Here is a question for teaching unions and their global federation Education International. If you want to know about the problems with education in a country or an area, who do you listen to? I was presented with exactly this problem when two documents were drawn to my attention yesterday.

The first was another education report from the World Bank written by four US educated economists, the second a detailed declaration from an education rights organisation in India, the result of democratic participation by 'diverse social groups and movements from across the country (of India) at an unprecedented scale.'

For the World Bank the problem with South Asian education is that 'schooling does not contribute to productivity increases and economic growth' and therefore fails to accelerate the 'rise out of poverty.' As a matter of fact, the link between economic growth and poverty eradication is belied throughout the global South. India has some of the highest economic growth in the world and yet 33% of its inhabitants live on less than $1.25 a day, inequality is growing and in towns like Mumbai unimaginable luxury for the few sits beside some of the largest slums in the world. But let that pass.

For the World Bank economists, the fault for this education crisis and the ensuing poverty lies of course with the teachers – that goes without saying. The report suggests the usual nostrums – performance related pay, temporary contracts on a fraction of the pay, more accountability. It rather doubts that putting more money into education can make a difference. Reducing class size for instance 'given its high cost may not be a cost-effective way to improve test scores.' And anyway 'the evidence suggests that more inputs do not necessarily improve quality significantly.' Never mind then that many schools have no sanitary facilities, no laboratories, and even no desks and chairs – the real problem lies with lazy and feckless teachers. The solution is not better infrastructure, teacher education and pay but 'greater private-sector participation by easing entry barriers and encouraging well-designed public-private partnerships.' So, far from worrying elites by expecting them to redistribute some of their wealth, they will be able to trouser even more money by investing in private education for the poor. It's a win win situation. 

The document from the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) is entitled 'Nothing Important' a quote from previous US secretary of state Henry Kissinger' one of the biggest beasts in the neo-con jungle, who said 'nothing important comes from the South'. Unlike the World Bank report this document envisions an education system 'which is based on the principles of equality and that which teaches dissent and resistance to children.' The report details the repeated failures of the Indian government to fulfil the aspirations of those who fought for India's independence from British imperialism for free and equal education for all children. It shows the baleful influence of the World Bank in increasing inequality and how even the much lauded 2009 Right to Education act entrenches privatisation and inequality. And it talks about the kind of curriculum which is required if children are to understand and pursue 'people’s aspirations for an equitable distribution of material resources – in an economic order that does not result in the concentration of wealth among one class of people.'

I like the title 'Nothing Important'. It reflects the ironic understanding from those fighting for public education in India that no-one in the West is listening to them. But teachers and their unions must listen. We are all facing the same global project to destroy public education, prosecuted by corporations and their foundations and by organisations like the World Bank. As Lilla Watson, an Australian aboriginal activist said, "If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." In that spirit the AIFRTE has generously shared their document with teachersolidarity and it is published here.