Education Quandary

Is Gordon Brown's pledge to get more children around the globe into school more than clever PR?
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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

There's no doubt that Gordon Brown wants to give more children a chance in life. No doubt, too, that in trying to do so, part of his £8.5bn will go missing. And no doubt at all that a canny politician will take a day trip halfway round the world to be photographed with Nelson Mandela. But, above all, there is no doubt that investing in education is the only way to lift people out of poverty. This week is action week for the Global Campaign for Education, the worldwide organisation dedicated to promoting education as a universal human entitlement, and a fitting time to think about the decades of research which have shown that when more people go to school, health and nutrition improve, child mortality drops, productivity and earnings go up, and societies become more competitive and equal. Education also helps spread democracy and peace,and engenders a concern for the environment. A school place alone will never be enough. Children need to be taught by good teachers, in decently-resourced schools. And all these things become even more true if you invest in girls' education, because when you have educated young women you also have smaller and healthier families, better-educated children, a slower spread of HIV/Aids, and a more vibrant and inclusive local economy. Of course, getting the 100 million children who are out of school through a classroom door is a start- and what a start when it means the difference between hope and despair.

Readers' advice

A lovely idea for idealists - i.e. people who don't know anything about the world. But corruption, disease and poor governance will always scupper the West's attempts to help poorer countries. Money goes straight into the pockets of the elite. When it is spent on projects, they are so badly managed and poorly executed that money runs out of them as if from a leaking dam.Gordon Brown is a newcomer to Africa, and still an innocent, but a decade spent living in West Africa has turned me into an abiding cynic about overseas aid.
Roger Alder, Kent

In my last teaching job my primary school had close links with a school in southern India and my Year Four class were deeply affected when they heard from nine-year-olds in southern India about what a difference getting an education would mean to them. My pupils didn't know anything about politics but they felt instinctively that it wasn't fair that some children in the world had chances while others didn't. I think we should all back Gordon Brownfor putting money behind this idea.
Bethan Chase, London N7

I am in my seventies and can remember when schooling was still a privilege here. My grandmother wanted to stay on at school, but had to go into service at 13. Yet her daughter was able to study to become a teacher, and I went to London University and then became a lecturer. Everyone should have the opportunities we now take for granted.
Grace Matthewson, Plymouth

Next week's quandary

My daughter gets almost no feedback on her homework. She is 14, studies hard and always completes her assignments on time, but her work comes back with only brief scrawled comments on it and glaring mistakes left uncorrected. This is true for many of her subjects. Why don't teachers bother to mark properly any more?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce by next Monday at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen and handwriting pen