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Sunday, July 05, 2009

A voucher too far

Just when you thought that the old ideological Conservatives had been sacrificed on the altar of Cameronism and electability, the shadow international development secretary pops his head above the parapet with another barking mad scheme.

Andrew Mitchell is proposing to inject free-market thinking into development policy by giving aid vouchers will be given to millions of people in the poorest parts of the world so they can shop around for the best schools and services.

He says that a Conservative government would also spend part of the £9.1bn overseas aid budget on funding for private schools across the developing world, which it believes would achieve better results than state schools and drive up standards overall.

The test of any policy must surely be how it improves the situation it applies to. In this case it is difficult to see how that works. However, as Oxfam points out in many countries there is no choice at all: "in many poor countries there are no services available, full stop. There is a chronic shortage of teachers, nurses, doctors, infrastructure and materials. What is needed is aid money invested in helping poor countries build and maintain free public health and education systems."

Kevin Watkins, director of Unesco's Global Monitoring Report on education, adds: "This is using vulnerable people to advance an ideologically loaded, market-based vision for education, which would exclude millions of kids from school. It completely overlooks the achievements of publicly financed, publicly provided education in countries such as Ethiopia and Tanzania."

Claire Melamed, of ActionAid, chips in as well: "It is the duty of all governments, rich and poor, to provide every child with a decent education. ActionAid's experience in over 40 countries tells us very clearly that, rather than using scarce resources to develop private schools for a few children, governments and civil society groups should concentrate on improving the quality and quantity of state provision that is available to all."

With ideological imperatives failing to fit in with economic and social realities this policy will be difficult to defend.
I agree with you, Peter! http://tinyurl.com/nfhu9x
Well, we are producing far too many teachers in the UK, and we are definitely producing too many in Wales. If teachers are needed in other parts of the world, (perhaps in countries that once belonged to the British Empire) then they could be recruited by the likes of Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). Have VSO recognised a need in this area?

Perhaps this is a way the Tories are considering as a means of soaking up the unemployed/unemployable teachers that are being produced by the thousands every year from our teacher training colleges?

Myself, I would like to see money being spent on more important issues like AIDS and HIV infection in Sub-Saharan Africa, let’s provide condoms for Africa. Or perhaps we could spend money on fighting malaria, or measles.

We’ve also got low levels of numeracy and literacy in parts of Wales, Comprehensive Schools were a very poor idea, the experiment has now been running for well over 30 years, it’s about time the experiment was ended, admit it was a poor idea and re-introduce Grammar Schools.

One final thought, if we are going to “ideologically loaded” these third world countries using British Teachers, then it will have a knock on effect of increasing migration from these nations to the UK, and I’m sure that is the last thing the Tories want.
This scheme is designed to save (I am sorry, postpone crash of) German car manufacturing industry. After 4-6 months it will be drained and slump in new car sales will be even bigger.
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