‘The state should encourage access to private education.’

By Ruba Dayoub, 40, from Syria. Please read and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Blogging Prize 2011*

Before discussing the role that private education can play in the context of developing countries, I find it useful to start with the definition of the term ‘developing countries’ from different perspectives. For instance, Dove (1986, p.2) presumes that ‘developing countries’ are those countries with high averages of population and illiteracy, and who need a lot of educational changes although they devote ‘a high proportion of their national budgets is devoted to education, planning and management structures’. While the World Bank and some international organisations (e.g. UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNDP) consider that developing countries are those poor countries which have lately become independent, have insufficient economics/ resources, and whose citizens are mostly agricultural workers and, generally, illiterate.[1]

Taking these definitions into consideration, there are some common features of developing countries as being recently independent, facing problems with their economics and; therefore, having challenges with their education systems. However, the solution to these complicated issues related to economics, resources and building capacities in developing countries is by improving, restructuring or changing education systems. Similarly, Psacharopoulos (1985, p.5, cited Chimombo, 2005), believes that ‘education is widely regarded as the route to economic prosperity, the key to scientific and technological advancement, the means to combat unemployment, the foundation of social equity’. This indicates that when education is good, the society will be safe. Undoubtedly, achieving any significant progress in the educational systems of developing countries can be seen as the key to the improvement of the whole society in those contexts. Therefore, when it is well planned and structured, education can play a vital role in creating societies and cultures, and improving economics and the quality of people’s lives.

Moreover, Glewwe and kremer (2005) and Chimombo (2005) argue that governments in many developing countries are working on achieving their economical progression and social welfare through developing their education systems. Hence, there is a great emphasis on the governments of developing countries to establish a conductive environment, and to facilitate the access to ‘education for all’. Based on this notion, many developing countries are now in a race with time, and trying their level best to maintain advanced economics and education.

Nevertheless, governments in some developing countries face the challenge of being unable to take the responsibility of improving the quality of education by themselves alone. Hence, depending on the public (government) education might be insufficient due to some challenges such as the large number of students engaged at schools, the inadequate facilities of schools/classrooms, the challenging geographical contexts of the country, and the lack of the financial support from the government side. Therefore, those governments tend to encourage some private educational institutions to work in their countries. They believe that some individuals or institutions might have the financial and human resources (HR) for establishing well prepared/equipped educational buildings that serve as a platform for achieving high levels of literacy, knowledge and awareness among people. Thus, they facilitate the work of the private education institutions and non government organizations (NGOs), and cooperate with them for establishing shared goals. They also try to benefit from the successful experiences by applying the new methods of teaching and the integrated curriculum, developed by these private institutions, in their government education institutions.

Being a teacher in a developing country, I have many good examples of the successful partnership and cooperation between the government and private education institutions in my country. They both coordinate to complement each other, and to make their efforts fruitful. Although the government education system in Syria is very strong, and proved to be one the best government education systems in the Middle East. However, the Syrian government have permitted many private institutes and universities (local and from abroad) to work within the Syrian lands, and to establish their educational buildings, based on high criteria of providing quality education and variety of specialized areas related to the needs of the Syrian society and markets. Consequently, the quality of education and averages of university graduates are high now in Syria due to the wide range of opportunities that the private universities are providing to students. In addition, the levels of English language literacy have increased among learners because of the wide spread of the private institutes for English tuition and learning. These private education institutions have opened the door wide in front of many students and learners to choose among variety of choices what might match and fulfil their learning needs. They have given students and learners the hope to continue the journey of learning, regardless their ages or social backgrounds.

The above mentioned examples are essential. So, what about other developing countries, where governments are incapable of meeting the educational needs of their people?  I have many examples of the positive role that the private education can have on the progress of those developing countries. For example, during my two-years academic study in Pakistan, I was exposed to both the private and government education systems in Karachi. I came to know that the private education plays a significant role in Pakistan as the government, with its limited resources, difficult geographical contexts and complicated political issues, is unable to reach all the remote and rural areas. I visited many private schools and observed their successful experiences through different dimensions: students achievement, teachers’ professional development (TPD), educational leadership and management, and the engagement of parents and the local community in the teaching/learning process. Moreover, I observed that my colleague teachers, coming from the private education system or working there, were academically better than those coming from the government education system; their achievement and grades were significant. Furthermore, when visiting the private schools in Karachi, I examined the quality of students’ work there to find them more critical and comprehensive than those of the students in government schools, and even better than of those of the same age level in my country; which indicates that private education can be a good twin or partner in the process of achieving the educational reform in developing contexts.This experience has stimulated me to think of how encouraging the work of private education, away from any commercial benefits, can be effective in pushing a developing country forward.

To sum up, as the main aim of education is to enable ‘children and young adults to acquire the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes that equip them to live as productive and fulfilled citizens’ (Turnbull, 2007: 188); therefore, I recommend that the responsibility of governments should be to facilitate the establishment of private education which should, in turn, match the standards of high quality education,  and supplement the government efforts in initiating any educational change. Moreover, I recommend the continuous supervision of the government for the private education institutions to mentor their progress and quality of work, and to support when required.


Chimombo, J. (2005). Issues in basic education in developing countries: An exploration of policy options for improved delivery. Journal of International Cooperation in Education, 8(1), 129-152.

Dove, L. (1986). Teachers and teacher education in developing countries. (New Hampshire: Routledge).

Glewwe, P. & Kremer, M. (2005). Schools, teachers, and education outcomes in developing countries. Retrived September 9, 2010, from http://ideas.repec.org/h/eee/educhp/2-16.html

Turnbull, J. (2007). 9 Habits of highly effective teachers: A practical guide to    empowerment. New York: Continuum.

[1] This piece of information is retrieved October 15, 2010 from http://www.wordwebonline.com/en/ DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

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