Private schools improve the quality and range of education available to both the middle class and the poor in developing countries, including South Africa, argues Professor James Tooley.
With 300 000 students, an annual turnover of US$26 million, and profits of US$ 6 million in 1998, Educor is the largest private education group in southern Africa. It listed on the JSE in 1996 and is now owned by Naspers and the black empowerment group, Nozala Investments.
Public education in many developing countries is neither free nor cheap, often subsidises higher income groups at the expense of the poor, and is plagued by inefficiency and waste. Very few, if any, developing countries have entirely successful public education systems.
Research conducted by the International Finance Corporation shows that accessible, socially responsible, and still profitable private education companies are mushrooming worldwide, including in South Africa. This suggests that profit and development can go hand in hand in education.
Tooley argues that the private sector can and should make a growing contribution to improving access to education and educational quality in South Africa and elsewhere.