Kevin Watkins is right – if the state education system is broken, fix the state, don’t go private

On today’s From Poverty to Power blog, senior visiting research fellow at the Brookings Institution Kevin Watkins makes the case in favour of public education. The post is in response to Justin Sandefur’s advocacy of private provision.

The article is a strong summary of the evidence and arguments in favour of a progressive to education. This is not to deny the problems that currently exist with many government funded schools in poor countries. But as Kevin says;

…when public education systems are broken they need fixing, not bypassing or franchising out to the private sector. And if we care about equity, there is no credible alternative to a public system that offers opportunity for all rather than choice for some.

Once again Brazil, governed by social democrats, shows how it can be done. The public education reform path that Brazil has followed means it is now one of the world’s fastest climbers in the international learning assessment league table.

The evidence in our favour is backed not only by the many reports Kevin cites in our article, but with the weight of history. As a comment on the blog points out, every country that has rapidly developed in history and rapidly expanded the education of their citizens has done this through expanding the public sector.

But ultimately, this is also a question of values. It’s a question about the type of society you want to build. Do we want DFID to be promoting progressive values of public service and equity, or are we content to let the state fail and let private providers determine what our children learn?


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