While researching private schools in India for the World Bank, and worrying that he was doing little to help the poor, Professor Tooley wandered into the slums of Hyderabad’s Old City. Shocked to find it overflowing with small, parent-funded schools, he set out to discover if they could help achieve universal education.  So began the adventure lyrically told in ‘The Beautiful Tree’, the story of Tooley’s travels from the largest shanty town in Africa to the mountains of Gansu, China, and of the children, parents, teachers and entrepreneurs who taught him that the poor are not waiting for educational handouts. They are building their own schools and learning to save themselves.  Named after Mahatma Gandhi’s phrase for the schools of pre-colonial India, ‘The Beautiful Tree’ is not another book lamenting what has gone wrong in the Third World. It is a book about what is going right, and it offers a simple lesson: both the entrepreneurial spirit and the love of parents for their children can be found in every corner of the globe.

Purchase at amazon.   Read online via google books.  See The Globalist for excerpts.


This is an insightful, empathetic testament to the motivation and ability of the most underprivileged people on Earth to lift each other—and a condemning chronicle of the wrong-headed, wasteful ways that many governments and aid agencies have used to ‘help’ them.”  Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School

With this important and passionately written book, James Tooley has joined the late Milton Friedman as a name to be reckoned with in support of ‘market solutions’ for providing quality education to poor children.” Hernado De Soto, Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, 2004

This is a great book—iconoclastic, refreshing, well-written, and careful. Tooley’s detective work reveals a major undiscovered planet: private schools for the poor.” William Easterly, New York University