents are increasingly looking for alternatives to shockingly low standards of quality seen in many public schools in developing countries.

An example of the lack of quality education can be found in some Asian countries, where half of children who have completed four years of school cannot read to the minimum standard expected. The same issue is present in Africa, where the percentage is a third.

Based on parents wanting a solution where their children learn something has sprouted the trend of small, low-cost private schools started by entrepreneurs targeting the poorest families. The tuition bill for schools in Lagos can range anywhere from 7,000 naira (or $35), to as low as 3,000 naira per term.

There are a few benefits to private schools in the developing world. First is performance – students who enroll in private schools often perform better in subjects like English and math than their public-school counterparts. This success translates to a better value for their money, achieved for a third of the cost of public schools.

Besides better value for money, private schools are innovative. More access to technology might pose useful in the classroom, a welcome change from many public schools that are so severely under-resourced. More technology-based education will also prove necessary as the jobs climate moves from farming to more skills-based work in developing countries.

Finally, private schools also bring investment to their countries. Lots of schools are single entities that only charge a couple of dollars a month, but chains are beginning to form. Bridge International Academies has built 400 schools in Kenya and Uganda with plans to expand to Nigeria and India. Some of its backers? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the International Finance Corporation.

Private schools in the developing world are a promising second option for children who do not receive sufficient education in public schools. With cheap schools comes more potential opportunities for better-educated children who can then go on to change the world.

Greg Baker

Sources: The Economist 1, The Economist 2, Marginal Revolution, Education World
Photo: The Guardian

Historically, Brazil’s educational system has been lacking. Primary education was mandatory, but extremely ineffective. Even tertiary education was offered with insufficient supplies and buildings. While Brazil is still behind many nations in their scope of educational initiatives, progress has been made especially in regards to Brazil’s primary education.

UNESCO’s 2015 data reports that among 15-24 year olds, 99 percent of females and 98 percent of males are literate, as compared to only 82 percent in 1980. The general population’s literacy rates are also improving as 72 percent of the total population aged 65 and older are literate whereas only 42 percent were literate in 1980.

Education in Brazil is compulsory between the ages of 4-14 with attendance and completion rates improving. Primary school completion is well over 100 percent – a number possible because of the inclusion of older students returning to school or the students who may have repeated a grade – which exceeds most developed countries.

This shows improvement because people who were previously uneducated are now going to school. However, it also shows that there has been a serious educational gap for Brazil to overcome. Smaller classrooms are also the average as the teacher/student ratio is currently around 20:1.

While those numbers are amazing, much work can still be done. When comparing Brazil’s literacy and math skills to other countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “ranked Brazil 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania” (HuffingtonPost).

One of their higher education institutions, the University of Sao Paulo, also falls far behind being ranked on a global university scale at 178 out of 200 institutions. This could pose a future problem for Brazil as their economy is becoming more vibrant; they will not have adequate educated workers coming through their educational system.

Another problem that can skew the astounding numbers presented is the disparity between those students in wealthier parts of the country and those students living in extreme poverty. The educational system is not maintained by the nation as a whole; each individual municipality is responsible for the maintenance of their schools. Much like what is seen in the United State’s educational districts, the schools maintained in wealthier municipalities are given more money while the poorer ones lack the same resources.

Children in poorer parts of the country are also subject to absenteeism due to malnutrition, child labor and high examination failure. So although education is free and compulsory, many children are still falling through the cracks especially those in poverty.

The UN has addressed this very issue as countries are progressing towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) #2, Achieve Universal Primary Education.

In an UN article, a press report by Mr. Lake says, “In setting broad global goals the MDGs inadvertently encouraged nations to measure progress through national averages. In the rush to make that progress, many focused on the easiest-to reach children and communities, not those in greatest need. In doing so, national progress may actually have been slowed.”

This appears to be the case in Brazil. Many children are in school and the benefits are being seen through national literacy rates. But many children are still left behind and not in school like they ought to be.

Hopefully the media attention surrounding Brazil’s sporting events over the next few years will help draw out this disparity and some permanent changes can be made for those children still not receiving adequate education. Even with so much still to do though, the quality of education in Brazil is improving.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Brazil, Huffington Post, The Global Economy, UN 1, UN 2, UNESCO
Photo: The Rio Times

More Aid Needed to Support Universities in Developing Countries
From 2002 to 2013, approximately one point six trillion dollars was spent on foreign aid by the world’s richest countries. Only two point seven percent of that total was spent to support higher education, such as universities in developing countries.

