International aid and educating the poorest

International aid and educating the poorest

Pauline Dixon and Paul Marshall
September 2011

The government has stated that it plans to raise the aid budget to £11.4 billion by 2013; a move that is sure to anger many who view systematic (government-to-government) aid as inefficient and dependency inducing. This report proposes a solution to the mismanagement of aid, through its allocation to a younger generation of social entrepreneurs at grassroots level who understand what needs to be done and how to do it far better than their frequently out-of-touch governments, whose primary concern is often that of self-preservation. In so doing, this report aims to show how the government can effectively manage its aid budget, whilst still maintaining public support in these times of austerity.

Looking at the empirical evidence available from various control trials, the report focuses on the particular example of school voucher schemes in some of the world’s poorest countries that facilitate a burgeoning private education sector. These private schools have come about quickly and organically in response to the failures of the government’s charity supported state system. Parents have made their opinions clear and these schools, charging minimal fees whilst providing high quality education, are frequently being chosen over the supposedly free and seemingly inadequate state equivalents.

However, whilst often cheaper than their state counterparts, many still cannot afford entry into these private schools. This has been noted by some charities in the developed world who have implemented privately funded and targeted voucher schemes in the developing world with great success. These vouchers, given directly to the poor without the government acting as middleman, have proven extremely effective whilst avoiding much of the waste and corruption that is often associated with aid. Furthermore, this report notes that such schemes could be applied to a much wider field and has positive effects in other sectors such as health.

Using a more rigorous and empirical approach, CentreForum proposes that through listening and engaging with those at ground level, the British Government could be far more effective with its increased aid budget, whilst also quietening those in opposition to it.

Download the full report

"This is the right thinking to aid. Innovative schemes around educational vouchers allow aid to be targeted at the grassroots level and give real choice to those most in need."

- Dambisa Moyo, economist and author of the New York Times best-seller 'Dead Aid'