Economist wants poor children of the Third World going to school in 'shipping container' classrooms... 'Bridge International Academies ... has 400 nursery and primary schools in Kenya and Uganda which teach in standardised classrooms that look rather like stacked shipping containers...'

Although The Economist claims it will retain its editorial "independence" despite the fact that Pearson, which produces most of the standardized tests used in the USA, owns half of Pearson, there is really no need for owners' getting in the way. The reporters who write for The Economist are carefully selected, groomed, and trained to preach the doctrines of the global ruling class on command.


For-profit education. The $1-a-week school

Private schools are booming in poor countries. Governments should either help them or get out of their way. Aug 1st 2015 | From the print edition

ACROSS the highway from the lawns of Nairobis Muthaiga Country Club is Mathare, a slum that stretches as far as the eye can see. Although Mathare has virtually no services like paved streets or sanitation, it has a sizeable and growing number of classrooms. Not because of the statethe slums half-million people have just four public schoolsbut because the private sector has moved in. Mathare boasts 120 private schools.

This pattern is repeated across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The failure of the state to provide children with a decent education is leading to a burgeoning of private places, which can cost as little as $1 a week (see article).

The parents who send their children to these schools in their millions welcome this. But governments, teachers unions and NGOs tend to take the view that private education should be discouraged or heavily regulated. That must change.

Chalk and fees

Education in most of the developing world is shocking. Half of children in South Asia and a third of those in Africa who complete four years of schooling cannot read properly. In India 60% of six- to 14-year-olds cannot read at the level of a child who has finished two years of schooling.

Most governments have promised to provide universal primary education and to promote secondary education. But even when public schools exist, they often fail. In a survey of rural Indian schools, a quarter of teachers were absent. In Africa the World Bank found teacher-absenteeism rates of 15-25%. Pakistan recently discovered that it had over 8,000 non-existent state schools, 17% of the total. Sierra Leone spotted 6,000 ghost teachers, nearly a fifth the number on the state payroll.

Powerful teachers unions are part of the problem. They often see jobs as hereditary sinecures, the state education budget as a revenue stream to be milked and any attempt to monitor the quality of education as an intrusion. The unions can be fearsome enemies, so governments leave them to run schools in the interests of teachers rather than pupils.

The failure of state education, combined with the shift in emerging economies from farming to jobs that need at least a modicum of education, has caused a private-school boom. According to the World Bank, across the developing world a fifth of primary-school pupils are enrolled in private schools, twice as many as 20 years ago. So many private schools are unregistered that the real figure is likely to be much higher. A census in Lagos found 12,000 private schools, four times as many as on government records. Across Nigeria 26% of primary-age children were in private schools in 2010, up from 18% in 2004. In India in 2013, 29% were, up from 19% in 2006. In Liberia and Sierra Leone around 60% and 50% respectively of secondary-school enrolments are private.

By and large, politicians and educationalists are unenthusiastic. Governments see education as the states job. Teachers unions dislike private schools because they pay less and are harder to organise in. NGOs tend to be ideologically opposed to the private sector. The UN special rapporteur on education, Kishore Singh, has said that for-profit education should not be allowed in order to safeguard the noble cause of education.

This attitude harms those whom educationalists claim to serve: children. The boom in private education is excellent news for them and their countries, for three reasons.

First, it is bringing in moneynot just from parents, but also from investors, some in search of a profit. Most private schools in the developing world are single operators that charge a few dollars a month, but chains are now emerging. Bridge International Academies, for instance, has 400 nursery and primary schools in Kenya and Uganda which teach in standardised classrooms that look rather like stacked shipping containers. It plans to expand into Nigeria and India. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks founder, Bill Gates and the International Finance Corporation, the World Banks private-sector arm, are among its investors. Chains are a healthy development, because they have reputations to guard.

Second, private schools are often better value for money than state ones. Measuring this is hard, since the children who go to private schools tend to be better off, and therefore likely to perform better. But a rigorous four-year study of 6,000 pupils in Andhra Pradesh, in southern India, suggested that private pupils performed better in English and Hindi than public-school pupils, and at a similar level in maths and Telugu, the local language. The private schools achieved these results at a third of the cost of the public schools.

Lastly, private schools are innovative. Since technology has great (though as yet mostly unrealised) potential in education, this could be important. Bridge gives teachers tablets linked to a central system that provides teaching materials and monitors their work. Such robo-teaching may not be ideal, but it is better than lessons without either materials or monitoring.

Critics of the private sector are right that it has problems. Quality ranges from top-notch international standard to not much more than cheap child care. But the alternative is often a public school that is worseor no school at all.

Those who can

Governments should therefore be asking not how to discourage private education, but how to boost it. Ideally, they would subsidise private schools, preferably through a voucher which parents could spend at the school of their choice and top up; they would regulate schools to ensure quality; they would run public exams to help parents make informed choices. But governments that cannot run decent public schools may not be able to do these things well; and doing them badly may be worse than not doing them at all. Such governments would do better to hand parents cash and leave schools alone. Where public exams are corrupt, donors and NGOs should consider offering reliable tests that will help parents make well-informed choices and thus drive up standards.

