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The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  263 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Everyone from Bono to the United Nations is looking for a miracle to bring schooling within reach of the poorest children on Earth. James Tooley found one hiding in plain sight. While researching private schools in India for the World Bank, and worried he was doing little to help the poor, Tooley wandered into the slums of Hyderabad's Old City. Shocked to find it overflowi ...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published April 16th 2009 by Cato Institute (first published 2009)
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Mar 24, 2014 Murray rated it liked it
I think this book has an important message. Rather than write another lengthy article let me refer you to Skylar Burris' comprehensive book review. I agree with her observation that the book has good ideas but is too repetitious and becomes dull. That is why I marked this down from 4 stars to three. I would recommend skimming the book because its conclusions are too important to ignore.

My wife and I just returned from Tanzania where we worked for a short time at the Rift Valley Children’s Villag
Skylar Burris
Summary: Beguiled educator and researcher travels all over the Third World and learns that the private market provides the poor with a better education than the government. Is shocked by discovery. Is even more shocked that those with a vested interested in public education refuse to believe his evidence. Researches. Lectures. Suggests that maybe public, government-funded education is not the best solution for educating the world after all. Offends. Is mocked. Is threatened. Makes relatively few ...more
Sep 21, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing
This magnificent book should be required reading in every teacher training program on the planet. Tooley's intent is to show how many poor children are already being educated by private schools, demonstrate how this is much better than the public school disasters all over the world, show why (using basic economic incentives a high schooler ought to be able to figure out on his own) and then urge the world to begin to get behind private educational solutions now, so as not to leave even more chil ...more
Dec 01, 2009 Srinivas marked it as to-read
Through Atanu.

Tooley's research apparently found that even the private schools at the bottom of the heap catering to very poor people, are doing much better than the ones funded by the Govt. Is anyone surprised? I hope not; Anyone with a brain the size of a sand grain would have figured that out.

There are better alternatives to public schools, through which the Govt. can fund education. Education vouchers is a good way of doing that.
Apparently an U.S. Govt. pilot program with education vouchers
Jul 20, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing
As an advocate of "education for all" children around the world, I never thought I would be in favor of private schools. After reading this book, I want to work for their development! This is an extremely important read.
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
Perhaps we’re doing third world development all wrong.

That was the thought that stuck with me most after I finished reading James Tooley’s The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey into How the World’s Poorest are Educating Themselves, a surprisingly readable book about the role of private schools in education in some of the world's poorest neighborhood. In The Beautiful Tree, Tooley tells his story about discovering private schools in some of the world’s poorest neighborhoods and discovering that
May 11, 2010 Cathy rated it it was amazing
James Tooley traveled the third world researching small private schools for the poor. In every country, he found that public schools are a disgrace, and, more importantly, that there are small entrepreneurial schools providing services for the desperately poor. Some how, some way, poor parents scrape together the money to pay the small tuition, especially for their girls, to give them a safe place to study. The conditions and sacrifices should make every American parent blush with shame for what ...more
Warren Norred
Jan 01, 2015 Warren Norred rated it it was amazing
This book traces the discovery of how poor people handle the creation of inexpensive non-government schools.

