18 September 2013

Do iPhones increase gender inequality?

DFID have just published a new "topic guide" (quick evidence review?) on low cost private schools by Claire Mcloughlin of the University of Birmingham.

This isn't a criticism necessarily of Claire, but I am struck by how strange it is that the focus of the debate leads with how private schools affect equity. We are talking about countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan with net primary enrolment rates of less than 75%. I struggle to see how it could be a bad thing in such a context if some parents choose to spend their own money on private schools for their kids, even if no poor parents could afford it and all girls were totally excluded. Doesn't that just mean fewer kids for the state sector to fund? Of course in reality the data suggests that private schools in many countries have roughly similar gender access as public schools, and many poor people (though perhaps not the very poorest) also access private schools. 

Of course when we are talking about aid or government-funded places at private schools then equity should be a key concern, but for privately funded places, who cares? Isn't this totally missing the point? Do we worry about the equity implications of the new iPhone 5s for access to smartphones in the UK (actually I shouldn't be so hasty, soon being smart-phone-less probably will be the official definition of relative poverty). And when did I become so conservative?


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