In a recent article in the Spectator, Harry Phibbs argues that school vouchers are the best use for overseas aid and he concludes with the following statement:
DFID is now funding education vouchers in Punjab and Sindh, and helping creating a better business environment for private schools in a number of other countries, including Nigeria. These schools are often subject to regulatory harassment by state officials, forcing them to stay small to avoid being noticed by the authorities and preventing investment to improve quality. In some ways it is curious that the British government favours education vouchers for parents in Lagos or Hyderabad, but not for Liverpool or Hull. Nevertheless, the shift in policy is very welcome. The coalition government should not boast about spending more on aid, but on spending it more wisely. Nothing could be more effective than education vouchers.
This article helps to shed light on an interesting phenomenon – the fact that many national governments across the developing world have been restricting the growth and development of private schools with one hand, while pleading for more international aid to help build more government schools with the other. The end result is that instead of children being enrolled in a rapidly expanding private sector, they are now forced to wait until the government opens a new school in their local area. And if no government school appears, then these children will remain out of school. This begs the question – could it be that national governments in developing countries are now the largest barrier to achieving education for all? While governments are often accused of not doing enough in education could it be that they are intervening far too much and therefore not allowing the sector as a whole to grow and develop from the bottom up?