I thought that this would be a good about how the Internet was changing the price of education, but the level of development in these areas are below what is necessary to discuss meaningful impact of technology in education. The book is more about the struggles of private schools in developing countries and where government bureaucrats both get it wrong and get it right.
Apr 03, 2012 Rahmad rated it liked it
Shelves: education
A narration of the author's path to discovering the important and the potential role private schools play in developing countries. Written in a first person account of the author's enlightenment process rather than a list of prescription of what a good private school in developing countries should look like or do. Overall an enjoyable read and let me to question some of my own assumptions of private schools in Indonesia.
Cait Flynn
Aug 20, 2009 Cait Flynn rated it it was amazing
Toole portrays the reality of the education system around the world. I found the most impressive aspect of the book was reading about the sacrifices families made to send their children to private schools. It did get a bit redundant, but that may have been Toole's intention. Maybe he wanted to show how out of touch the bureaucracy is.
Apr 29, 2010 Anna rated it liked it
Enjoyed reading about the author's discoveries as he traveled to developing countries to study how the poorest of the poor receive an education. His research on the private schools he found in distant villages - private schools run by the poor, for the poor - was interesting. Would have liked more discussion about how to fix the issue of poor-quality public schools in developing countries.
J. J. Arias
Oct 22, 2011 J. J. Arias rated it really liked it
Very interesting and informative. It was slow at times. It often made me angry to learn just how intransigent governments and the development establishment are in refusing to acknowledge the existence and accomplishments of private schools for the poor.
Sep 10, 2010 Mandy rated it it was ok
This book was very informative, but it was also very slow. Still, since I'm interested in the topic of education for low-income students in developing countries, I'm glad I pushed through.
Abraham Arslan
Dec 25, 2016 Abraham Arslan rated it it was amazing
This book is of great importance to policy-makers, educationalists, and social activists. The flailing behemoth of "Government" education model failed ab initio and many non-subsidized and competitive alternatives were considered as prohibitive and inaccessible in poor nations. The role of a competitive private schools is of utmost significance for a developing country like India. The future of any developing country hinges on a competitive and diverse education ecosystem. Private education inst ...more
Cesar A. Ruiz
Jan 17, 2017 Cesar A. Ruiz rated it really liked it
Tooley makes an excellent research of private education in the poorest parts of the world and make outstanding conclusions of this.
It is well written and easyto read, but most importantly it change my view of the poor and the education on all sectors (poor, middle, and uppe classes)
Alexander Hadden
Jan 09, 2017 Alexander Hadden rated it really liked it
Inspiring read about private education in the poorest communities of the world. A little clumsily written at times, but the information provided is enlightening on the subject of poor private education.
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Jun 22, 2016 JoséMaría BlancoWhite rated it it was amazing
I haven't finished this book but I give it all the stars in the heavens. It is so important that people read this book and wake up.

The author meets so many liberal (meaning leftist) hypocrites that I can’t help feel my blood boil in every single page. One of the things that called my attention, as well as the author’s, was Indias noise: It’s the noise that will always represent India for me. It’s a trait my country, Spain, also shares, to my annoyance.

A note on the candidness of the author and
May 18, 2014 Edy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Tooley merupakan professor bidang pendidikan dari Newcastle University, Inggris. Beliau pernah bekerja sebagai guru di Zimbabwe, Kanada dan Afrika Selatan. Beliau menaruh perhatian yang intens terhadap dunia pendidikan di Negara sedang berkembang.

Buku ini bercerita tentang ketertarikan Tooley kepada sekolah swasta yang melayani masyarakat miskin di perkotaan dan pelosok perdesaan. Di tengah gencarnya tekanan internasional dan suara nyaring para pakar pembangunan untuk adanya “pendidikan gr
Vibina Venugopal
If I laid my hands on a great book in spanish what would I do with it?? Just flip through the pages unable to decipher a word..But I would enjoy and relish if it had been in English or any other language I am well versesd with...But what would be the case of a person who could read nothing??? A person with no education not by his fault, what are they to do ?? I was questioning myself reading this book..As it says its James Tooley's personal journey into how the world's poorest people are educati ...more
Sep 02, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
Okay, so you know a book endorsed by Will Easterly and put out by the Cato Institute is going to have a very specific type of philosophy, but I think this is an interesting entry in my "public education" readings because Tooley's recent research (this book was just published this last year) suggests that private education is the solution to the education crisis.

"Pwaht?" you may say. "Private education is what drives inequality, keeping the poor down." But Tooley disagrees. We have a very odd vie
May 25, 2015 Amit rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book makes two key points (a) government-run education is unlikely to work wherever the poor have no practical way of holding the government accountable (b) private schools, operating with a profit motive, already offer a superior alternative and need to encouraged.

