Education: War and Peace

134 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2021

See all articles by James Tooley

James Tooley

University of Newcastle - E.G. West Centre

David Longfield

University of Newcastle

Date Written: October 27, 2017


Low-cost private schools are ubiquitous across the developing world. This book explores their nature and extent in some of the world’s most difficult places: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. The accepted wisdom of international agencies on education in conflict-affected states acknowledges that some kinds of low-cost private schools emerge during conflict. However, it also holds that private schools can only be tolerated as a temporary expedient, to be replaced by universal government education. Our research supports the accepted wisdom in terms of the existence of low-cost private schools. While this paper clearly supports the accepted wisdom about the emergence of low-cost private schooling, it challenges the assumption that such private education should only be a temporary expedient. In conflict-affected countries, low-cost private schools should be celebrated, and seen as major contributors to providing quality educational opportunities. Reducing the role of government in education has many potential advantages. The recent history of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan shows how government education policies were major factors in provoking the conflicts. Reducing the temptation for governments to use education for their own ends would be very positive. Moving education outside government control could help reduce corruption and help bring about a better educated populace, which would act as a bulwark against states oppressing their people. Currently, international agencies tend to focus on creating, improving, and expanding the remit of ministries of education as their way of improving education. Our research suggests an alternative approach: a major underlying aim of any involvement should be to increasingly move educational provision away from government. Every effort should be taken to ensure that any initiative takes the potential for private delivery into account. Regulations can be adapted to allow for the flourishing of low-cost private education. Private-sector curriculum initiatives should be encouraged, to avoid government monopoly in areas that kindle conflict. Funding might only be required as targeted assistance for the most vulnerable groups who are not currently served well by private schools. Any such funding should go only to the families, to help supplement their income, not to schools. Provision of schooling by government is not required given the appetite and enthusiasm of educational entrepreneurs to provide schools where they are needed.

Keywords: Africa, developing world, economic development, education, education policy, government school, private school, schooling, secondary education, primary education, foreign aid

JEL Classification: F35, I20, I21, I24, I25, I28, O15, O12, O11

Suggested Citation

Tooley, James and Longfield, David, Education: War and Peace (October 27, 2017). Institute of Economic Affairs Monographs, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

James Tooley (Contact Author)

University of Newcastle - E.G. West Centre ( email )

England, NE1 7RU
United Kingdom
0191 222 6374 (Phone)
07976 403113 (Fax)

David Longfield

University of Newcastle ( email )

5 Barrack Road
Devonshire Building
United Kingdom

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