The poor quality of much education provision in developing countries is a well-rehearsed problem; yet solutions are elusive. Low cost private schools struggle to show that their quality is materially higher than that found in the public system. On the other hand no successful models exist for quality reforms in state education, either. Given this situation, there is increasing interest in a third alternative in which the state invites non-state organisations to manage public schools - an arrangement commonly called a public-private partnership (PPP) for education.
Earlier this year I travelled to India as part of an Ark delegation, to meet with local teachers and policy leaders to discuss ideas for improving educational outcomes throughout this vast nation. The problems are daunting in their scale: India has more than 1 million schools throughout the country (by way of comparison, the UK has only 25,000) and huge differences abound in terms of social class, castes, school sizes, languages spoken, budgets and outcomes.
Last month I spent an afternoon with a group of new mothers in Machava, a small town close to Maputo, Mozambique's capital city. We sat under a tree, sheltered from the hot sun, and talked about their experience giving birth and the joy that their new babies were bringing them. It was an inspiring experience for me - as the parent of a young child, I know what an overwhelming yet rewarding experience new motherhood is. These women had faced an extra hurdle to deliver their babies safely into the world: they are all HIV-positive.
A plethora of actors and multiple forms of financing are emerging in the development ecosystem. While donor agencies and international NGOs are still powerful, agenda-setting actors and aid remains crucial, the development landscape today is far more complex and multi-faceted than when the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were officially adopted in 2000.
The Zambian sun is burning fiercely in the bright blue sky. Mothers and children, queuing at a clinic on the outskirts of Lusaka, receive little relief from the thatched gazebos meant to protect them from the heat. Many have walked long distances to be here, carrying babies on their backs and holding small children tightly by the hand. They came at dawn, hoping to be seen quickly but prepared to wait patiently for their turn. The women chatter quietly among themselves.