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?


Bottom Up Thinking said...

I suspect international development may actually be a right wing conspiracy (!) to teach us would be leftists the perils of state dependency. Or something ...

See http://bottomupthinking.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/is-development-work-a-route-to-compassionate-conservatism/

rovingbandit said...


Chris Sheach said...

This same argument can be seen in a variety of places. In Canada, the debate over 'two-tiered' healthcare rages, as the left says 'no queue-jumping', and the right says 'privatization shortens the queue'. I guess it is Conservative to think that reducing demand on a public good should increase the investment per capita.

WP said...

Such an interesting debate! It is also important to note that although we are used to the concept that public schools are free, this is not the case globally, so the idea that the inequity created by school fees is only a problem in private schools is not necessarily true. Public school is free in some countries, but not in all, and not at all grade levels. For example, I lived in a country in southern Africa where school was free up to Grade 7, but students had to pay fees to attend secondary school regardless of whether the school was private or public. The main problem of attending a private secondary school was that because many were unlicensed, although you got an education you did not get a qualification at the end of it, which of course puts you at a disadvantage when applying to jobs or for a university place. The latest report from the Learning Metrics Task Force (Towards Universal Learning) recommends that educational assessment be considered a public good. As technology (and private schools) allow more and more people to access non-traditional forms of learning, perhaps providing alternative routes for certification, not associated with a public school place, is something which governments around the world should be considering.

Finally providing full access to high quality education for all students is a goal which is definitely worth working towards, but I'm not sure it has been achieved by any state, regardless of GDP (we certainly have not achieved this in the UK, despite tremendous effort). Essentially we all have to muddle through as best we can, and private schools provide a way for some parents to do this.

Post a Comment