The growth of private schools is a manifestation of the healthiest of instincts: parents desire to do the best for their children. Governments that are too disorganised or corrupt to foster this trend should get out of the way.



Journalists at The Economist speak, half-jokingly, of a mythical, perfect sentence for the news and business weekly. It is some version of this:


That implies, said Chris Anderson, who worked there for seven years in the 1990s, and Bill Emmott, who edited it until 2006, that the conventional wisdom has been outlined in a preamble. It further assumes that the writer has the intellectual heft to dismiss it in a single word. And that the subsequent paragraphs will go on to outline a more astute, nuanced argument.

Clive Crook, who was with the publication for 23 years until 2005, said he had heard another tongue-in-cheek characterization of The Economists style, simplify, then exaggerate.

Nikkei paid $1.3 billion for The Financial Times newspaper, which has combined paid print and digital circulation of 690,000, according to the company.Nikkei to Buy Financial Times From Pearson for $1.3 BillionJULY 23, 2015

That distinctive voice, often featuring acerbic British understatement a recent article described the alleged behavior of a British lord as gadding about with prostitutes runs through The Economists blend of pithy news summaries, deeply reported analyses and quirky asides.

Widely viewed as a magazine, it nevertheless calls itself a newspaper. It has no bylines. It has a dedicated following for its idiosyncratic photo captions (Youre the Yuan that I want). Its goal, outlined in a kind of mission statement on its website, is to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.

Either because of or in spite of these eccentricities, The Economist, now poised for a change in ownership, occupies a widely envied position.

It has, perhaps fittingly for an unabashed supporter of free markets, been consistently profitable for decades. The Economist Group made about $93 million for the year that ended March 31, on revenue of more than $500 million, according to its annual report. Though it is privately held, the company releases its financial records each spring. The Economists circulation has increased to about 1.6 million in 2015 from around a million in 2006. It largely reaches the kind of affluent, educated people who travel to international conferences on private jets, and its many admirers include the former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Karl Marx, on the other hand, dismissed it as the European organ of the aristocracy of finance. The writer James Fallows described it as a purveyor of smarty-pants English attitudes on our shores, revered strictly as a fashion accessory for those who seek to appear erudite and worldly. The politics and culture writer Andrew Sullivan largely agreed. He called it a kind of Readers Digest for the upper classes.

The impending ownership change is unlikely to settle the debate. A 50 percent stake in The Economist Group, which includes CQ Roll Call, has been put up for sale by the education company Pearson, which recently sold The Financial Times to Nikkei of Japan as part of an effort to streamline its businesses. Pearson is negotiating, according to two people briefed on the matter, with the publications current shareholders including Exor, the investment company controlled by the Agnelli family, which has declared its interest publicly.

Others who had coveted the publication, including Mr. Bloomberg, have not been mentioned as contenders, perhaps because the company has a complex trust system that essentially ensures it cannot be taken over by an owner keen to impose his or her whims.

The Economist Group has four kinds of shares: Ordinary ones, for employees, past employees and founding members of the company. A shares, held by illustrious names like the Cadburys, Rothschilds and Schroders. B shares, which represent about half, are the ones for sale. And trust shares, which control transfer of A and B shares, and are held by trustees who are responsible for ensuring the continued independence of the ownership of the company and the editorial independence of The Economist.

It has, in other words, carefully shielded itself from the free market forces it so vociferously defends. (Mr. Emmott argued that the position was consistent, as The Economist has no objection to private companies managing themselves as they see fit.)

The newspaper, founded in 1843, is put together in offices in the heart of London, a short stroll from the Ritz and a slightly longer walk from Buckingham Palace. The newsroom staff declined to move to Canary Wharf, a modern office development favored by financial firms, when its business staff did. Journalists usually either stay for a short period, and find The Economist is not for them, or for years, even decades, Mr. Crook said.

Its culture, said Mr. Anderson, who went on to edit Wired magazine, is based on debate. During his tenure, every Monday morning the staff would gather in the editors office, to figure out, by means of argument, the leader articles that would form the backbone of the next issue. It was the classic Oxford debating society style, he said. Ive never seen more of an intellectual meritocracy. It was a classic example of sink or swim. How did people end up with The Economist voice? Thats it right there.

It has also been shaped, said Mr. Crook, who rose to deputy editor, by the lack of bylines. There is a genuine sense that were all in it together, he said. Writers edit, and editors write, which makes each considerate of the other. And writers can contribute on unexpected subjects a recent article, headlined Girlfriend in a Conga, focused on the popularity of the singer Morrissey in Mexico because readers do not associate their names with one topic.

It appeals so widely, Mr. Emmott suggested, because it has responded to the spread of the English language, the end of the Cold War, the rise of China and other world economies, all multiplied by the effects of the Internet. It has become, he said the house magazine of globalization.

Mr. Crook suggested that economy of expression might be the key. The main thing he said, is not to waste the readers time.

Correction: August 6, 2015 An article on Wednesday about the potential sale of The Economist misstated Eric Schmidts affiliation with The Economist. Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, is on the publications board; he is not a trustee.


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