Book Review: Really Good Schools

“James Tooley has taken his argument about the transformative power of low-cost private education to a new and revelatory level in Really Good Schools. This is a bold and inspiring manifesto for a global revolution in education.”
Niall C. Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University Almost overnight a virus has brought into question America’s nearly 200-year-old government-run K-12 school system—and prompted an urgent search for alternatives. But where should we turn to find them?

Enter James Tooley’s Really Good Schools.

A distinguished scholar of education and the world’s foremost expert on private, low-cost innovative education, Tooley takes readers to some of the world’s most impoverished communities located in some of the world’s most dangerous places—including such war-torn countries as Sierra Leone, Liberia, and South Sudan. 

And there, in places where education “experts” fear to tread, Tooley finds thriving private schools that government, multinational NGOs, and even international charity officials deny exist. 


Because the very existence of low-cost, high-quality private schools shatters the prevailing myth in the U.S., U.K., and western Europe that, absent government, affordable, high-quality schools for the poor could not exist.
But they do. And they are ubiquitous and in high demand. Founded by unheralded, local educational entrepreneurs, these schools are proving that self-organized education is not just possible but flourishing—often enrolling far more students than “free” government schools do at prices within reach of even the most impoverished families.

In the course of his analysis Tooley asks the key questions:

  • What proportion of poor children is served?
  • How good are the private schools? 
  • What are the business models for these schools? 
  • And can they be replicated and improved?

The evidence is in. In poor urban and rural areas around the world, children in low-cost private schools outperform those in government schools. And the schools do so for a fraction of the per-pupil cost.

Thanks to the pandemic, parents in America and Europe are discovering that the education of their children is indeed possible—and likely far better—without government meddling with rigid seat-time mandates, outdated school calendars, absurd age-driven grade levels, and worse testing regimes. And having experienced the first fruits of educational freedom, parents will be increasingly open to the possibilities of ever-greater educational entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Thankfully, they have Really Good Schools to show the way. “In the fascinating and provocative book, Really Good Schools, James Tooley applies his immense learning about low-cost, entirely-private schools around the world to develop a daring and truly thought-provoking proposal along those lines for the United States. . . . Check it out.”
Chester E. Finn Jr., Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus, Thomas B. Fordham Institute; former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education

“His pathbreaking and superbly written book, Really Good Schools, provides the essential understanding of how low-cost, private schools extend access to high quality education for the poor. . . . This makes Really Good Schools utterly essential reading!”
Sir Anthony F. Seldon, former Vice Chancellor, Buckingham University; Co-Founder, Institute for Contemporary British History James Tooley is Vice Chancellor (President) of the University of Buckingham in England, where he also serves as Professor of Educational Entrepreneurship and Policy, and is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. He was formerly Director of the E. G. West Centre and Professor of Education Policy at Newcastle University upon Tyre, and temporarily Global Head of Low Cost Schools for GEMS Education. He received his Ph.D. in education from the University of London, and he has previously taught and researched at the Universities of Oxford and Manchester, Simon Fraser University, and University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

1 thought on “Book Review: Really Good Schools

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Really Good Schools — THE ARTFUL DILETTANTE | Vermont Folk Troth

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