New research shows that even in the poorest parts of the world, such as Lagos shanty-towns or rural areas in Ghana, some 70% of people prefer to pay for private education, rather than accept sub-standard state schools.
Education professor James Tooley this week won a World Bank award for his research.
"They do not want government schools, where teachers do not turn up or, if they do, they do not teach," he wrote in his essay.
He suggests that donors should lend money to education entrepreneurs, rather than to education ministries.
What is best for you and your children? Can you afford private education? Are your state schools up to scratch? Let us know your views using the form below
A selection of your comments will be broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 23 September 2006 at 1700GMT.
These comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far.
I can afford private, but choose to take my kids to a mission (catholic) school as l believe that they would be brought up in a more disciplined way. The issue is not about private or public but ensuring that entrepreneurs have access to credit and that institutionally there is a body that supervises the education sector to ensure that whether private or public children have quality education be it in the rural areas as it used to be in the past.
Kennedy Fosu, Accra, Ghana
Here in Kenya, state schools used to be as good as private prior to the free education. This brought about mass enrolment in state schools without corresponding facilities hence overcrowding in classrooms and heavy workload for teachers and poor follow-up on students. But Kenyan teachers are committed regardless of whether in private or state schools. With the government's ongoing efforts with assistance from donors to equip state schools with facilities and teachers, I believe the quality of education will be of little difference. However the government cannot afford to add much incentives like transport, snacks, parties and so on, to its schools due to the large numbers involved and therefore the attitude will remain that private schools are better and state schools. This translates to more confidence in private schools by parents. But the quality of education is more or less the same.
Gitau David, Nairobi, Kenya
Sending Children to Private schools makes sense in Third World countries and but the question is how many families can afford private school education. However, majority of the top students in private or public school system rely on private tuition or parental help to perform well in school. The problem of low standards of education in state school may be tackled by making school more accountable to parents and make education system more transparent.
Aswathaman R, Toronto, Canada
Parents want their children to have the best education. The problem with countries like Nigeria is that the best education these days is only available in private institutions. The decadence in public polity has affected the education sector, forcing parents to look for private alternatives where they can be reasonably assured of quality education.
I however do not believe that the solution necessarily lies in increasing the number of private schools, but in fixing the problem with our public institutions. We needs to start setting up stable public structures that work, because we just do not have the resources to rely on private enterprise. We are not ready yet, but unfortunately we are again learning the wrong way. It is all about planning and deciding what is good for a country at a certain point in time. There is also the small issue of the quality/standard of education from one private school to another.
Samuel, Boston, USA
I was home schooled for nursery and then put through government schools till university. I went to a government school in Ghana for both junior and secondary school, and got eleven 1's for my BECE and aggregate 8 for my SSCE. I got a first class from the University of Botswana, and am currently mixing it with the best in the U.K. Personally, I wouldn't put my kid through a government school, but at the end of the day, I believe it's up to the individual!!
This is not a paradox but simple truth. Government schools or call them public schools have become a sham in Cameroon. Teachers in Government run schools take up classes in private schools where they concentrate more than in the schools where they are assigned. In most of Cameroon, government school teachers even team-up and run private schools in the city. It is customary to see the names of prominent government schools teachers appear on the adverts of many private schools with some even calling them full time teachers. The problem of the neglect of teachers compounded by poor salaries has driven most of them to this direction. The government is concern on buying arms rather than focusing on alleviating poverty through education. The corruption web in Cameroon has entangled every one from the presidency to the classroom teacher. That's why even Government officers have reverted to mission private schools for quality education, which are most often very expensive for the poor man.
Enyabe Ndone John, Cameroon/South Korea
I mean there is no contest. Private schools beat State schools hands down. I went to a private school and all my kids must attend same. The problem with state schools here in Cameroon is the lack of discipline.
aminu wouba, Cameroon
I prefer Private school rather than public, because most of the faculty or teachers that teaches in public schools do not care weather the student succeeds or not. So that's the big problems that state and private school have their differences.
Meyan, grand junction, Colorado
Give me a private school in Zambia any time. I can not send my children to government school because teachers are always on strike or simply not teaching. They then ask the children's parents to send their children for private lessons where the very teachers teach. The only other place I can take my children is missionary school where standards - education and moral wise - are very good.
it's the state's job to educate its citizens but with the negligence around Africa, the private sector has jumped right in and seem there to stay. unfortunately the expense of private education means that many poor kids are deprived of education which should be a right and not a privilege.
ngum ngafor, Manchester, England
I attended a federal school, which is a step above a state school but its generally regarded as better than most general private schools in Nigeria.
Ifi, San Francisco, CA
Good soup they say cost money. In general, any good will always cost more. I would prefer to invest a little extra for my children's education than to put them in public schools that has nothing to offer. I attended public school when I was growing up and my school Edo College then was one of the best schools in town but now, it is a ghost of itself. Most public schools suffer from neglect. In Edo State of Nigeria, the government doesn't pay teachers on time. Sometimes teachers will go for two to three months without salary. The teachers who are into private business will be selling their products in the staff room instead of teaching. In some cases, they just hand over the note to one of the students to dictate to the class. The nonchalant attitude of government towards public schools is the beginning of moral decadence. Some parents' annual salary cannot even pay a single term in some private schools talkless of buying books and other necessary things. There is proliferation of private schools as a result of neglect of the public schools. Some people cannot even afford three meals a day and would not even think of putting their children in private schools. Most of the present day leaders were products of public schools when it was still good.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA
Private education is in deed of higher quality. However, the primary concern is how many very poor parents can afford it. Of paramount importance is how to improve the standard of public education so that the disadvantaged cannot be left out in a world where quality education matters.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leonean in USA
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