By Dhun Davar, Program Manager, Education at UBS Optimus Foundation
Implementing quality education often remains a challenge in developing countries. Worldwide, 260 million children are out of school. 60 million of them are supposed to be in primary school. Where I come from in India, one in two students can only read a simple paragraph after five years of schooling.1
Necessities on the ground, and competing development programs often mean that public spending on education doesn't reach poor and marginalized parts of society. In rural India for example, quality schools are often several miles away from the villages. Parents can often not afford the cost of transport to send their children to school.
Civil society actors have been looking for ways to support governments in their commitment to quality education. And this is where non-state providers (NSPs) come in – mind you not the stereotypical private school with smart uniforms and expensive school trips. But rather privately funded schools, locally implemented and affordable enough for poor families to enroll their children. Today, nearly 17% of all primary school kids in the developing world are enrolled in private schools. That's nearly three times as much as in developed countries, and the numbers are growing.2
This increasing trend towards private schooling has the potential to drive innovation, expertise and talent when regulated and funded effectively. We believe such models have a significant role to play in providing a more diverse range of education options to complement traditional publically-operated institutions.
Yet there are challenges:
- Funding: UNESCO estimates the funding gap to be around 10.6 billion US dollars on average, between 2015 and 2030, over four times the level currently provided by official donors.3
- The sector is young, diverse and fragmented. It needs support in negotiating complex regulatory environments.
- While the sector has grown in Asia (the majority of schools are in Laos and the Punjab and Hyderabad regions of India), other areas can benefit too. For example in Zambia, 33% of children are functionally illiterate after 6 years of schooling.4
That's why we co-organize the Global School Forum (GSF), where we collaborate to bridge those gaps. We bring together leading non-state school operators, investors and other key stakeholders from around the world like the Gates Foundation, the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). By fostering a global collaboration in the sector, sharing best practices, and supporting local actors. We support operators by enhancing the sector's understanding of the political, legal and institutional mechanisms at play through sector cooperation.
Ultimately, no child should have to earn the right to learn. We want to develop a vision of private schools that deliver quality and that families can afford more easily.
Dhun Davar, Program Manager, Education