There are plentiful reasons to recommend The Beautiful Tree, a book that challenges and inspires in equal measure. It is the remarkable story of Professor Tooley’s discovery of how the poorest of poor are setting about improving the education of their children without the state and the often patronizing efforts of many in the development community. The implications this has for thinking about the history and future of education of children in developing and developed world are potentially profound.
The first thing to hit the reader is the immense task that Professor Tooley and his researchers have undertaken. The work behind the statistics that forms the background to engaging narrative is evident on every page. Beyond the geographical and administrative complexities, the willingness to set himself at odds with his peers in his quest for the truth is a commendable achievement that many in the claustrophobic and stultifying world of academia shy away from. With each step, Professor Tooley pulls away from the establishment as he moves closer to the colourful array of entrepreneurs who are already providing the education that the people want in most challenging parts of the world.
Many new insights are garnered from this work. A fascinating revaluation of the impact of British imperialism upon the Indian private education system is given in the penultimate chapter, while the last chapter answers the hanging question of what the rest of the world can learn from his findings in India, Nigeria, Ghana, China and Kenya. It is an upbeat message that could put private education beyond the moral and regulatory power of our politicians. Find out more here.