Nobel Peace Prize Winner And Campaigner For Free Education Went To Private School

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate for free, compulsory education Malala Yousafzai was educated in a private school set up by her father.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly July 12, 2013, Yousafzai urged world leaders to ensure that every child had a right to free and compulsory education — often features of government-provided education.

The Pakistani activist has been a fearless campaigner for education and women’s rights both in her home country and abroad. Her campaigning was globally recognized when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

But professor of education policy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and director of E.G. West Center James Tooley points out that Yousafzai received her own education from a low-cost private school founded by her father.

Tooley, who is renowned for his research on low-cost private schools in poor countries that often provide a superior education than their government-run counterparts, questions why this part of Yousafzai’s story is often omitted by the mainstream media.

“This reality gets hidden in all reports. Not untypically, the global teachers’ union, Education International, describes her father as ‘headmaster’, while Time described him as ‘school administrator’.  Neither title captures the reality: her father was in fact an educational entrepreneur,” Tooley wrote on the Institute of Economic Affairs’ blog.

Tooley says that there are 400,000 low-cost private schools in India and thousands more in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Liberia. Tooley argues that the world’s education establishment often doesn’t like to confront the success of private education because they are committed to government-run schools.

Tooley uses the example of western Sierra Leone where boys from the low-cost private schools did nearly twice as well for English reading and girls nearly triple than their peers in government schools even controlling for differences in IQ and family background.

The low-cost private schools have managed to make themselves affordable to those living on the internationally recognized $1.25 and $2 per person per day poverty lines.

Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban when she tried to attend school Oct. 9, 2012. Since she survived the attack Taliban has called for the death of both Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai. (RELATED: Why Did The Taliban Kill 130 Schoolchildren?)

For the past three years, Time magazine has ranked Yousafzai as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

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