Pauline Dixon

Pauline Dixon

Reader, International Development and Education, Newcastle University
Research Director, E.G. West Centre, Newcastle University

Pauline Dixon studies low-cost private schools as a promising alternative for education in developing countries. For the past 13 years, her research at Newcastle University has led her to walk through the poorest neighborhoods of the developing world, counting and studying every school she finds. She's learned that many children who are officially counted as unschooled are actually enrolled in unregistered private schools—very good news for the goal of universal education. Better yet, her studies show that those private schools educate their pupils at least as well as official state schools. In countries with corrupt, underfunded state schools, the private schools often do significantly better. If parents pay for their children's schooling—even just a few dollars a month—that gives them the power to demand accountability from the school, she says.

Pauline also studies how to improve the quality of learning. "These kids are desperate to learn," she says. "Unfortunately, the pedagogy is rote learning." The best way to improve on this, she thinks, is not through teacher training, but through identifying the brightest kids in a school and enlisting them to teach their peers.

Education is unlikely to change much by 2030 if it remains largely a government-led system, Pauline thinks. "There's no innovation within a government system. School is a Victorian concept that we're stuck with, and we have to think outside that box. My vision would be that education is no longer 'schooling'."

Pauline swam competitively as a child and is a jazz pianist who won a young musician of the year award when she was 18. She lives in rural Northumberland in the north of England.