A conversation between James Tooley, author of The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves and Clive Crook, the Atlantic
Everyone from Bono to the United Nations is looking for a miracle to bring schooling within reach of the world's poorest children. James Tooley found one hiding in plain sight. While researching private schools in India for the World Bank, and worried that he was doing little to help the poor, Tooley wandered into the slums of Hyderabad's Old City. Shocked to find it overflowing with tiny, parent-funded schools filled with energized students, he set out to discover if schools like these could help achieve universal education.
The Beautiful Tree (a title drawn from Mahatma Gandhi's phrase for the schools of pre-colonial India) recounts Tooley's journey from the largest shanty town in Africa to the hinterlands of Gansu, China. It introduces readers to the families and teachers who taught him that the poor are not waiting for educational handouts–they are building their own schools and educating themselves.
James Tooley is director of the E.G. West Centre and professor of education policy at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. He has been working in the field of educational development since he first moved to Zimbabwe 25 years ago as a recent university graduate. He holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Education at the University of London and has been a researcher at Oxford University and the University of Manchester. His scholarship and advocacy focus on improving the quality and reach of affordable private schooling for low-income families in the developing world.
Clive Crook is a senior editor of the Atlantic, a columnist for National Journal, and a commentator for the Financial Times. He was formerly on the staff of the Economist, where he served as deputy editor. A graduate of Oxford University and the London School of Economics, he has served as a consultant to the World Bank and worked as an official in the British Treasury. He profiled James Tooley in an article titled "The Ten-Cent Solution" in the March 2007 issue of the Atlantic.