Education is 'toughest reform' - Blair

Education is 'toughest reform' - Blair
Tony Blair Image copyright AP Image caption Tony Blair said that for-profit providers could bring innovation to schools

Changing the education system is "one of the most difficult things" for a government, said former UK prime minister Tony Blair.

"You have major interests that often stand in the way of it," he said.

Mr Blair believes education could benefit from the innovation of different types of school providers.

He said that particularly in developing countries this could include for-profit schools.

Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum, Mr Blair said that when he was in office there had been a "rhythm" to the government's attempts to push through changes in education.

"When you first propose it, people tell you it's a terrible thing. When you're doing it, it's hell, and after you've done it, you wish you'd done more of it."

Mr Blair told the education conference that he had found widespread support for the principle of education reform, but "not when the reform comes to them".

He called for a greater range of groups to be involved in running schools and for greater use of technology.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Education ministers should "scour the world" for the ideas that worked best, Mr Blair suggested

And he did not rule out the idea of using the private sector to run for-profit schools if they "can come in and run schools effectively".

He said that the public sector is "not good at innovating" and would benefit from a more diverse range of partners to experiment with different ways of delivering education.

"Nothing should stand in the way" of trying to improve schools, he said.

And he called on the current education ministers to "scour the world" for the ideas that worked best.

"Governments always make the mistake of thinking their problems are unique," he said.

The former prime minister declined to be drawn on questions about US presidential candidate Donald Trump or the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"When I look at politics today, I am not terribly sure that I quite understand it."

But he warned of a culture of political "populism" which was tapping into a mood of resentment.

"There's a lot of anger about."

He said this was playing out in the debate around migration, which he said tapped into people's concerns that "incomes are stagnating and they aren't really getting anywhere in life".

He said the answer was not to "blame migrants" but to "get the education and skills" that could lead to better jobs and opportunities.

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