This book was an eye-opener and resonated with my personal experience. I went to school in India during the 1980s, and during that time, it was accepted wisdom among the middle class that government-run schools
Sep 14, 2016 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2016 Xavier rated it it was amazing
James Tooley writes about his journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves in his book, The Beautiful Tree. While I was in Mumbai I use to attend couple of activities with a child rights organization like calling for action from the government department responsible for health of public school children. The reports from the government department includes: unavailability of government doctors, schools not keeping track of report cards, etc. That child rights organization f ...more
Marly May
Jun 18, 2016 Marly May rated it really liked it
Shelves: culturew
A great reference book to explain the value of private education to the poor. I was especially fascinated by the fact that these schools offer better education than the public sector and the economically poor are more than willing to pay for their children's education. These schools offer what is needed for a child to become "educated" based on the cultural context, which says more than what the public sector provides. Private schools offer stay much more accountable and provide better education ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Katie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
Wow. This book surprised me. Through extensive effort and time, Tooley has managed to understand what is actually happening with education in developing countries. He has documented the true heart of parents, the ingrained corruption of these governments and a workable solution that has already been implemented. A far cry from reading a book that just makes you feel bad about your good lot and sorry for those with less than you, you might end up feeling a little duped yourself.

Tooley has also m
Katelyn Mater
Jan 09, 2014 Katelyn Mater rated it really liked it
The topic of this book was really interesting to me- very poor parents in third world countries desperately want to give their children an opportunity for better education. The book talks about how the parents find that solution through tiny private schools in their communities. I found it interesting that parents chose to pay for private schools instead of sending their children to free public schools. Most parents and children described the private schools as a better education because of the ...more
Jan 02, 2013 John rated it liked it
An intriguing book which tells great stories about incredible efforts in India, China, and Africa that provide education for the poorest by small entrepreneurs.
However, I believe the book is marred by the last chapter which is a praise of an exclusively free-market approach to education and supports Milton Friedman's approach of "privatization of education," though the poor will be given vouchers.
I am not against private education, but Tooley goes too far in his proposals. I am also a bit pertu
May 22, 2012 Andy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who supports universal elementary and secondary education
So far - WOW. Hard to find book, had to Interlibrary Loan. Worth buying. Amazing that this has not been trumpeted throughout the world. Everyone who supports universal elementary and secondary education should read this book.
Read it again. Just amazing that people who say they are interested in education have never HEARD of this, and have NO interest in reading it.
Yes, it does get redundant after a while.
Looks for small private schools. Assured that none exist because an area is so poor. Finds m
Dwayne Roberts
Mar 03, 2014 Dwayne Roberts rated it really liked it
An excellent look at how the poorest of people in the poorest of nations care for their children enough to send them to private school despite public schools being available. About how entrepreneurs start private schools, competing for students by lowering costs and raising quality, targeted at the poor. About how governments deny the very existence of such schools or, if shown them, claim that they are of low quality compared to public schools - despite the judgement of parents and outside obse ...more
Lia Yuniarti
Apr 13, 2015 Lia Yuniarti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hanya dengan memerdekakan sekolah, maka sekolah bisa benar benar bebas mengatur kurikulum untuk anak didiknya. Sekolah negeri yang terikat dengan negara membuat sistem di dalamnya merasa bertanggungjawab kepada negara bukan pada orangtua murid/muridnya itu sendiri. Ini yang menarik untuk dikaji, karena sebenarnya sekolah untuk siapa? Anak didik atau untuk negara?

Konsep sekolah swasta yang digagas oleh penulis ini sebenarnya sudah dicetuskan oleh Ghandi dan Ki Hajar Dewantara. ki Hajar dengan tam
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“Meanwhile, in the government school, I guess that children were awaiting the arrival of their teachers from the plusher suburbs of Accra, caught in the snarled traffic on the Cape Coast highway, reluctant conscripts to the poor fishing village. No matter, the children could patiently wait, playing on the swings and roundabouts thoughtfully provided by their American donors.” 0 likes
“It appeared that these private schools, while operating as businesses, also provided philanthropy to their communities. The owners were explicit about this. They were businesspeople, true, but they also wanted to be viewed as “social workers,” giving something back to their communities. They wanted to be respected as well as successful.” 0 likes
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