The cause of much of the developing world's problems is a lack of human capital. Aid agencies and international groups therefore call for more spending on public schools, without wondering if this cash infusion actually achieves any meaningful change. Is there a better way?
Do pupils in private schools for the poor actually learn more than those in public schools? To find out, Tooley assembled and trained research teams that eventually tested 24,000 fourth-graders from impoverished areas who attended a range of schools—private schools recognized by the local government, private schools not so recognized, and public schools—in India, Nigeria, Ghana, and China. His findings are stunning:
The results from Delhi were typical. In mathematics, mean scores of children in government schools were 24.5 percent, whereas they were 42.1 percent in private unrecognized schools and 43.9 percent in private recognized. That is, children in unrecognized private schools scored nearly 18 percentage points more in math than children in government schools (a 72 percent advantage!), while children in recognized private schools scored over 19 percentage points more than children in government schools (a 79 percent advantage).
As goes Delhi, so apparently go Hyderabad, Ghana, Nigeria, and China: private-school students drastically outperformed their public-school peers in every location.