The second Millennium Development Goal was prioritized to reach free universal primary education because studies showed that primary education increased the level of social capital. However, tertiary education builds human capital and contributes to economic development.

The World Bank and IMF’s structural adjustment policies helped expand the challenges to increase access to tertiary education by pressuring developing countries to decrease their investments in education to reduce public spending. In return, universities lack the resources necessary to address the rising number of students.

Many private institutions find markets in developing countries, and many are creating more problems. In Ghana, 43 private institutions are banned because they did not meet the requirements by the National Accreditation Board to operate.

Private institutions admit students who fail to achieve university-level grades, their admission standards are relaxed to turn tertiary education into a business, and over 1,000 students have been withdrawn due to the university procedures.

In order to create a successful tertiary education structure, it must be aligned with primary and secondary education structures. By aligning these programs, students are more prepared to transfer their skills to universities in developing countries. Also, an effective tertiary education program provides trained teachers for primary and secondary schools.

Sustainable Development Goal targets for education include increasing access to tertiary education. Many donors are already preparing to make higher education a larger part of their aid programs. The UK Department for International Development is expected to make its biggest push ever for higher education funds in 2016.

In June 2015, USAID launched a statement for their Higher Education for Development Partnership Program that will make investments for tertiary education in developing countries a bigger priority moving forward. Higher education increases national output and helps meet the demand for skilled workers.

USAID goals include increasing access to higher education, improving its quality and research, and improving the relevance of development programs for the workforce in developing countries. Global partnerships will be the key to increasing the quality of education for students and to meet the growing demands for more universities in developing countries.

Donald Gering

Sources: The Conversation, UN, University World News, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post

In 2015, enrollment for higher education in Ethiopia reached only 8%, compared to the 32% global average enrollment rate. While enrollment numbers fall short, Ethiopia’s education system has improved since the end of their civil war in 1991.

Recovering from the damages of civil war is a difficult task and Ethiopia has been successfully making education a top priority. In 1990, 7.5% of government expenditure went to education and in 2009, 23.6% of government expenditure started going to education.

Most of the challenges for the infrastructure of higher education in Ethiopia are due to funding cuts and lecturers being committed to political parties. Anonymous workers at many universities say the schools require students to join the party and that spies report what is being said in the classrooms.

Over the next two years, Ethiopia plans to expand the number of universities to 42, an increase of 40 universities since 2000. The University of Jimma, which opened in 2013, has become one of the top research schools in Africa for materials science and engineering. Materials science and engineering is seen as the one of the most important fields for development and alleviating poverty in Ethiopia.

For primary education, the World Bank helped provide more than 78 million textbooks to students and improved conditions for teaching and learning in 40,000 schools through the General Education Quality Improvement Project. Teachers are becoming more qualified and many more are earning a three-year level diploma level.

Enrollment in primary education rose 500% from 1994 to 2009 with 15.5 million students in school. Today, 67.9% of school-aged children are attending primary school, a dramatic increase since the end of the civil war. Their progress in education exceeds the numbers of other war-stricken countries, such as Liberia, where only 40.6% of children are enrolled in primary school.

USAID is impacting the lives of 15 million children in primary school by improving their reading levels. In 2010, reading performances were low, and one-third of second grade students were non-readers. With the help of USAID, Ethiopia is experiencing an increase in reading and writing skills and more involvement from parents.

As primary and secondary education in Ethiopia strengthens, it is hopeful students will enroll in higher education and take part in PhD programs, which few Ethiopians have a chance to achieve. University of Jimma’s engineering department graduated their first 18 PhD students without any funding from the government.

The university staff volunteered their time to help students with the opportunity of gaining a high degree that will help propel those living in poverty and improve development in Ethiopia.

“You only need a couple of weeks in Ethiopia to realize that materials science is a priority,” says Pablo Corrochano, associate professor at Jimma. “Even in the capital you’ll experience cuts in power and water; in rural areas it’s even worse.”

Donald Gering

Sources: The Guardian, ODI, Social Progress Imperative, USAID, World Bank
Photo: Pathfinder